Turn the clock back to the 1960s and cohabitating with a partner was viewed as being immoral and disrespectful, but today the picture is rather different.
With more than 4.5m* UK couples living together before marriage – a lot has changed and attitudes have relaxed somewhat.
Whilst I'm acutely aware that living together prior to getting hitched is now recognised as the norm, I (together with my husband of eight years) am happy to be among the few who decided to wait until after our wedding day to live under the same roof. Shock horror!
A gamble? Perhaps. Madness? Possibly. We got a lot of, 'What on Earth are you thinking?' from friends who couldn't see the logic in our decision and who, I'm sure, thought our marriage would be doomed within months as we uncovered the perhaps no-so-attractive traits of our personalities.
But as we head happily towards our ninth wedding anniversary, we regularly ask each other why living together before marriage has become so popular and agree that yes, cohabitation before marriage can be toxic. Why? We've come to the following conclusions:
Granted, it makes the cost of living easier— sharing rent, utilities, furniture — is a motivation for moving in together. And it can test compatibility (personality and in the bedroom) over the long run and discover unknown traits, quirky and bad habits. But with many young adults believing that living together prior to marriage is an effective way to prevent divorce and ensure a happy union, is it true?
I'm no expert, but with divorce rates at 106,959** each year, my suspicion is that those with no religious beliefs and who do opt to cohabit are less committed to the institution of marriage and are therefore more likely to seek a divorce if their relationship went sour.
Although it would seem to make sense that couples who had already tried out living together, and intimately tested their compatibility, would be able to make a better-informed decision as to whether or not to get hitched, and would therefore have a more solid and successful marriage, studies have suggested the very opposite outcome — that cohabitation prior to marriage is linked to a higher chance of divorce.
There are clearly pros and cons for both – for us, however, it works and I would urge all young couples to consider the decision before rushing into living under the same roof.
Of course, my friends questioned if our marriage would really work, but I firmly believe that if you have spent time whilst dating building good foundations for marriage, finding out about their values and personality, then you can see past some of those things and find ways to discuss them when they come up.
For us, the benefits were clear:
- The chance to get to know each other better without the daily pressures of bills to pay
- The excitement of dating - when you live apart the dating is more exciting. There's nothing more exciting than the butterflies you get when you are waiting for your partner to pick you up for your date and the kiss on the doorstep when he drops you home again. There are plenty more years ahead of staying in and watching Netflix!
- The creativity it puts in to your dating years - as we didn't live together we found all sorts of fun ways to have dates
- The anticipation for the marriage and the importance of the vows you are making is all so much more meaningful as you are starting a brand-new life together as a married couple.
- No post-wedding blues - many couples feel lost when their wedding planning is finished but this way once the wedding is done you have the excitement of setting up a new home together!
- Time and space to explore your own interests and develop your own friendships outside of your partner.
- A chance to get out if it's not right - you have time to get to know the person and if you realise before the wedding day that it's not right you don't have the complications of dividing belongings.
- A shorter engagement - in general when you live apart you have a shorter engagement period - the excitement of living together once that proposal has happened is huge, so you will move mountains to get that wedding planned within a year... rather than waiting longer.
There are no guarantees that living together before marriage will ensure for a successful relationship and the same can be said for those who decide not to live together. Having the same beliefs, patience and values is at the core of any great marriage and so too is some give and take.
As a non-marriage expert I believe that there is still a place for living apart in today's day and age and young people should not view it as old fashioned or out of date.
*ONS | **ONS, 2016 figures
Discover further key questions you should be discussing with your partner before your wedding day at https://www.engageweddings.co.uk/blog/5questionstoaskyourpartner