This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to most of us, but over half of men (52%) age 18-26 who live with their partners are “not certain” their relationship is permanent. More troubling, a whopping 41% of the men also say they are not “completely committed” to the relationship, according a new study by the National Marriage Project. Out of the women, 39% in the same age group who live with their partners are not certain their relationship will last, and 26% say they are not “completely committed.”
In my mid-20s, I was definitely in the group of women who lived with a partner and wasn’t certain the relationship would last. As I’ve mentioned before, I moved in with a boyfriend mostly out of convenience. We started dating in Missouri and when I said I wanted to move to Chicago, he asked if he could come with me. With no jobs lined up and not much in savings, it just made financial sense to pool our resources and get a small place together. Did we think we’d be together forever? Eh, we never even discussed it. I was more concerned about next month, not next year, and certainly not five or ten years down the road.
I’m sure many young couples in the 18-26 year-old age group feels similarly when they move in with their partners. And while the cohabitation experience isn’t all bad — you learn valuable lessons about living with a partner that you can apply later in a more committed relationship/ marriage — it does make ending the relationship much, much more challenging. I know I stayed in my relationship about two years longer than I really should have (four years total) simply because the idea of moving out, finding a new place and/or roommate, and splitting up our stuff all seemed so daunting (on top of the regular heartache of ending a relationship).
In light of the study’s findings, an article in The Atlantic lays out three ‘cautionary notes for young adults considering moving in together (which don’t differ much from my tips, except that my tips include pooping):
Talk about the future. Both parties–but especially women, given the statistical averages–should be aware that their partner may not be committed to a common future. A long-term cohabiting relationship may prove to be an obstacle, rather than a springboard, to many young people’s goal of getting married and starting a family. Defining the commitment in the relationship (DTCITR) is a matter best addressed before co-signing a lease.
Get on the same page. Couples are more likely to flourish when they share common, clearly communicated goals for their relationship. But given the disparate purposes cohabitation now serves–different people see it variously as a courtship phase, an economical way to save on rent, a venue for convenient sex, a prelude to getting serious, or an alternative to marriage–young adults often end up living with someone who doesn’t share their relational goals. Couples considering living together would be wise to talk through the goals they want to accomplish in that move, and make sure they are on the same page.
Don’t slide into marriage. Research by psychologists Scott Stanley and Galena Rhoades, indicates that many couples begin living together without clear expectations, common values, or a shared commitment to one another. And after a time, some of these couples get married, in part because friends, family, and they themselves think it’s the logical next step. But without common values and a shared sense of commitment, the couples who slide into cohabitation and marriage, instead of purposely deciding to deepen their commitment to one another, are more likely to divorce.
Related: “Women who cohabit prior to engagement are about 40 percent more likely to divorce, compared to those who do not cohabit. By contrast, couples who cohabit after an engagement do not face a higher divorce risk. Those who cohabit only after engagement or marriage also report higher marital quality, not just lower odds of divorce.” For what it’s worth, Drew and I lived together a year and a half before getting engaged, and though we’ve only been married four years this month, our marriage remains strong, and I don’t think cohabitation ruined our chances at a long and happy future together. Then again, we were well past the 18-26 year-old age group researched for this study…
[via The Atlantic]