Moving in Together? Read This First

Despite the fact that American couples are cohabiting in ever greater numbers, research evidence continues to show that couples who live together are less likely to get married. Those who do wed are less likely to stay that way and - as if that weren't enough - couples who do stick it out tend to be less satisfied.

Still think you want to test the waters by living together before you tie the knot? You'll need this advice, from the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University:

Shacking Up Suggestion #1: Don't Make It a Habit

Be aware of the dangers of multiple living-together experiences, say David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of the Marriage Project. You don't learn to have a good relationship by having a number of failed ones. And, according to their research, having multiple cohabitation experiences was a strong predictor of the failure of future relationships. (Can you say, "problems with commitment"?)

Shacking Up Suggestion #2: Keep It Short-Lived

The longer you shack up, the less likely you'll wed. Living together in a relationship that's not fully committed (i.e., through marriage) means you'll get used to going about your love half-assed. Not romantic - and not conducive to a happy marriage later on.

Shacking Up Suggestion #3: Buy a Ring

Better than just setting a short-term deadline to test the waters, actually go forward with your engagement (and set a date!) before calling the movers. By publicly announcing your commitment, you'll see yourself as man and wife and start reaping the benefits to your union.

Shacking Up Suggestion #4: Reconsider

Despite the conventional wisdom, shacking up just doesn't seem to be working as a tryout for marriage. The Marriage Project offers no evidence that moving in together will give you a stronger marriage. In fact, all the evidence indicates that living together increases the risk of divorce and increases the risk of domestic violence for women (and the risk of physical and sexual abuse for children, if they're involved). Not to mention that unmarried couples just plain aren't as happy as married ones. Still sound like a good idea?

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