If two people are dating, living in the same city, spending most nights of the week together, and are moving toward marriage, doesn’t it make sense to just move in together, and save a little money? Most couples say yes. Though traditional wisdom holds that cohabiting is a bad idea—and historically it has indeed been associated with a higher risk of divorce—moving in together before marriage is the norm among couples today.
But before couples sign a lease together, they would do well to ask themselves: Did we slide into the decision to move in together or did we decide to cohabit?
That question matters in terms of the length and quality of subsequent marriage. Traditionalists tend to think cohabiting before marriage is a bad idea, and progressives are more likely to embrace it, but new research says that’s not the best way to approach the question: The important thing is how couples make the leap into a shared life.
A report released today from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia looks at the many factors that predict a high quality marriage. More than one thousand Americans, 18 to 35 years old, who were in a relationship were recruited into the study. Within five years, 418 of those individuals got married. Galena Rhoades (a co-author of this article) and Scott Stanley, both at the University of Denver, looked closely at those who married, probing into their relationship history with their spouse, their relationships with others, and the quality of their marriages.