To Shack or not to shack? That is the question…

Splitting of bills.  Living with your best friend.  In home dinner dates.  There are seemingly numerous advantages to living with your mate prior to marriage. However, cohabitating has been a controversial subject for years.  Some say that living together before marriage increases the probability of divorce.  Others say that living together before marriage decreases the chances of getting married in the first place. Numerous studies have been conducted with varying results.  But one thing is for certain, it is becoming more popular than ever to live together before committing to a marriage or even an engagement. This is clear in the fact that census data shows over a 70 percent increase in the number of cohabitating couples since the early 1990’s.

Many think of living together as getting to know “the real” deal about a person.  Seeing the ins and outs of how they behave day to day.  Does he drink out of the milk carton?  Does she leave her make up everywhere?  Does he require a period of time to decompress after work before interacting?  These are just a few of the details that can be learned about someone from sharing the same space.

And all is well as long as there are clear expectations regarding the timing and direction of the relationship.  However, one of the most common complaints I hear from cohabitating couples is that someone assumed cohabitation was for a minimal period of time before a more serious commitment is made.  However, that commitment does not always come. Many couples are not having important discussions surrounding their beliefs surrounding the living situation, and are later disappointed when things do not go the way they planned.  Devastation and resentment often ensue.

Another important factor to take into account is each person’s value system regarding the sanctity of living together before marriage.  Some believe that it is something that should be shared with only their spouse.  Many have children or love ones to consider. Others have spiritual beliefs or conservative families that look down on cohabitation.  In these situations, there may be subconscious pressures or wishes surrounding moving in without a commitment that affect the tone of the relationship.    

So the answer to the question of whether to shack or not to shack is that…it depends.  Depends on whether both parties agree on the trajectory for the relationship’s future.  Depends on whether both parties can come to a consensus regarding the timing of major milestones in the relationship.  Depends on values and spiritual beliefs.  

When choosing a path regarding living arrangements in your relationship, ensure that the proper topics are discussed and expectations revealed.  Open communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship no matter where you reside so is instrumental in determining your next steps.

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