If you’re dating someone, it’s a good idea to move in together at some point, right?
Previous couples’ cohabitation research has found evidence to the contrary, such as correlations between premarital cohabitation and divorce, lower dedication to the spouse in men and generally lower levels of marital satisfaction. Despite these trends, cohabitation is becoming increasingly common and more accepted.
Discussing why you are living together is important in avoiding the pitfalls of cohabitation, said Melissa Curran, an associate professor in the UA’s John and Doris Norton School of Family Consumer Sciences. Curran’s research focuses on relationships.
“You usually decide to get married. This is not necessarily the case for cohabiters,” she said, adding that many of the problems arise because the couple “slides” into cohabitation.
Curran explained this sliding phenomenon with an example: One person in a relationship starts spending one night a week at their significant other’s place, then that person starts leaving a toothbrush or clothing there. Gradually, one night a week turns into four or five, and so on.
Researchers find that couples in these situations often have difficulty pinpointing exactly when they began living together, Curran said.
“Decide about cohabiting before you’re actually living together,” she said. “Actively talk to each other. You’re going to move in together. Why? What are the main reasons for it?”
It helps if the people in the couple are in it for the same reasons, she said, such as “love and wanting to spend time together.”
Other, less romantic, motivations for moving in together include convenience and economic reasons, she said.
Many couples move in together to test the relationship before marriage. But that strategy isn’t necessarily beneficial, said Chris Segrin, head of the department of communication, whose research focuses on interpersonal relationships.
“If people are engaged first and then they cohabit, their outcome as a married couple is no different from the people that never cohabited,” he said.
The reason many young couples live together is because they want to “postpone marriage for a longer period of time but not to postpone being in a close, marriage-like relationship,” he said.
While many college couples continue to shun the experts and move in together, other students are hesitant to take that step.
Emily Leones, a UA senior studying computer science and materials science and engineering, said that she thinks people should take their time when it comes to moving in together.
“I don’t think cohabitation is something to rush into, and I definitely don’t believe that it should be pursued solely for economical reasons,” she said. “There has to be more drive behind it. Especially since couples can get caught in a year-long lease but then … break up, and then what happens?”
Many college cohabiters, though, are happy to reside with their significant other. UA chemistry senior Sean Lambert and biochemistry senior Erica Schwencer, for example, are making it work.
“As far as commitment goes, personally, I have never felt closer to my girlfriend,” said Lambert, adding that, although they argue from time to time, they find ways to reconcile their differences and avoid future conflict.
“At the end of the day, we say our apologies, cuddle up on the couch and watch a movie,” Schwencer said. “And most importantly, we still love each other.”