Q: Does living together damage a relationship if both want to get married to each other eventually?

Answer (Dr. Gary Chapman):
I often encounter couples who are dating or engaged even that say to me, “What’s wrong with living together for awhile before we get married? We love each other. We’re going to get married. So why not live together before we get married?” You know, it sounds logical that you could get to know each other sexually before you get married.

However, research indicates that couples who live together are less likely to get married. That’s whether they’re dating or engaged. It may be because they come down off the in love high if they live together long enough—the average life span of the in love high is two years. So, perhaps they come down off that high after they decide to move in with each other. After a while, they realize they don’t have the same values, they don’t march to the beat of the same drum, and they don’t even like the same things. Consequently, they break up.

That probably would have happened whether or not they were sexually involved. If you date long enough before you get married, you’re going to come off the high. But often people postpone marriage by living with each other for months or sometimes years. So, the break up may be related to the fact that they have now come down off that high and are now being realistic about the other person.

Here’s the other factor, and maybe more importantly: Research indicates that couples that live together before they get married are far more likely to be unfaithful to each other sexually after they’ve been married for a few years. There’s something about having sex before marriage that makes a person more inclined to have sex with someone else outside the marriage. That doesn’t mean it’s inevitable but, statistically, it’s far more likely that one of you will take that road. And, that of course is absolutely destructive of a marriage. I can’t think of anything that strikes at the heart of a marriage than having sex with someone other than your marriage partner, which is why it’s so difficult to get over that when it happens.

The best pattern is always to reserve sexual intercourse for marriage, but to date long enough that you come down off the high and recognize some of the realities about life. Then, you can make a wise decision about marriage.


Gary Chapman, PhD, is the author of the bestselling 5 Love Languages® series, which has sold more than 8 million worldwide and has been translated into over 40 languages. Dr. Chapman travels the world presenting seminars on marriage, family, and relationships, and his radio programs air on more than 400 stations. He lives in North Carolina with his wife, Karolyn. For more information visit 5lovelanguages.com.

  • L

    Thank you for this… It’s very enlightening and strengthens my belief against premarital sex.

  • E

    I noticed that you only focus on the emotional high and never when people have come down off of it. There are actually more recently finished studies that show that while couples who live together before engagement are more likely to divorce or break up, couples who move in together after getting engaged with a strong commitment to being married are actually just as likely to succeed as couples who did not. Now, I think that people should wait until marriage to have sex. However, we live in a society where sometimes money is a real issue.

    Sometimes, to make the chaos of preparing for marriage and planning a wedding much easier, couples move in. It also saves quite a substantial amount of money (especially with a long engagement process). This does not automatically mean that the couple will have sex. I feel as though you are misrepresenting the other point of view. I am NOT saying that living together before marriage is a fantastic idea and that people should go and do it willy nilly. I’m saying that there are valid reasons for those that do after getting engaged and after the “honeymoon phase” of the relationship is over.

  • M

    I would LOVE to see these studies that you speak of. As you mentioned, the first study, indicating that people who live together are less likely to get married, is absolutely logical. They are choosing not to get married because they are less compatible that they originally thought. The second study you mentioned is of particular interest to me. I would love to see the data that confirms that couples who live together before getting married are more likely to be unfaithful during the marriage. Links would be appreciated!

  • pyetty

    As for me, i know of a couple that leaved together for eight years before marriage, if they had sex wouldn’t know, and now they are happily married, and the love never deminish

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