The Pros and Cons of Living Together Before Marriage

There is no one-size-fits-all kind of answer.
couple moving in together
Rido/Shutterstock
Bryan Forbes
by Bryan Forbes
Updated Aug 26, 2020

Should we live together before we get married, or not? It's an age-old question. Depending on your background, the answers to this question can be pretty diverse.

There are a lot of factors that can impact your thinking on whether or not to move in together. Wherever you fall, there are certainly pros and cons to living together before marriage. Let's unpack those, keeping in mind that just because living together before marriage works for one couple doesn't necessarily mean it will work for every couple.

Think About Your End Goal

Before evaluating the different pros and cons associated with living together before marriage, it's crucial to answer this first question: what's your end goal?

It might be that you have already made your decision about getting married to your partner when they, in all honesty, have not. This isn't necessarily a reason to panic, but it's certainly helpful to have this information on the table. Square away what each of you is ultimately after in the relationship. It could be marriage; it could be a serious dating relationship without marriage; it could be to have fun. Whatever the goal, clarify it and get it on the table.

Imagine, though, that the collective end goal is in fact marriage. Not just any kind of marriage, though. No, you want a healthy, robust marriage full of deep connection, genuine joy, and growth. So, here are some pros and cons to consider as you work toward this goal.

Pro: Your Relationship May Be Deepened and Enriched

According to one philosopher, every romantic relationship has at least three kinds of intimacy, sometimes four: emotional, physical, volitional and, for some, spiritual. Emotional and physical intimacy are the better-known forms of intimacy. The former is a matter of sharing your emotional and mental life with the other, sharing how you're feeling; the latter is, well, you know what the latter is.

Volitional intimacy, on the other hand, is about the commitments made between two people. For example, when a couple decides to buy and raise a dog together, they make a new (and big) commitment to each other: to collaboratively raise a dog together.

Lastly, you've got spiritual intimacy: the intimacy shared between two people when they join their spiritual lives with each other.

Now, what makes a relationship or marriage "healthy and robust" is when these different forms of intimacy move together; when they're "in step" with one another. It might not be best for the relationship, for example, if the members of that relationship bought a house together after the first date. The volitional intimacy is out of step with the emotional intimacy.

Maybe you've been dating for a few years, now recently engaged, and enjoying an emotionally and physically fulfilling relationship. You're now considering moving in together as a next step in your volitional intimacy. Taking this step could genuinely deepen and enrich your relationship for the better.

Maybe, maybe not. Other factors bear on what will happen, but this increased degree of volitional intimacy is certainly a potential positive.

Pro: The Stresses Of Getting Married Can Be Eased

Moving more into the practicality of blending your living spaces, living together before getting married can ease some of the stresses of getting married.

As you may or may not know, the process of getting married is a demanding one. So many things to do, so little time to do them (among everything else you're probably doing). One of the benefits of moving in together prior to getting married is you can save yourself some time near the date of your actual wedding.

Rather than having to focus on moving your belongings to your partner's place, or moving both of your belongings into a brand news place near the time of your wedding, you can mitigate this stress by doing it beforehand.

Pro: Reducing Your Expenses Can Save You More Money

Probably one of the most popular reasons for moving in together before getting married is distinctively financial. Simply put, you can save money by joining households.

By living together before getting married, you go from paying two rents or mortgages to one; from two sets of utilities to one; from two sets of housing maintenance costs to one. The financial advantages of sharing a living space with your person prior to getting married are hard to deny.

Reducing your expenses, then, does appear to be a clear pro of living together before getting married. What often happens, however, is that couples find other ways to spend the money they would have been saving. So, if you're interested in moving in together before marriage as a way to save money, be sure you've got practices in place to help you actually save that extra cash flow.

couple moving in together
Fizkes/Shutterstock

Con: Without Good Support, You Put Your Relationship At Risk

Moving in with your person is a big deal—prior to getting married or not. Really, living with anyone is a big deal. Having roommates, while fun in so many different ways, simply has its challenges.

One of the cons of moving in together before getting married comes when you don't have a good support system. A good support system looks like close friends and loved ones with whom you can share honestly and deeply about the struggles of shared life with your person.

The struggles of sharing life closely with your person are inevitable. If you've ever had roommates, then you know that that kind of shared life can bring more difficulty alongside more joy. Without a good support system in place, you put your relationship at risk because living together will create new and profound difficulties you two have likely not yet encountered.

Con: What You Save In Money, You Might Lose In Relationship Quality

It's true that when you consolidate your and your partner's living spaces into one, you can save money unlike before. But what you might save in money, you can lose in relationship quality. This is a huge con for those moving in together before marriage primarily or solely to save money.

The decision to move in together is a profound mark of volitional intimacy. It's an enormous commitment to the other. Without the life-long commitment that two people make by getting married in place, you put yourselves at risk of having to do the arduous work of separating all that you've joined in case things don't work out.

Yes, you run that risk in marriage too; but in marriage that risk is ideally much less likely because of your "for life" commitment to the other. There's no "for life" commitment in dating or even when you're engaged.

So consider the costs of things not working out—they may outweigh the savings of moving in together before marriage.

Con: You Can Lose Relationships With Disapproving Friends or Family

When it comes to such an impactful decision as moving in together before marriage, it can be important to at least hear out the opinions of those close to you. Doing so does not commit you to whatever their view is, but it does provide you with a variety of perspectives. What you might find among these perspectives is some disapproval from close friends or family.

Whether you like it or not, there are people out there who simply do disapprove of moving in together before marriage. Their disapproval could be grounded in their religious convictions or in their view that your relationship isn't ready for such a commitment.

One of the risks of moving in together before marriage is the potential loss of relationships with those close to you who disapprove of your choice. While it's deeply unfortunate and contrary to what would actually help the couple moving in together flourish, it happens. Knowing that it can and does happen is something to consider with your partner when talking through this.

This might not actually be a con for everybody, however. For some, this may clarify who deserves to be close to you; it may clarify who you want in your life. For others, the possibility of losing connection to close friends or family will be too jagged a pill to swallow—one certainly not worth what's gained by moving in together before marriage.

In the process of considering this question, it's incredibly important to realize that there is no one-size-fits-all kind of answer. Instead, it depends on many, many variables. By considering all the things that you might have to give up, and contrasting them with what you hope to gain, your decision can become much easier to make.

Looking for tips on building a flourishing marriage and the tools to make it work? Newlywed's Toolkit is the one-stop-shop for couples building their life together.

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