by Amanda Gordon

Marriage is a big commitment, but living together is an even bigger commitment. With a lifetime with one person looming overhead, don’t you want to know everything you can about a person before you spend the rest of your life with them? With the growing number of people living together before getting married increasing, and the divorce rate decreasing by 18% according to an analysis by University of Maryland sociology professor Philip Cohen as highlighted in TIME Magazine, it’s safe to say that living together before marriage, is beneficial.

If we went back as far as 15 years ago, the idea of two people living together before marriage was not as widespread and accepted as it is today. In the, Brett and Kate McKay wrote in their article, “As religious norms have become less dominant in the culture, and adherence to them looser, the societal/familial shame surrounding cohabitation has significantly dropped, while its acceptance has dramatically risen.” With the religious stigmas surrounding pre-marital cohabitation declining rapidly with the new generation of brides and grooms, we’re in the perfect spot to live with your significant other free of guilt. You want to get to know the person you’re living with as well as you know yourself. No matter how long you’ve known someone, it’s not until you live together that you’ll truly know someone.

If you’re first living with someone and things don’t work out, it’s easier to both leave the living situation you’re in than find out later and then divorce. Yes, it may get awkward having someone move out because you found out you don’t mesh well in the “real world,” but that may be the price you have to pay on the road to your happily ever after. Divorce is expensive, sometimes more expensive than an actual wedding. Wouldn’t you want to live with someone first to see if you’re compatible to try and avoid that kind of expense?

You could love someone with all your heart but there are some problems that only arise when placed in a “real life” situation. When discussing this topic with my best friend’s mom, Annmarie, she had this to say regarding the marriage to her first husband. “We met senior year in college at Oswego about 1993. We dated and “theoretically” lived together while at school, it was more “playing house” than anything… Well, once you are living in the “real world” and money is involved, it gets real…real fast!” Annmarie brought up a great point in our conversation. They may have dated each other for a while and “played house” but it wasn’t until they took that step forward by getting married and living together that their true colors and true problems started. Annemarie went on to say, “This is where I should have been paying attention, but didn’t… Resentment was able to build over the years and we eventually divorced.”

When you live with someone, you truly begin to learn the ins and outs of someone’s personality. The good and the bad. I reached out and surveyed my Facebook friends for their experiences with living with their partner before taking the next step. My cousin, Dan, said, “To be honest, I think it’s important to live together first. If you go in blind not knowing each other’s habits, it may not last. Once knowing them, and it doesn’t work out, you can always get separate places until new habits are learned. I think Rose [his wife] never going home and sticking through all my BS has made me a better person and we have both learned a lot about each other during that process.”

Dan and Rose lived together for quite a few years before getting married and it really helped them figure out who they were together and separate, what they wanted in the long run and if this was the person who they wanted to spend their lives with. Living together before getting married or even getting engaged made them truly realize that even though they each have their quirks, they’re better together than apart. “[It] made us work together as a team and made me realize how much I cared for and loved Rose. I knew that already, but [it] made me want to make the choice of asking her to marry me and take our relationship to a new level.”

Dan and Rose have been together for 12 years and will be married 5 years this month. Having known this couple for the duration of their relationship, I can honestly say that their living together truly made their relationship as strong as it is today and they have one of the strongest relationships I know. Perhaps if they hadn’t lived together before getting hitched, their marriage wouldn’t have outlasted all of the obstacles.

Yes, co-habilitation before marriage doesn’t guarantee that your marriage won’t end in divorce, but it’s a good way to assess your relationship and move forward or unfortunately realize you weren’t as meant to be as you had once thought. Just like marriage, living together isn’t a one-person job. You should be as committed to it as you were a marriage and be honest and open about yourself with the other. I think living together before marriage is a great step, and with more evidence coming out in support of this ever-growing trend, it looks like this once taboo subject is becoming more normal than one ever thought would be possible.