In Defense of Living Together Before Marriage

Moms always give the best advice, right? Among the many lessons my mom taught me throughout my life, she tried to stress the importance of being really picky when it came to choosing a spouse. She always used to say, “The loneliest place to be in the world isn’t alone, it’s with the wrong person, so choose wisely.”

That’s some solid together before marriage

I wonder if she thought her words of wisdom fell on deaf ears the day she got the phone call that her 21 year-old daughter – not yet a college graduate – had accepted someone’s hand in marriage. Luckily, she approved of the guy and she trusted my judgment, so instead of telling me I was too young to possibly know the kind of commitment I was making, she celebrated with me.

I graduated that summer, crammed everything I owned into the trunk of my yellow Volkswagen Beetle, and I moved to a new city with my new fiancé. I don’t remember the conversation when we decided to live together – it was more of a necessity because I didn’t have a job lined up. We signed the lease on a basement apartment with 6 foot ceilings and concrete floors. It was tiny, barely had any natural light, and the ceilings leaked every time it rained, but it was ours.   

It seemed as if I was doing everything wrong…

Engaged too young.

Followed a boy to a new city.

Living in sin.

I knew the statistics … one in two marriages fail and the odds are worse if you cohabitate before making it official, and yet – here I was, the girl who had done everything by the book my entire life, breaking all the rules. Was I blinded by love? Young and naïve? Maybe, but I was certain that living together before marriage was the right choice for me because I had seen this scene play out far too many times: people meet, become BEST friends, decide to be college roommates, and end up hating each other’s guts. My own husband removed his dishes out of the kitchen and hid them in his bedroom because he was tired of the piles of dirty plates left behind in the sink by his roommates. No matter how much you think you know someone, living with them brings out their true colors. Some things can be resolved with an honest conversation, but splitting a rent check is the quickest way to put a magnifying glass on habits and values that can make or break a relationship. How do they communicate? How do they respond when told that something they do bothers the other person? Are they considerate? Do they take advantage of you? Living with another person is just hard, and some people, no matter how well they get along or care for one another, just aren’t cut out to be roommates. I knew I loved this man, but testing the waters to see if we were compatible to live together seemed to be a no brainer.

That first year was challenging, not just because we were figuring out the logistics of living together, but tough emotionally. I was under the impression that finding a job out of college would be easier than it was, but with a degree in the arts, I was too qualified for retail and unqualified for everything else. I was homesick and wondering if I had made the right decision to move my life for someone with no plan for myself. I had to lean on him and find out how much he could support my emotional state. I ended up learning more about him in the year we lived together before walking down the aisle than I have during the eight years that have followed. I learned that he has a very particular method for loading the dishwasher, he has a great sense of brand loyalty, and he’s the best person to lift me up when I’m feeling sorry for myself. To this day, he does the dishes every night, I call him when I’m at the grocery store to find out which mayonnaise he likes if I can’t remember (heaven forbid I bring home the wrong kind), and he’s still the first person I turn to when I’m feeling down. We found ways to adapt over the small things, but the big things — the way we respect each other, support each other, and overcome problems — have always been there.

Right before walking down the aisle, my father looked at me and asked,

“Are you sure about this?”

If I had said no, there’s no doubt in my mind that he would have taken my hand and walked in the other direction toward the car. Instead, I smiled and said I was sure. I had taken my mother’s advice and chosen wisely.   

It’s true that not much changed after we got married other than the extra rings we both wore. We already knew what it felt like to come home to one another every night. He knew that I was grouchy in the mornings, and I knew that he wasn’t very handy around the house. There were no surprises!

Eight years of marriage later, I can confidently say that we’re not the same people we were when we got married. We’ve switched interests, beliefs, and even political parties, but luckily we’ve moved in the same direction. Marrying him was one of the best decisions of my life, and I’m grateful that I didn’t let the fear of becoming a statistic change my path. We did what worked for us, and despite doing everything “wrong,” we have built a beautiful life together.  


  1. Actually, the studies to which you are referring that suggest that those who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to divorce are over twenty years old and don’t take into account those who cohabitate only with the one they end up marrying versus those who cohabitate in each relationship they have. For the former category, the rate of divorce is no higher than for those who do not cohabitate.


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