To Cohabitate Or Not?
The New York Times posted an interesting article yesterday on the relationship between cohabitation and divorce rate. A number of recent research studies have found that couples who live together before getting married are more likely to get divorced than couples who move in together after getting married. Article author Meg Jay cites the different meanings that men and women assign to the decision to move in together (women tend to think of it as a precursor to marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to delay making a commitment to marriage), in addition to some concepts borrowed from behavioral economics, including consumer lock-in. Lock-in occurs when the costs to exit a situation highly outweigh the costs to enter the situation, thereby motivating both parties to stay put even if they are not satisfied. Jay writes that it is very easy for couples to fall in to living together because it tends to be more economical and more enjoyable than living separately. Many couples move in together without having a serious discussion about what the move means and where they each see their relationship going. Living together quickly gets comfortable, and the decision to break up and move out can be far more complicated and messy than the original decision to move in together. Couples like the one Jay describes in the article end up barreling further along the path towards marriage without stopping to consider whether or not the relationship is truly a good match.
Cohabitation in and of itself does not appear to be the problem, but rather, the lack of an honest conversation about what the decision means seems to be the major factor here. Living with a partner before marriage can be a great way to get a better feel for your compatibility, and many couples find that it greatly enhances their relationship. If you and your partner are debating moving in together, it is a good idea to sit down and have a serious discussion about your motivations for the move and thoughts about the future of your relationship. These conversations can be sensitive and tricky for many couples, and it may help to have an experienced counselor present to help guide you through. If you would like to discuss cohabitation, call (415) 658-5738 or visit my Appointments page to set up a consultation.