For Unmarried Couples Living Together (Or Planning To)

How times have changed. I know you’ve noticed it, but here are some statistics.

According to the U.S. Census, for all young adults aged 25 to 34 in 1970, 82% of them were living with a spouse. By 2018 this had dropped to 40%.

Also, for the same age group, less than 1% were living with an unmarried partner in 1970 compared to 15% in 2018.

According to USA Facts, in 1949, 79% of all households contained married couples. In 2021, 72 years later, 47% of households had married couples.

The percentage of people living together before tying the knot is now at an all-time high of over 70% and this should grow into the future. In today’s culture, it’s common and there’s much less stigma associated with it.

So, cohabitation is way up, marriage is way down. Cohabitation refers to an unmarried couple living together.

Many couples are more supportive of living together because they believe it will lead to a stronger marriage and lower the risk of divorce. However, there is no good research to support that.

Also, both men and women are marrying later in life. Based on census data compiled since 1890, the median ages of first marriages were at their youngest in 1956 (just over 22 years old for men and 20 years old for women). In 2019, those figures were at their oldest: over 30 years old for men and over 28 years old for women.

Here are some 2019 findings from the Pew Research Center for adults aged 18-44:

  • A larger share of adults have cohabitated (59%) than have been married (50%).
  • Most people (69%) say cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple doesn’t plan to get married.
  • Married adults have higher levels of relationship satisfaction and trust (58%) than those living with a partner (41%).
  • Many cohabitating adults (44%) see living together as a step toward marriage, even if they were not engaged when they moved in together.
  • Among the major reasons for moving in together, 73% said love, 38% said finances and 37% said convenience. Interestingly, 80% of women said love and 63% of men agreed.
  • Most people (65%), favor allowing unmarried couples to have the same legal rights as married couples.
  • Two-thirds of cohabiters who want to get married someday cite either their own or their partner’s finances as a reason they’re not engaged or married.

So, if you’re considering it, or doing it, here are some things to seriously talk about:

  • What is your purpose in doing it?
  • How do you split responsibilities such as paying bills and doing chores?
  • Is living together a potential path to marriage, an alternative to marriage or neither?
  • What do you believe is the difference between living together and marriage?
  • What are your beliefs about divorce?
  • How much do you fear divorce?
  • What will your families and friends think? How will they judge you?

One way I like to think of living together is in terms of risk. Here are some reasons to move in together that carry a higher risk:

  • Someone’s lease is expiring
  • To save money
  • To drive less
  • To get a bigger place

Here are some lower risk reasons to move in together:

  • You’re madly in love.
  • Marriage is on the agenda
  • You need more time together
  • You can’t imagine being without your partner

What does all this mean? Is living together right for you?

The answer is it depends. Each partner and relationship are unique and there are too many variables for a generalized guide.

The best advice I can give is to make sure there is complete agreement on why you want to do it. To me, the “why” is the most important thing. If you have that, it can make sense and you can move on to other issues. If you don’t have that, stop right there and reconsider.

To Couples Counseling