It’s happening. Millennials are starting to settle down. It was bound to happen sooner or later, right? It’s time to start accepting those social media statuses regarding recent engagements and upcoming nuptials. It is no longer those WTF conversations over happy hour with friends, “Oh my god, did you see so-and-so is engaged?” While I am starting to accept that my peers are beginning to settle down, what can be troubling is the question of why people are settling down. Do we feel pressure from our parents to find our person, get married, buy a house in the suburbs, and procreate? Are we afraid that if we don’t settle down by 30 that we will be old and alone? Are we doing this for ourselves, or because we think it’s what we’re supposed to do?
A topic that has been widely discussed among us Millennials is whether or not to move in with someone before getting engaged. Trends among young adults have been changing for quite some time. More and more young couples are moving in together due to high cost of rent in large cities, being underemployed, and the fact that it has become more socially acceptable for couples to cohabitate before making a commitment. Our generation more than any other generation has flocked to major cities instead of living a suburban life, like our parents did. Many couples that live together argue that it is cheaper, easier, and more convenient. If you are spending almost every night a week together, why spend money on two rents, two utilities, two sets of groceries, and deal with bizarre Craiglist room mates when you can just live together? Couples who choose to wait until being engaged or marry argue that it makes it more special once you move in together. It is a symbol of lifelong commitment that should not be taken lightly. Individuals who choose to wait until a more serious commitment also argue that if you move in together before an engagement, there may not be incentive to “put a ring on it” if you are already cohabitating.
Studies show that cohabitation before marriage actually predicts higher divorce rates than couples that choose to not cohabitate before marriage. Before you freak out and call your landlord about breaking your lease, understand there are a lot of variables that go into these findings. What studies have shown is that it is not necessarily the moving in aspect to these relationships that predict higher rates of divorce, it’s how and why the couple decides to move in together. Does the couple move in because it’s cheaper and more convenient, or does the couple move in together because they are choosing to make a deeper commitment to each other? This concept is known as “sliding versus deciding”.
Sliding into moving in together means that the couple may not be making an intentional and thought-out decision about what it would mean for their relationship if they moved in together. They may not see it as their relationship being taken to the next level. Situations where couples may slide into living together may be due to convenience, finances, pressure, and so forth. Sliding is thinking short-term, not long term. We all know people who moved in with a partner because their lease was up and didn’t have any other options, or because the city they live in was just too darn expensive to be paying two rents. What some of these couples don’t think about is what happens when things aren’t going so well in their relationship and they want out. Couples are more likely to stay in an unhappy and unhealthy relationship if they cohabitate because it’s easier than dealing with the logistical and financial nightmare of breaking a lease, moving out, and dividing up the furniture and other belongings. Couples who slide into cohabitating may also end up sliding into marriage. Couples may feel pressure from their peers, their parents, or society to make a commitment even though they may know it’s not the right person or something feels off.
Couples who slide into living together are at risk for higher rates of divorce. If a couple slides into moving in together, what would stop them from sliding into marriage? Many couples think that since they’ve been together for a while, maybe it’s time they move in together, and then maybe it’s time they get married; as opposed to having a discussion about wanting to be together forever and making a commitment. Couples are making huge decisions about their relationship without thinking long-term or about the implications of their cohabitation.
On the other hand, couples who decide to cohabitate make a more thoughtful decision about what moving in together means for their relationship and their future as a couple. When couples decide to move in together, conversations are had about what the expectations are about moving in together and what the future may hold. One couple may see moving in together as a major step in their relationship and may be content living together for many years ahead, while another couple may see it as a stepping-stone to a soon-to-be engagement. Regardless of what moving in together may mean to your future plans, the most important aspect of deciding is that there is thought behind it and an understanding that moving in together is a big deal and should not be taken lightly. While these conversations can be difficult to have, they are extremely necessary for future success in your relationship.
Needless to say, couples that decide to move in together are at lower risk for divorce. Couples who take moving in together more seriously and make an intentional decision about what moving in means are more likely to do the same for getting engaged and married. This, however, is not to say that your relationship will definitely last if you decide to move in together, but you may be at a lower risk.
Other factors also come into play when looking at this research, such as couples who are less traditional are more likely to move in together before marriage and are therefore more likely to see divorce as an option down the line. Couples who are more traditional, and sometimes more religious, may not see cohabitating before marriage or divorce as an option.
When thinking about whether or not you want to move in with someone, keep these concepts in mind, and don’t let numbers or statistics scare you. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your relationship is to maintain open communication and to be honest with yourself and your partner. While it seems like everyone around us is moving in together, getting engaged, and getting married, remember that it is not a race and what is most important is to be on your own timeline and to do what is best for you. Nothing is ever for certain and life happens. There is no perfect relationship, and there will be inevitable issues that will arise throughout your relationship and your marriage. What will get you through those tough times is the ability to have those difficult conversations and maintain open communication. In other words, be a decider, not a slider.