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Living together won't work unless you consider these things

About a month ago one of my closest friends told me she had decided to move in with her boyfriend.  At the time I felt instinctively like this was a bad decision for her even though I strongly approve of her relationship and her boyfriend.  I had already been considering writing a piece on living together but her decision prompted me to speed up my research and conclusions.  This article is not going to cover moral or religious reasoning.  The goal here is to guide you in the direction of relationship success.

There is a ton of information out there regarding the pros and cons of cohabitation. After a lot of research I discovered my instincts were right.   Bottomline:  Living together almost never works.  Open your eyes and do the research before deciding to cohabitate.  90% of the time it is the wrong answer.  How many successfully married couples do you know that first lived together?   Unfortunately the number is tiny.  The statistics show that living together virtually guarantees a break up.  There is absolutely no evidence suggesting that cohabitation is a stepping stone to marriage.  We‘ve all heard over 50% of marriages end in divorce.  Well guess what, cohabitation failure rates blow that away.  It’s a harder number to track but some estimates say over 90% of cohabitation attempts fail. 

Here are the most important factors to consider:

Living together for financial reasons is like having brain surgery for a mild headache.
The vast majority of people who decide to live together do it for financial reasons. Quite simply it is an overly complicated and wrong solution to an unrelated problem.   In socioeconomic terms, living together is a necessary and viable survival strategy for people below the poverty line.  For everyone else the acceptable solution is to get a roommate.   In third world countries several generations of people often live together under the same roof.  In the world’s lowest socioeconomic sectors, cohabitation and financial survival are inextricably linked.  The poorer a society is the more prevalent cohabitation is.  So by living together for financial reasons, you are actually mimicking a survival strategy of the poorest people on the planet.  Does that sound wise to you?

What is really happening when people live together for financial reasons is they are simply merging poor financial statuses.  Combining problems doesn’t make a solution.  Saving a little rent sounds good but that’s where the benefits end.  Cohabitation and marriages are more successful when they are built from a sound financial foundation. 
Financial difficulty is THE biggest relationship killer in the world.  So smarten up about this one.  The following statement is not the start of a solid foundation:  “Hey we both have financial problems and can barely support ourselves so let’s get together and make each other even more miserable than we were by ourselves.” 

Marriage requires preparation, planning, and commitment.  Cohabitation just happens.  
People invest a tremendous amount of time and efforts into getting married and still 50% of marriages fail.   Often the mental and emotional preparation for a wedding takes over a year.  Commitments are made through vows, symbols (rings, etc), multiple ceremonies, and usually tons of family involvement.  There is usually a strong spiritual aspect to getting married.  Couples often receive some form of counseling before getting married.  Financial plans are carefully talked about and executed.   Even after all this over 50% of all marriages dissolve. 

Cohabitating usually requires virtually no planning.  It does not elicit the support of family.  There are no ceremonies.  There is no display of public commitment.  The commitment to live together can usually be summed up like this, “Let’s just try it and see how it works out.”   There is no counseling, etc, etc.  It just happens.  Then it just ends…over 90% of the time.  Cohabitation is almost always a failure waiting to happen.

Ask anyone who’s done it – living together is hard work.  Even for married couples, living together is actually the most difficult part! 

So how do you make an educated decision?
Well obviously based on the statistics, the most educated decision is to not live together.  You really can’t go wrong by deciding to not live together.  Read that sentence again before continuing.  YOU REALLY CAN’T GO WRONG BY DECIDING TO NOT LIVE TOGETHER. 

However I know that answer is not good enough for anyone who feels deep down inside that their love is strong enough to overcome all the problems with living together.

To increase your odds of success focus on planning
Get online and do the research.  Read what others went through.  Talk to friends.  Send me an email.  Put together a list of all the items you need to accomplish before moving in.   It will be a LONG list.  It will be a LOT of work.  It will range from financial planning, a legal contract, goal setting, learn more about each other, carefully define your commitments to each other, understand family dynamics, house rules, etc, etc.  Basically you are mimicking the marriage planning system.  It should take you at least a couple weeks to get your list together.  You may decide after seeing the amount of work involved that you would rather not live together.   Either way, this is the place to start.  Don’t skimp on the list.  You are already entering high failure territory.  To increase your odds of success you need to take this important step.