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Get Married or Just Live Together?

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Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD - Blogs
By Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhDPsychologistSeptember 23, 2015
From the WebMD Archives

“Once you get married, it’s all downhill. So, why not live together and keep the happiness going?” No doubt you’ve heard something like this before. But, according to researchers, this common advice is flawed.

In truth, a couple’s happiness after moving in together really depends much more on the nature of their relationship than whether or not they are married. Cohabitating couples who are engaged or have agreed that they want to move toward marriage tend to do well compared to other unmarried couples. However, couples who live together without such future plans are more similar to couples who don’t live together.

The difference is likely in the commitment that couples intent on marriage feel toward each other. If you see moving in together as part of the process of building a shared life, then you are more likely to find that it strengthens your relationship. Still, you must be sure that the timing is right and that you are both ready for the increased attention you’ll need to give the relationship. Other factors are also important. For instance, consider these questions: Does living with someone outside of marriage fit with your values? Will cohabitating cause problems in your families? If so, how will the two of you handle this?

If deciding to live together is just about convenience or being swept up in your emotions and not wanting to think past the moment, then you may find that your relationship doesn’t improve after moving in. In fact, you will be at risk for increased problems. Living together happily with someone involves accommodation and caring and teamwork. All of these require conscious effort – at least for the long haul.

Many couples that are unsure about cohabitating choose to first spend more time together. They might spend days at a time at each other’s place. Over time, they might begin to leave personal items, such as clothes and a toothbrush. But keep in mind that this is different than truly sharing a home.

If you and your partner are considering moving in together, you will do yourself a favor by making it a conscious decision. The emotions and logistics involved are significant. The future of your relationship is also at stake. So, take the time to think and talk about it. Then, if you decide that the time is right, hold hands as you leap into a new life together.

Entries for the Relationships blog are for general educational purposes only. They may or may not be relevant for your particular situation; and they should not be relied upon as a substitute for individual professional advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you need help for an emotional or behavioral problem, please seek the assistance of a psychologist or other qualified mental health professional.

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About the Author
Leslie Becker-Phelps, PhD

Dr. Becker-Phelps is a licensed psychologist in NJ and NY, and is on staff at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, Somerset. She is dedicated to helping people understand themselves and what they need to do to become emotionally and psychologically healthy. She accomplishes this through her work as a psychotherapist, speaker and writer. She is the author of Bouncing Back from Rejection and Insecure in Love.

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