A friend of mine and his girlfriend are, for a variety of reasons, considering moving in together. In the (Christian) communities they were raised in, this is called "living in sin." Other communities call it "cohabitation."
While most Hollywood movies and sit-coms consider this a normal stage in a relationship's progression, for these two it's quite a big decision (which it probably is for most people, though definitely for those with a somewhat conservative or religious upbringing). Conservatives love to throw around the "fact" that cohabiting couples tend to divorce more.
My friend is the kind of person that, instead of taking his cues only from popular media, likes to read books and articles and get some quality data before he makes a big decision. So he's been compiling some data and put a couple of books that relate to the topic on hold from the library. The first one that's become available is A Little Bit Married: How to Know When it's Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door by Hanna Seligson.
She defines "A Little Bit Married" as the stage in the modern relationship when it is long-term (i.e. at least one year) but isn't necessarily headed toward marriage - has traits that used to be associated with marriage (i.e. living together) but without the commitment of marriage. He's just begun reading it, but told me that the assumptions inherent in the text are making it hard to take seriously. Notably:
"The common echo from women in the stage of 'waiting to seal the deal' was that being A Little Bit Married can feel like running an emotional marathon, except you aren't always sure whether there is a finish line."This implies that all relationships are a "race" and marriage is the "finish line." The assumption being that a relationship that doesn't end in marriage is a failure - you have "lost" the race, so to speak.
"The effects of not [getting married] aren't as monetarily quantifiable, [but] women do lose something valuable - time."The implication being that the time spent in a relationship that doesn't end in marriage is wasted time.
I personally believe that an intimate relationship is valuable in and of itself; that a break-up isn't a failure - all relationships provide us with lessons about ourselves and other people, etc, etc.
So far the book's been uneven, he says - though it has been so far full of quotes like the ones above, it also debunks the myth that cohabitors are more likely to divorce. That only applies to "serial cohabitors," those who live with multiple partners over the years. Guess those folks have other issues that skew the statistics, eh?
What do you think about cohabitation?
Would you move in with your partner of ___ years?
Why or why not?
Is it "living in sin"?
Is it different for men than for women?
Do you want to get married before you turn _____?