Practice Makes Perfect?

The time had come to make the big decision.

OK, well, maybe not THE decision, but a reasonable facsimile thereof…

Kyle and Jessica had come to a point in their 14-month relationship that screamed shit or get off the pot. They could either take the jug handle off of the Complacency Turnpike, or move its level to that holy place that couples who do survive that long without driving each other to Bellevue or diving into the arms of a trade-up for unease of eternal commitment:

The altar, of course…

But in a world where Samsonite and bad break-ups carry with it the fear and loathing of anything “eternal” in any context, many duos are trying a more malleable route to the church or temple that still constitutes being a step up on the commitment level in the form of moving in together.

This isn’t your parents exclusive dating world: Say it with the passion of Principal Ed Rooney’s voice in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off: Nine times as many couples are cohabiting today than there were 40 years ago, according to the National Marriage Project at Rutgers University.

The thinking behind the living-together option is to see if compatibility does exist by creating a situation that looks, smells and feels like marriage.

The big questions will finally be answered for her…

“Does he put the toilet seat down?”

“Does he put the cap back on the toothpaste?”

“OK, what WAS he doing with his time when he wasn’t with me those three nights a week when we were living apart?”

And those quirky little inquiries will be answered for him…

Does she put the toilet seat up?

“Will she have things like toothpaste for me to borrow when I run out? Girls are always better at buying in bulk and advance shopping, so this could be cool.”

“She won’t make me watch ‘Trading Spaces’ now that we’re living together, right? That was just a Sunday night courtesy for Sunday morning courtesies received.”


While practice makes perfect in almost any facet of life, researchers across the board agree that couples that live together first have a greater chance of calling their friendly neighborhood divorce attorney if it actually does get to a honeymoon. And those who are practicing on multiple occasions with different partners are all but doomed to fail.

“People who live with more than one partner in their lifetimes have a greater chance of getting a divorce,” say David Popenoe and Barbara Dafoe Whitehead of the Marriage Project. In other words, if you are a “serial cohabitant,” it could be an indication that you have issues with obligation, and you could consider about finding why.

“There is no evidence that if you decide to cohabit before marriage you will have a stronger marriage than those who didn’t live together,” Popenoe and Dafoe conclude. “And some evidence suggests that if you live together before marriage, you are more likely to divorce later.”

The news gets even more fun: Women who decide to reside with a boyfriend are four times as likely as wives to become victims of violence, and their children are, oh, 40 times as likely to be abused by live-in boyfriends as by their own parents.

Still, those statistics aren’t stopping anyone from saying “I do”…at least to the real estate agent: Couples are more likely than ever to live together without getting married. According to the latest census figures, over half of U.S. women had lived with a partner by the time they turned 30.

But here’s the most telling statistic, also according to the census, the divorce rate is a shade above 50%, but when you live with someone before getting married, your chances of staying together goes down to 25%.

For residents of Hoboken, those who decide to shack up may be basing their decision as much upon the financial benefits as a need to really see their schmoobie on truly full-time basis.

Quality one bedroom apartments in Hoboken are at least $2000.00 per month. For one person that figure can be characterized as intimidating, but for two people who may be in love or close to it, that figure suddenly becomes attractively affordable…if the Dutch rule is applied on paying the landlord each month, anyway.

If you lived in Kansas, maybe you wouldn’t have moved into their version of a one-bedroom on Willow Ave. so quickly. But in Hoboken, suddenly that jump from alone to twosome is much easier when thinking about how to afford that plasma TV and having an apartment big enough to actually fit it.

This economic benefit may also explain why couples tend to get married faster in WTN (White Trash Nation) than in urban areas. It’s not that they’re more moral in the red states; it’s just that they can just afford to live apart longer while deciding to get hitched. And if it doesn’t work out, there will be plenty of other family reunions to meet a soul mate.

I asked a female friend of mine—one who has had a few long-term relationships–if she would move in with a guy after a bond was firmly established as more than potentially eternal.

“If a guy wanted to move in with me, my attitude would be “Where’s the ring, you big chicken?” she explained under no uncertain terms. “I’m pretty sure I’m a dying breed, but what can I say, I’m old fashioned. That’s why I’m going to be 40, single, and living by my damn self!”

But according to the 50 percent divorce rate and 25% living together survival rule, alone at four decades instead of living with someone just for the feeling of being married or to save a few ducats may not be a the worst option, is it?

(The aforementioned Kyle and Jessica in the beginning of this column are currently re-thinking their options after receiving an advanced copy of this article).

Joe Concha is’s Senior Writer and once lived with his now ex-girlfriend for a year. He was never contacted by the census board to participate in their survey, however.