The Lazy Relationship Mistake SO Many Couples Make
Did you and your partner have a conversation about living together, or did you just gradually end up moving all your stuff to his pad one toothbrush and pair of PJs at a time? According to a new study from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, the answer to that question may have a big impact on your relationship satisfaction.
Researchers studied more than 1,000 Americans ages 18 to 35 who were currently in relationships. Over the course of five years, 418 of those men and women tied the knot. Of the individuals in that group, the researchers looked at various aspects of their relationship history with their spouse, their relationship history with others, and their overall level of happiness and satisfaction with the marriage.
One of the things they were interested in was a couple's relationship trajectory, especially when it came to active decision-making around key milestones—like living together. Of the couples who wed, 37 percent of them happened to "slide" into cohabitation, as opposed to the 63 percent who had a deliberate talk about it and made the decision together. And not surprisingly, those who just kind of fell into this living arrangement were less likely to report wedded bliss after getting married.
MORE: The Number One Things Couples Wished They Had Discussed Before Moving in Together
So why are people being lazy about defining this crucial step? "Some likely do not recognize the importance and think there is no big deal about cohabiting," says study author Scott Stanley, Ph.D., a research professor and co‑director of the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver. "Others are actively avoiding the talk about it because it can be hard and scary to have such talks." But even if his lease is up, you love your place, and it really is big enough for two, make sure to actively make this decision together and really talk about it first.
MORE: Should You Be Shacking Up?
Sure, plenty of people cohabit and then break up before marrying, but there's a reason this is often seen as a precursor to marriage—it's just harder to split when you've already joined your lives by living together. "The inertia of cohabitation makes it more work to move on," says Stanley. "So, we believe that anytime one is going through a relationship transition that can alter one's life, it's best to be making a decision about it and know what you are doing."
So instead of just casually merging, look for these signs you're definitely ready to move in with your S.O., and see what science has to say about the best ages to move in together, get married, and have kids.
MORE: Great News About Living Together Before Marriage