Cohabitation before marriage: Happily ever after or recipe for disaster?

Marina D. Sandoval

As the saying goes, he won’t buy the cow if he can get the milk for free. Mothers and fathers have said this for years to caution their daughters from living together before marriage. Even in this day and age, people second-guess the benefits of couples living with one another before marriage.

“Never before in Western history has it been acceptable for unmarried couples to live together,” said Andrew Cherlin, a sociologist at Johns Hopkins University. “It was unacceptable a couple decades ago. It is acceptable now.”

In the 1950s, statistic showed one out of ten unmarried couples were cohabiting, through the 1970s and ’90s it was five to seven out of 10, according to the Census Bureau.

Cohabitating before marriage is beneficial. I lived with my husband for three years before we got married. My parents were a little old fashioned and thought it wasn’t right, but at the same time they were behind us 100 percent. How could they not be? They too lived together and had me before they were married, and remained happily married for 31 years until my father’s death.

We have friends who always are in awe of our relationship. They wonder how we make it work and why are we always so happy. I believe it was because we took the time to be friends, really got to know one another and we had no secrets. We realized that the key to a happy and successful marriage is honesty, acceptance and teamwork.

People rush into situations, without truly taking the time to step back and analyze them. It’s one thing to be dating and getting to know what someone is like in public, but around friends and family, it is an entirely different thing to know their habits at home.

The reality is, we as a society have little to no patience for imperfection. We have this idea in our heads, this fairytale of what our future should be, who should be in it and what their character should be like. The moment that image is tarnished, we split. A Pew Research Center report from last year said 44 percent of adults have cohabited at some point. Nearly two-thirds of adults said they thought of it as a step towards marriage.

Each relationship is different. I have friends who married before living with one another and others who married after living with one another. My dearest friend married her high school sweetheart, they never lived together, remained married for 10 years, but are now divorced and that’s that. Two other friends lived with their husbands before getting married and both couples are happily married with children.

It’s difficult to say what is right and what is wrong and maybe age, religion, culture and mainstream society have an influence on your decision. Happiness or divorce can happen to anyone because it doesn’t matter if you lived with one another before marriage or not. It’s your decision to take that chance before saying your I do’s.