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Living together before marriage

Posted by adoptedbygreyhounds (My Page) on
Thu, Feb 23, 06 at 12:19

All of our children are living openly and happily with their significant others. There is no mention of marriage in the immediate future, though two DDs are wearing engagement rings. They are all in committed, loving relationships and seem to be genuinely happy. Also, they are all involved with very fine people and we consider them part of the family, if unofficially. I know that this is the most important thing, but still cant help being a product of the generation I was born into. Im in my mid fifties.

Im amazed at how much this has changed in one generation. I shudder to think what my own father would have said about these arrangements..

Any one else have this situation?

(Please note that I strictly avoided any mention of religious issues involved; lets keep it that way. I want to avoid anyone being offended or getting their feelings hurt.)


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Living together before marriage

The statistics say that those who cohabitate have a higher chance of divorce after marriage.

However, personally I know many, many couples who cohabitated, got married, and did fine, including me (red faced)-- almost 26 yrs

If my adult dd (25) did it, I do not think I would have a problem. She has good judgment and maturity. However, if my 17 yr old wanted to move in with someone in a yr or two--I would NOT like it. She does not have maturity or good judgement.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I just heard on the radio yesterday that 42% of children born in the UK are the progeny of unwed parents. That is an amazing statistic to me! The reporter prefaced this information by stating that soon marriage will be extinct there. Personally, my DH and I lived together for 3 years before getting married, and we wouldn't be married if we hadn't cohabitated. Neither of our parents were happy about it. But, we also have difficulties, and maybe if we'd both chosen someone that we would have married without cohabitating, our marriage would be easier. I have no idea. But I certainly am not pleased with the idea of my kids (now 6, 4, 2 & 2) cohabitating until they're at least mid-twenties.


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I'm not so sure this is generational, as I'm in my (very, very . . . very) late 50s and "cohabiting" before marriage was definitely normal in my generation. I really can't think of anyone who didn't do it except for a few who married right out of high school.

If the divorce rate is higher for cohabitors-before-marriage, I doubt that it's because of the living together itself, but rather other factors, and there are many, many other factors.

Maybe it's more of a regional thing? That would be interesting. Where's everyone from?


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I think cohabitation before marriage should be a requirement. I don't think you really get to know someone properly until you have seen them first thing in the morning!


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I can't imagine *why* the divorce rate is higher for those who cohabitate.

My and DH lived together for 5 years before taking the plunge. I don't see at all how our wedding changed anything.


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DH and I lived together for 6 months a few years before we got married. My parents and family were completely mortified. I never felt comfortable with it either. I don't think we'll ever tell DDs. I'm 35 and only one other couple we know lived together before getting married. Maybe it's an old fashioned Southern thing.


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adoptedbygreyhounds, I am 43 years old and would have never even considered living with a SO before marriage. Why? My parents, especially father, would have disowned me. Truly! And they aren't even really religious people, they just thought it was a very immoral thing to do, to myself, to them, and the entire family.

To this day, I respect my parents immensely and I hope my DS has the same respect for us someday.

Let me see if I can say this without offending anyone: I'm thinking that if there is a higher divorce rate on couples that cohabitate first, it MAY BE because if you have a certain standard about living with someone, then you could have a certain standard about NOT "sticking-it-out" in marriage.

Believe me, I didn't get married until I was 30 years old and I did have my fun, so I am no prude-LOL! I just could never have done that to my parents. Even though, I'm sure they knew I was having fun too. I'm personally not into talking about that kind of stuff with my parents-EEWWW!


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I'm for the cohabitation thing. There's too much that can be hidden from each other without it. I tried the marriage first thing, and boy, what a mistake. My ex didn't see my ring as a symbol of her love for me-- she saw it as a LEASH (probably the reason she never wore hers!). It's an experience that's literally wrecked my life, and there's NO WAY I'd ever do it again without living with a person first. I don't trust ANYONE that much any more.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I'm from Mass., which has the lowest divorce rate in the country. Pretty much everyone I know that married after 1985 lived together first. Some did it officially, some just kept 2 places but 1 never got used. My father (67) lives with his girlfriend which I am thrilled about since it means he hasn't married her. Oddly enough, the people I know who didn't live together first tended to be younger (early 20s) when they got married. I think parental objection probably influences that. When I was 21 I would have been terrified to tell my father that I was going to live with someone. But at 30? I wouldn't have blinked about it. I would rather my niece live with someone than get married at 21.

Here is an interesting article on "liberal" Massachusetts:
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2004/10/31/walking_the_walk_on_family_values/

Here is a link that might be useful: Divorce Rates


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RE: Living together before marriage

The living-together-divorce rate statistic is very misleading. While I don't want to bring religion into this discussion, I believe that it is at the heart of the numbers in that statistic.

My understanding is that when you look at the reasons why divorce is higher among people that live together first, it ends up that people who don't live together before marriage typically don't because of religious reasons, and the same people also don't get divorced because it is against their religion.

Frankly I never understood why there is any issue about living together. I certainly can't imagine it being immoral! I understand that some people don't believe in sex before marriage and I can respect that (although I don't understand that either!) But once you are "having fun" and presumably that includes sex, what is the big deal about living together?

I agree with sue that I would rather have my son live with someone than get married too young or find out they were the wrong person. And I would be very happy to see my son in a healthy, committed relationship with someone that loves and respects him, regardless of whether they are married or not.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I would not want DivaD1 living with her BF. Between his parents and us, there is (are?) 60 years of marriage. They love each other enough to live together, but not enough to commit to a life together? Uh, is this what we want for our kids? Neither set of parents would be OK with that. It's not the sex part- it's the disposable nature of the relationship.

I was engaged (not living with fiance) as was DH (also not living with fiancee) when we met. It's been over 25 years... If you're not living together, you can still look. If you live together and you're still looking, you're obviously not ready for marriage. If you're not looking, you have a commitment of some sort, right? How about THAT for oversimplification??

We're south/mid-west and a regional differential may certainly be at play. Even now, around here living together is frowned upon. Not a religious issue particularly, nor a moral one- more like a senseless thing to do that is not in anyone's best interest.

Don't mean to offend anyone with my blunt take on this...


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I'm in my late 50's and cohabitation was definitely not common among my friends and acquaintances, when I was in my 20's. With my kids, it's no big deal. My daughter and her SO, now her husband, lived together with me for a year, my other daughter has been living with her SO for a year+. If they are OK with it, I'm OK with it.


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Younger sister lived with, then married who is now ex-husband #1. No kids.

Same sister lived with, then married husband #2. He has 2 kids already with his ex #1, and just had baby #1 with my sister. Hopefully this one will last (??)

My upbringing was a moral and religious one. Frankly my sisters lack of respect and regard to that upbringing has brought embarrassment to my parents and me. This goes beyond her lives with/marriage/divorce scenario(s). One thing my parents taught me well is that "Every Decision Has a Consequence, Whether Good or Bad". We just all think that her decisions are not the smartest and tend to end with negative consequences.

Also, I always thought that living together before marriage played into the idea of "why buy the cow when you get the milk for free?".

What about all the children born out of wedlock, then "Daddy" decides he's had enough and moves on?

Anyway, that's my opinion on the subject. Oh, I'm a New Yorker living in NH. Sister is a New Yorker living in Jersey.


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We are in our very late 40's and did not live together before we got married 28 years ago. While we sometimes spent 24 hours a day together we did officially maintain separate living quarters. Both of our parents would have been horrified if we had moved in together and out of respect for them we never even considered it an option. I can't think of any close friends who did either. My brother on the other hand (in his mid-50's) has cohabitated with a number of women and married none of them. It seems many people these days don't view marriage as a permanent commitment anyway so I can see why people don't bother with the formality. It has to be much easier to "undo" the situation without dealing with the legalities of marriage.


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RE: Living together before marriage

Thank you all for your many and incredibly varied responses.

Although I don't remember many of my close friends cohabiting 25-30 years ago, I suspect maybe they were but were just much more discreet about it. I actually think today's kids have a much more open and forthright and accepting attitude about a lot of things than my generation, but I guess that's another thread.

Thanks for the interesting link, Sue36. Like Wooderlander suggested, there seems to be a strong regional component to our attitudes.


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It's not the sex part- it's the disposable nature of the relationship.

Pecanpie-- I agree. But that disposeable nature is EXACTLY the reason for living together, first. I don't believe that people should just move in for convenience sake , or for "sex on tap", etc.. To me, it's still a commited relationship. However, I firmly believe that you can NOT know a person well enough to dedicate your life to them without living with them first. If, once you've lived together for a while, you find out that the other person isn't what he/ she appeared to be, then you can still split, no muss no fuss. However, if you're married, and the same thing happens, it's a no win situation. I think you know I'm a very spritual person and you know the direction my faith takes me. I'm not one to take ANY relationship lightly. However, that's not been the case with many of the people I've met. Until I met my present wife, I'd sworn I wouldn't get into another commited relationship again. Funny thing is so had she. We started out as friends and it grew from there to the point there was no denying that this was something real. But we still lived together for 2 years before we got married. I needed to know for sure before I made the jump.


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Am I the only one trying to figure out how this: "engaged, not living together, dumped my fiance and broke up someone else's engagement by stealing her fiance", is less disposable than this: "not married, living together, dumped my partner for someone else"?

Don't get me wrong, I support it all - cohabitation, breaking off engagements when they're not right, gay marriage, etc. It's just that what seems normal from one perspective might seem odd from another perspective.


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This reminds me of a funny story. My poor dad has 4 girls (and a boy). I am second to youngest. When I brought my first boyfriend home to visit (I live opposite coast from home) at 23, my dad said, "Sure he's welcome BUT YOU ARE NOT SLEEPING TOGETHER." Fine, I thought, to be expected. When I brought my next boyfriend home, at 27, whom I was living with, we slept together in the same bed in the SAME ROOM as my parents, separated by a screen, due to lack of space at Christmas. My poor dad had come a long way with the older girls!! No one got any sleep that night, by the way, much less any action. :)

All of us girls lived w/ our husbands before marriage (as did the boy, but gee no one cared about THAT!!). First two girls got grief, last two, no problems.

Funny about the divorce rate in MA, where I live, most of my friends in their 40s are getting divorces! It doesn't seem to matter who, how, it's all different reasons and situations. Scary.


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My husband and I have been married for 21 years. We met in college at age 19, and started living together about a year after we met, until we married at 24. I don't think we ever thought of our relationship as disposable, even before we married. In fact, we bought a house together a year before the wedding. Our parents could see that ours was a loving committed relationship, and we were on educational/career paths that they approved of. Each of us felt loved and welcomed by the other's parents. Our mothers did insist on separate bedrooms when we went to visit them, which we respected. Frankly, I think our parents would have freaked out if we had gotten married at 20 rather than cohabited -- they would have said we were too young to get married! None of them had had very good track records at marriage (my mom: married twice, divorced twice; my dad: married five times, divorced three times; his mom: marrried three times, divorced twice; his dad: married twice, divorced twice). Our families are both from the northeast.


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RE: Living together before marriage

susanfmp has brought up a very different scenario than adoptedbygreyhounds' adult childrens' situations.

susanfnp, were you financially supported by your parents when and during the time you were in school and living together? Were they OK with that?


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RE: Living together before marriage

I have no moral problem with cohabitation, but having tried it (prior to failed marriage #1), I can say that for me at least, it was a very different animal. Living together is a relatively small step -- still in the "making a decision" phase. Getting married is the utlimate "I have made up my mind" step. Once you're married, the issue is "how" to make it work really well, not "if".

It's really a state of mind, more than a legal arrangement, I know. And there are, no doubt, some people who are "totally committed" without marriage. But for most cohabitating couples, I think there's an important element that is being withheld. There's an escape valve. Maybe just more of a "me" centeredness -- protecting yourself just in case -- rather than a total no-reservations committment. There's an aspect of 'limbo' to a lot of these relationships, and many of them seem to just 'drift' into marriage without that whole definitive sea-change of mind state.

I do worry about children being born into these 'sorta' committed relationships. So if they don't last, do they 'sorta' have a father? Not that divorce is a pretty thing -- It's just that the lines are a little cleaner.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I have a beautiful, young niece (barely 22 now) who has been married for just over a year. She married a young man who started out as a pen pal. He was in Afghanistan then Iraq and was an army ranger. My niece not very experienced and in fact has led a very sheltered life.

They began a relationship where they saw each other infrequently, then a little more regularly, then to my surprise became engaged.

I am convinced that they chose to become engaged and subsequently married because her moral values would not even allow her to contemplate premarital sex and cohabitation, and she was "in love". I do admire her values.

BUT--they have been married for a little over a year and my oldest dd and I see signs of possible abuse that really concern me. I shared my concerns with my sister (her mother) and she just looked at me shocked and tried to minimize my concerns. I asked her to keep her eyes wide open and not to let this guy fool her. I think I made her mad, but that's life.

I wish she had lived with this scary guy before she married him, so she could get out of this a little more easily. I just pray that she doesn't get pregnant.

He does things like rough play. When they were leaving my moms over the holidays, I watched them leave (outside by her car) and saw him grab her upper arm hard and pinching while talking to her with an evil look on his face. He "tickles" her to the point of ridiculous.

He even hit my oldest dd on the upper arm that same day, and when she backed off and told him firmly that that HURT. He said sheepishly--"I was just playing".

Something is wrong with this guy. This might have been a good situation where the gal would have been better off living with the guy.

Sorry to get so off topic.


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RE: Living together before marriage

Oh my, blsdgal - I hope all turns out OK for your niece - I agree, it doesn't sound good and my warning bells would be going off big time for her.

As to the living together before marriage thing...I wonder if the statistics take into consideration whether or not the cohabitators have been married before, and what their ages are? I think that matters a lot.

My DH and I lived together for about 2 months before we married. Both of us had been married before. That was 26 years ago, so living together was fairly common, but not the norm like it is now. I personally don't see an issue with it when both parties have been previously married and are divorced, or when both parties are of sufficient age (mid twenties or older), and it's obvious that they are in a long term, intimate relationship. It's the young ones that make me whince with aprehension, as they are so inexperienced.

Also - in regards to the statistics - lots of elderly folks cohabitate without getting married, as widows and widowers could loose their late spouse's pension and social security money if they were to remarry.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I have been married for over 26 years now. My husband and I lived together for 3 years before we married. When we decided to live together, it was with the understanding that this was a committment we were making with each other. We did not date others and we combined our incomes.

I always heard the saying that when you get married (as in a wedding), you are telling the world that you are just making public your current committed relationship. When you know you are committed to each other there is no need for an "escape valve". Your trust and love bind you, not a marriage certificate.

I have three daughters and would love for them to experience the deep, committed relationship my husband and I have, whether they choose to get married or not. When and if they have children, then marriage becomes necessary - primarily for legal reasons.


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I am Southern. Way, way Southern. My dad is a preachers kid, and DHs parents are evangelical fundamentalists. My mom made a point of telling me that I would be disowned if I lived with someone outside of wedlock. But then I didnt start dating DH until I was 28, and my mother was convinced Id be an old maid. By the time we officially moved in together a year later, my mother was carrying DHs boxes into my house for him. We were engaged and had set a wedding date. Am I more likely to get divorced? I dont think so. By the time we got married, we owned property together and had merged our finances. Although I agree with Sweeby that many couples who cohabitate drift into marriage without making the conscious commitment, we didnt. Any couple who marries because its expected or because its the next logical step is more likely to have problems.

It probably is a generational thing. My parents never would have considered living together before they were married. I think that most of our friends lived together before marriage, even if they still maintained separate apartments. My brother once made a crack about how we were living in sin, forcing me to point out that I wasnt the one in the maternity wedding dress. LOL. The craziest thing Ive heard of was a young couple in college who decided to go ahead and have children, but didnt want to get married because marriage was too much of a commitment. Huh? I also know older couples who havent lived together for years but never bothered to get divorced, and a couple who married, lived in the same town, but maintained separate residences. It wasnt a marriage of convenience: they just liked their space. People are less secretive about such things than they used to be.


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Isn't the whole point of dating getting to know each other? It's strange to think you can only really know someone by living with them first. I'm not saying it's wrong, but just really sad.
I gotta tell you, I wouldn't last a day back in the single world. I just don't get it.


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I will be encouraging, yes, encouraging both my children to cohabitate before getting married.

If I lived with my husband first--I would have never gotten married to him. I would have definitely broken it off. However, after getting married, I did not want to be divorced. So I have stuck it out through thick and thin for almost 18 years now.

You cannot truly know someone and discover whether you are compatible until you share living quarters.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I'd be curious to know HOW LONG all the previous "cohabitators" actually DATED before moving in together? It seems that many (not necessarily here) would move in together after a couple of months or so-just to test the waters, and that isn't giving "dating" a chance. Everything nowadays does seem disposable. How sad.

And how many men/women have you have lived with prior to your present spouse that you lived with?

Just asking....


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RE: Living together before marriage

DH and I moved in together about 5 months after dating, but we'd been good friends for a year. We lived together 2 1/2 yrs before getting married. Neither of us had lived with anyone else before. I was a month shy of 25, and he was 26 when we moved in. We've been married since 97.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I lived with both my spouses before marriage, the first one 36 years ago and my now-husband 8 years ago. We moved in together only after we had "gone together" for a couple of years and were in love and committed to each other. My first marriage lasted 20 years. Both moving in together and getting married seemed like the natural next step to take. I notice that my grown children seem to be following similar paths: All three have lived together in committed relationships, two of them are now married, and the third one is seriously moving in that direction. It seems normal to me.

Really, the only person I know who has gotten married in the last 30 years or so without living together first is my 78-year-old widowed aunt, who last year married a man she had dated in college sixty years ago. For them, dating was enough.

Why is it sad to live together before marriage? I don't get that. A break-up is sad, but living with someone you love? Not sad to me.


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RE: Living together before marriage

susanfnp, were you financially supported by your parents when and during the time you were in school and living together? Were they OK with that?

During the year we lived together before graduating, we were supported in part by our parents and also by scholarships, student loans, and 15-20 hour/week jobs. We did not ask our parents' blessing before we lived together and it frankly didn't occur to us to do that -- not because we didn't love and respect them but because they had always trusted, even encouraged, us to make our own decisions. Their support (financial and otherwise) was not offered or withheld in proportion to the amount of control they were willing to give us over our own lives. If we made bad decisions, we knew there would be consequences, but those consequences would not include losing our parents' love and support. And the fact is, I think we made pretty responsible decisions and our parents respected us for that. Our house (which we shared with several other students until we graduated) was not a den of iniquity. We were good students. We paid the rent on time. We got good professional jobs right out of school and were able to buy a house (without our parents' help) when we were 23. Most importantly, our parents saw that we each had someone we cherished and who cherished us, who made us light up, who inspired us to want to be kind, generous, and engaged in the world around us. What's not to be OK with about that?

Our oldest child is now 19 and a freshman in college. We will pay 100% of his education expenses and give him a room/board allowance until he graduates; the only condition is that he remain in school (because if he is not in school he will be able to work and support himself, right?). He is free to choose where he lives, and with whom. We expect that he may make choices that are different from what we would choose for him (and has in fact done a little of that already), but he knows he is responsible for the consequences of his decisions, and making mistakes and learning from them is part of how one becomes an adult. We don't have any problem giving him advice or saying "we think that's a mistake", even when he doesn't ask us for our opinion , but I cannot imagine anything he could do that would make us withdraw our love and support of him.


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RE: Living together before marriage

Well, just to present the other side, here is my story.

My husband and I did not live together before our marriage 11 years ago and we did not sleep with each other until after the wedding on our honeymoon. However, neither of us were virgins.

My parents thought we were "Two Peas in a Pod". And my mother, particularly, didn't understand why my then fiance, would stay at her house when he came to see me. We lived about an hour apart while we dated and he would stay the night at my mother's house on weekends.

Sometimes I stayed at his house in the spare bedroom over the weekends.
Yes, we were tempted many times but NO, we didn't do everything except the real thing.

We are both what would be called evangelical Christians. So our religion was/is a factor and is still the most important part of our lives.

We met on a July 15 and on April 7 the following year, he proposed. We got married in a big church wedding with a reception at a Hilton Hotel on July 15. I let my Mother plan everything except the ceremony itself. She was thrilled her 30 year old daughter was finally getting married. And to a good man! I was willing to marry someone divorced but that wasn't my ideal. My husband, 6 years older than myself, had never been married either. His mother was more thrilled than mine! We love each other dearly and have never once had Mother in Law problems.

I knew on our third date, that I could marry that man. He had the qualities I was looking for in a husband.
I had a list, but not a silly one. A list that included kindness, dependability and intelligence. I had to find him very physically attractive. And most importantly, he had to really want me. I wasnt going to snare anyone or play any games.

Now, eleven years later, we are more in love than ever. We are each other's best friends. Tonight we took our 3 mile walk with our dogs then came home and grilled shrimp.

My Dad lives with us now and when I watch how compassionate my husband is with my ailing father I love him more than ever.
And, yes, everything is great!


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Like bumblebeez, My XH and I grew up as evengelical christians, We did not live together before we got married, and our marriage was a disaster. If I had known, before we married, what I learned about him after we married, I probably wouldn't have married him (or he me).

I no regrets, we were married for 28 years, I have 3 wonderful kids, and we had some great times, and some good times, but keeping things on an even keel and keeping my sanity wore me out.

We had a lot in common, he had the qualities I thought I was looking for, including intelligence, dependablility, a good sense of humor, he seemed kind, he had a strong faith. But he was so unhappy with life, and so full of regrets and anger, traits I never saw before we married.

Sometimes it takes living together to see things that are only revealed over time, both good and bad. Marriage is the most important decision we will make (yet many of us probably spent more time researching our new kitchen appliances:)


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RE: Living together before marriage

Before we were engaged, I lived alone and so my dh was there a large majority of the time. While his name wasn't on the apartment lease, it might as well have been. I'd say he spend at least half the week there, and half the week at home (which was his parent's house). We did this for five years, and during that five years, even though he spent so much time there, I never gave him a key to the apartment. After all, it was MY place, and I treasured that concept. I loved living alone. We did keep our partial cohabitation discreet from our parents, not because they were unapproving in that sense, but because we were a bit embarrassed to admit, that yes, we really did have sex. LOL (We started dating at 18, so you can imagine why we kinda felt this way)

However, right after we became engaged, he moved in the next day, started paying half the rent, and I finally gave him a key and our parents knew we were "living together." A wedding was in the works, and we were married 8 months later.

For me, as a parent, I will be happy as long as my kids are happy. I will try not to be judgemental, hope that they are open with me, but totally know where they are coming from if they are a bit shy about it. Adoptedbygreyhounds, it sounds as if your kids are comfortable enough to be 100% open with you, and that they are all happy, and so in my opinion, you should feel blessed and proud of them.


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RE: Living together before marriage

I am 31, married 3 years. I moved in with DH 3 months before the wedding. Most of my friends didn't "officially" cohabitate (meaning they kept 2 places even if they were always together) until they were planning a wedding. Even then it usually had more to do with not wanting to renew a lease than a desire to live with their fiance.

I guess I don't see the point of long-term living together before marriage. A few months will turn up bad habits and help you get through the settling-in period.

I wouldn accept it if my future kids lived with someone before marriage- don't know that I'd really like it if they weren't engaged, but don't think I would object.

However I would strongly discourage them to combine finances and buy property together. Marriage offers more protection if everything falls apart, especially in a community property state. I know that it's possible to buy property with someone you're not married to, and to do it safely, but it seems like that rarely happens. I've seen two different women "buy" a house with a guy where his name's on the title, but not hers - even though she's paying half the mortgage. When it falls apart, she loses what she considered to be "her house", but it never was hers. If they'd been married first, she'd get half the house (I live in a community property state, not sure how it works elsewhere).


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RE: Living together before marriage

I lived with my dh for over a year before getting married. Prior to him I also lived with another fiance. If I han't lived with the first man I would have married him and my life would have been miserable and frightening. He became very abusive after I moved in and the engagement was on. I guess I became "property" at that point. Obviously I moved out. If there had been combined property, finances, etc..I probably would have stayed longer. No, living with someone prior to marriage in order to get to know them isn't sad, but marrying someone you don't know and then waking up and realizing you're in a living hell is.


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