Is It Worth It To Live Together Before Marriage?

Medically reviewed by Kimberly L Brownridge , LPC, NCC, BCPC
Updated April 30, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

For many, relationships follow a ladder of steps. Often, individuals will meet, get to know each other, start officially dating, and then go through relationship milestones. Relationship milestones can include telling someone you love them, meeting their family, celebrating your first dating anniversary, engagement, moving in together, and marriage. 

Although people can follow these steps in any order or not at all, many believe that moving in together should be done after marriage or engagement. Despite this belief, a larger portion of adults have cohabited than have been married according to an analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth by Pew Research Center. So can living together before marriage lead to relationship changes, and is it the right choice to make? The answers will likely be different for each couple or set of partners.

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It’s natural for relationships to change over time

Living together before marriage 

Living together may feel like a profound, meaningful, and significant step for some. In fact, two-thirds of married adults said they saw cohabitation as a step towards marriage. Others might find it necessary for financial reasons. Whether you live in a small town or a big city, living on your own can become challenging as housing prices rise. With college or credit card debt and the expenses of everyday bills, it may be challenging to live on your own. New college graduates may stay with their parents if they can to reduce the cost of living expenses. Dating couples might also discuss the possibility of splitting rent or co-signing on a house, depending on what makes sense financially. 

Although roommates may be a solution, many prefer living with someone they care about or find more trusting than a stranger.  

Although living with a partner before marriage, also known as premarital cohabitation, can be a practical or fun solution, some individuals face challenges. If you sign a lease with someone you break up with, you might have to live with them in a one-bedroom until the lease is up. Each of these could be an important point or factor to consider, as they may impact your decision.

A significant decision

Whether you choose to live with someone because it is the next step in your relationship or because you live in an expensive city, specific aspects of the change might come with difficulties or learning curves. 

You may have previously met up with your partner to pursue activities you both have an interest in, hang out with friends, or simply spend time together. After spending time together, you would have your own spaces to go home to, even if you spent a few days together. When you live with someone, you may not have a choice on whether you see them or not. 

Cohabitating couples might learn more about their partner's cleaning, cooking, and grooming habits. You might also have habits your partner doesn't appreciate, like using their towel or leaving your toothbrush out. You may also have to adjust to sharing the responsibility for household chores. For some, this can feel vulnerable and scary. 

Although you may have been able to go home to escape conflicts before, you may have to face them when you live together. If you have one bed, you could find yourself wanting to sleep on the couch or go to a friend's house when you feel angry. This is one major reason that couples rent a two-bedroom to have their own space when needed. 

You may also not have the same legal rights as married couples if you decide to split up. This can be especially important when talking about legal rights relating to the division of assets; if you are unmarried, you likely won’t have the same protections as someone going through the process of divorce.

Should we live together before marriage? 

Whether or not you want to live with your significant other before you are married is a choice. Not everyone will make the choice to wait, and your family might disagree with you. Some cultures have religious or cultural rules against living together or sleeping in the same bed before marriage. Your family may also be unhappy with certain aspects of your partner, like their lack of a high school diploma or specific behaviors they exhibit. 

However, there can be benefits for those who have decided to take this step. For example, one major factor that influences a couple’s decision could be their financial situation. Couples may pay less rent when living together, which can allow them to save up for a home. If you want to apply to buy a home, the loan application could be more straightforward with two incomes. If you do not have a high credit score, your partner may be able to cosign for you.

It’s natural for relationships to change over time

Studies behind moving in together

A few peer-reviewed studies have been done to see how living together before marriage might affect emotional distress.

First unions study

One study by Sara Mernitz and Claire Kamp Dush in the Journal of Family Psychology examined the changes in emotional distress across various relationship transitions. These changes included moving in together, getting married without living together, and getting married after living together. 

The study looked at young adults in their 20s in the United States. The results found that:

  1. "Entrance into first cohabiting unions and direct marriages, and all second unions were significantly associated with reduced emotional distress."
  2. "Gender differences were found for first unions only; for men, only direct marriage was associated with an emotional health benefit, while both direct marriage and cohabitation benefited women's emotional health."
  3. "Transitioning into marriage from a first, current cohabitation was not associated with a change in emotional distress; these results held for second unions in that transitioning into marriage with a second, current cohabiting partner was also not associated with a change in emotional distress." 

Moving in together brought a sense of emotional well-being to the couples. The study did not observe the long-term effect of living together before marriage or include varied age groups; it only studied two-year increments and focused on couples in their 20s.

Quality of relationships after cohabitation

Another study in the same journal offered findings on relationship satisfaction and quality over time after two people decide to cohabitate. It found that: 

  1. Dedication to one's partner increases in the lead-up to moving in together but levels off after the transition. 
  2. Different types of constraint factors that make breakups less likely regardless of partners' dedication showed significant increases upon moving in together and then started to grow more rapidly.
  3. Conflict increases and starts to climb steadily after moving in together.
  4. The frequency of sex jumps modestly after a couple moves in together and then declines steadily to become lower than before the transition. 

These findings suggested that couples living together without marriage may be unprepared for a long-term or formal commitment. In addition, they may not be able to handle certain conflicts. In some cases, unmarried couples may be more unprepared to deal with these situations than married couples.

Couples counseling to make a decision 

While there is plenty of content online that claims to provide valuable couples advice, not all of this content comes from high-quality sources. If you seek out information online, it's also important to ask yourself “is this content accurate?” In many cases, it may be better to talk to someone with a substantial education or plentiful experience in the subject, like a couples counselor or therapist. 

If you decide to utilize a couples counselor or therapist, they may be able to help you decide whether living with your current partner is in your best interest. A therapist could help you come up with pros and cons for your decision and make a therapeutic plan in case of conflict and challenges. 

As couples often have busy schedules, many opt for online therapy, which allows them to select a time slot that works best for their schedule. You can also choose to meet with your therapist via video, phone, or live chat sessions. Studies show that online therapy is as effective as traditional in-person therapy.

If you're interested in trying it, platforms like BetterHelp for individuals and Regain for couples have matching systems to find a therapist that best fits your preferences. 


Many couples decide to move in together before marriage. Although there may be changes in your life and relationship as you make this transition, many find that the benefits outweigh the challenges. If you're unsure which way to go or want further professional guidance, consider reaching out to a licensed therapist for support.

Marriage can come with complex challenges
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