Should You Live Together Before Marriage?

Ever since my sisters and I were old enough to consider, we were subject to speeches from my traditional parents who could not bear to see us moving in with significant others before getting married. Their rationale was that it was just a way to off getting married.

My older sister lived with her boyfriend for over two years in San Francisco before moving back East when they decided to get married. The two are happily married with two baby daughters

My little sister had a tougher experience. She lived with her boyfriend for three years, met someone whimsically during a business trip and returned to New York resigned to change her life. She informed her boyfriend that they needed to break up and that she was thinking about a career change and maybe even moving to another country.

The ensuing months were definitely tense. In New York City, where nearly every apartment is occupied, you can't just move out of an apartment unless you find someone to take your spot. This is also contingent on whether you can find a new place. So, my sister and her boyfriend decided that the most practical thing to do would be to honor the lease.

The next three months my sister and her boyfriend took turns sleeping on the couch. There were also times when my sister met people out and wanted to bring them home, but knew that it would be a bad idea.

Eventually the lease ended and they began the sad process of divvying up belongings: furniture, electronics, etc. Both of them were of the mindset that they wanted a clean break so there was not much warfare over who would get what. Luckily, by this time, the sting had begun to wear off and they went their separate ways. I can only imagine how much worse this situation can be for people breaking up while living together.

In my stupid obliviousness, I once asked a girlfriend to move in with me just to cover the rent because one of my roommates was moving out. I really didn't think it was a big deal. A friend of mine sat me down and explained to me how serious a move like this was and how I had to reconsider to be fair to myself and to my girlfriend.

Luckily, rational thought won out—I got a different roommate and my girlfriend and I actually ended up breaking up pretty soon thereafter.

My dad always jokes that your significant other's worse attributes begin to emerge after you're married. I'm not sure if there's truth to that (though I definitely plan to let the bad things about me seep out when it's too late for her to turn back), or if he's just playing the part of the rundown husband.

My mom jokes that she would never have married my dad had she known that he was such a packrat. He saves everything—she hates it. If they had lived together before they got married, maybe my mom would have had second thoughts when she saw bins (not real bins, but plastic Chinese food containers refashioned into bins—everything is useful to him) of saved random dowel rods, instructions from appliances from 1978, bolts, nails, etc. that my dad had accumulated. I can just imagine her thoughts when he showed up with his stuff to move in:

"Dude, what the this seriously all your shit?"

What do you think of living together before getting married? Does it help in that it works as "practice" for couples to learn to live in close quarters with one another and learn about one another's habits? Is it a good way to watch their "lesser annoying qualities" leak out? Would my sister have realized she wanted to break up with her boyfriend if she didn't live with im? Does living together just work as an excuse to put off marriage, or is it just a careful first step towards marriage? Do you plan to move in with your boyfriend before getting married?

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