Ask A Very Smart Brotha: Why You Shouldn’t Live Together Before Marriage

January 9, 2013  |  
Although I’m referred to as one in certain circles (including here), I’m not a fan of the title of “relationship expert.” Expertise implies that a person has every right answer, and with a subject as varied, nuanced, and randomly arbitrary as romantic relationships, it’s just not possible to have right answers all of the time. In that sense, there’s no such thing as a “relationship expert.”
But, although I’m aware calling my knowledge “expertise” may not be applicable, the advice I give is derived from a combination of experience, education, and observation that helps me determine probabilities. For instance, if a woman asks whether she should stay with a man who has been cheating on her but swears he’s going to be faithful now, while it is possible that he may be telling the truth, experience, education, and observation has shown me that in most situations like this, the guy eventually reverts to his old ways. My advice just mirrors what I think is the most likely outcome.
I’m bringing this all up because there are dozens of different dating/relationship questions, theories, and concerns where there are no real right answers. While one side may seem more likely to occur, you can easily make the argument that the other side is in fact the right answer. Today’s topic—Why I believe people should wait until marriage before living together—is a perfect example.
You can just as easily craft a convincing pro pre-marriage cohabitation argument. If in a committed, monogamous, adult relationship, it may make more practical sense to live together. First is the obvious. Both parties will have the opportunity to save money. And, with your combined incomes, you may be able to afford a larger place and nicer things. Also, if you do plan on eventually getting married to each other, the pre-marriage cohabitation period can be a bit of a test run to see how things might be in the future. Plus, there are certain things you just won’t know about someone unless you live with them, and it’s better to learn “secrets” like “This bastard brushes his teeth like three times a week!” and “Damn, ever since she moved in, my bathroom smells like whiting.”
But, the convincing co-habitation argument fails to consider one of the die hard truths about relationships: most relationships end. When you’re not living together and the relationship ends, aside from deleting your own boo from your Facebook page, there’s really nothing else you have to do. But, cohabitation just makes things messier, more drawn out. Who stays and who moves out? Who keeps what furniture? Since you were splitting bills before, how is that going to be handled now? Also, as I learned, a post-cohabitation break-up ensures that you will have to continue seeing and interacting with each other for at least a few weeks while you figure everything out. When this happens, you’re not able to make the type of clean break necessary in order for a relationship to truly end, and this has a tendency to put you in a “are we or aren’t we?” limbo that ends up making things even worse.
Most importantly, with pre-marriage cohabitation, you’re committing yourself to husbandly and wifely duties without any type of husbandly and wifely commitment. Yes, this can happen even without living together, but when you are sharing the same space, that dynamic basically just creates itself. And, while doing this may seem cool in theory, ultimately one party (or both parties) will feel taken advantage of, and/or tire of “playing” married couple without actually being a married couple, and this can put another level of unnecessary strain on the relationship.
I do realize many couples aren’t going to wait for marriage to live together, and it’s probably unrealistic to expect that to happen in every case. With that being said, I do believe that any couple planning to cohabit should have a plan. Not a plan to save money or a plan to have sex more conveniently, but an actual timeline with a clear expectation of where the relationship is headed. You may not agree with me, but experience, education, and observation tells me that I’m probably right.
Pittsburgh native Damon Young (aka “The Champ”) is the co-founder of the ridiculously popular Their first book “Your Degrees Won’t Keep You Warm At Night: The Very Smart Brothas Guide To Dating, Mating and Fighting Crime” is available at

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  • blueskyeblue

    I’m not an uptight ,but my instincts always see men as exploiting women by shacking with them. They want the goodies with no commitment. I have NO respect for such selfish men. I see women who shack as foolhardy, making no demands, setting no standards, and being naive, giving so much without demanding anything in return. They may hope for marriage, but they are being used.

  • Black Widow

    I have been married four (yes four) times. I lived briefly with all of them before we married. Very briefly, ranging from a few weeks to a few months. The reasons for marrying each varied.

    Today I am in my 40s and widowed. Currently I can’t see myself getting married again. Why? One reason is that my relationship with my last husband was so enlightening that it’s difficult to imagine that magical combination existing again in this lifetime for me. LOL Also because I am enjoying living alone. Although I miss the comforts of being in a committed, loving, LIVE-IN relationship, I am not willing to settle for less than what I had.

    But to get back on topic, to any woman thinking about moving in with a man with the intent of moving toward marriage, I will give you a reality check: get it all in writing. If you two are not willing to do that, you may want to re-think what you’re really doing.

    One of the reasons people marry is because they are in love. If you love someone, you usually want to take care of him/her in many ways. Taking care of a person can and should involve PRACTICAL planning for the future, if both parties are in agreement about a future together.

    If one of you is seriously incapacitated or dies before the wedding, what protections are in place to ensure that the other is taken care of?

    Wills, trusts, power-of-attorney forms and other legal documents can protect a partner if the unthinkable happens. For a woman who moves in with a man, those documents can give her rights she might not otherwise have.

    Having gone through my deceased husband’s illness and subsequent death, I KNOW that if we had been merely living together — and with nothing in writing — my situation would have had a much different ending.

    Hindsight is 20/20 y’all. Think long and hard before “shacking”, especially if you do so without the protections the law can offer even unmarried couples who care enough to look at what’s real and not just what they feel.

  • Princess Mimi

    If you live with a guy before marriage. He will expect you to do “wifey duties”. That is certainly not me before you put that WEDDING BAND on my finger.Notice I did not say engagement ring. You have to keep the dude dreaming of what it would be like living with you.

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  • JaneDope

    I have been living with my boyfriend for 1 year, and while we have our ups and downs, I’m glad that I chose to live with him. I’m not blind to the fact that too often women end up playing house and getting somewhat trapped in the role of a girlfriend. Before moving together, we discussed why wanted to live together, and I made it clear that us living together as boyfriend and girlfriend has a timeline. I told him that if we weren’t engaged in two years of living together, I would move out. That doesn’t mean that we would break up. It just means that because I know what I want, I’m not letting him or myself get too comfortable just living together.
    Also, I don’t consider it playing house. We established that we are in fact roommates who just so happen to be romantically involved with one another. I don’t cook for him every night, I don’t clean up after him, and I certainly do not do his laundry. There are boundaries that I have as a girlfriend and he is aware of that, so things are working out great. It just comes down to being smart and not letting him get too comfortable in the current situation if you know that your goal is marriage. You don’t have to play the role of a wife in order for him to (hopefully) make you his wife. I give him glimpses of what I will offer as a wife, but, right now, he doesn’t get the full package.

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  • i both agree and disagree. i believe that u should try living together 1st b/c it’s an equally bad situation to get married and then realize that living under the same roof just doesn’t work for ya’ll. where ppl mess up tho is by arbitrarily living together with no common agreement of “what’s next.” this brotha is right, don’t move in without having a plan! if ya’ll aren’t there yet then you shouldn’t moving in yet. i’ve done it both ways (the 2nd time the right way and i’ve been married for almost 8 yrs), and i can attest that living together without having a plan or agreement for next steps within a timeline is the road to disaster.

  • you have a very very concrete point!

  • kierah

    I agree. Even though I was spending a lot of time at my man’s house, he and I both knew I had a home to return to if things didn’t work out. We didn’t feel trapped or obligated to each other.
    Furthermore, I need a better reason to live with my man besides going halfsies on the rent. If rent was my problem, I’d get a roommate.

  • Ms_Sunshine9898

    I most certainly agree, and I will continue to stand by my choice to not live with anyone before marriage. . .

  • Mille

    First of all, dead @ “This bastard brushes hi“This bastard brushes his teeth like three times a week!” and “Damn, ever since she moved in, my bathroom smells like whiting.” 2nd, my husband and I lived together for 2 years before we got married. Going in I had no expectation of getting married. 6 months in he told me there was no point in us living together if we weren’t going to get married sooner or later. At that point I had some decisions to make, and I decided that I couldn’t see myself being without him. We got married 2 years later and still working it out. At the end of the day you have to do what’s right for you, and be prepared if things don’t work out in the end.

  • The last 3 sentences of this post were the only things I felt were worth anything. Everything else is just speculation.

  • Is It 5:00 Yet?

    I don’t believe in shacking up…the marriage bed should be without defilement…hence my behind shouldn’t be sharing a bed with a man I’m not married to. What does a couple have to look forward to when they actually do decide to tie the knot? Also, shacking up tends to make couples procrastinate getting married and next thing you know it is YEARS before they actually make the official commitment. There is also a high probability that the marriage doesn’t last that long. Just my two cents.

    • The procrastination stems more from personal character flaws than the dynamic of cohabiting. I take it you also don’t believe in sex before marriage. Personally, I like to know what I’m getting into before I commit the rest of my life to somebody. Love can happen with just about anybody; the combination of perseverance and compatibility is rare.

      • Is It 5:00 Yet?

        I get where you are coming from and I respect your beliefs. You guessed right, I don’t believe in sex before marriage either. However, cohabitation conflicts with my Bible based beliefs. Different strokes for different folks though.

      • yeppers

        But why not do it the right way….what u so in a hurry for to live with a person??….Like another poster has said….if you that IN LOVE with a person, yall going to spend alot of time together anyway. Why not continue to have your own just in case something happens, because u NEVER KNOW. You should know what you are GETTING INTO….by getting to know a person…YOU EQUATE GETTING INTO SOMEONES PANTS WITH GETTING TO KNOW SOMEONE??? Im sorry someone doing me good doesnt equate to a good/compatible relationship to me nor does it equate to KNOWING ME… opinion of course tho. you may feel u know a person because u have slept with them a number of times and they are good at it…your life tho. not mine. im doing things this way…..and only serious about someone who is doing the same.

        • Chiiiile

          What makes ANYONE the relationship expert? And who gave you the authority to judge what’s “the right way.” I think every couple/person is unique and certain things work for certain ppl

  • Coco black

    I hear you but different strokes for different folks!! 4 of my closet friends ALL lived with their partners before getting married..3 are married and one is engaged and getting married in July. So it can and does work for some people…but yeah I’ve also got a friend who has lived with her man for 7 years and still no ring!
    I’ll do whatever I feel to do…all these rules get you no know where!! I know my worth, my value and that’s all that matters…for me that is!! I was with my ex for for a good amount of time, he still wasn’t ‘ready’ for marriage I said…see ya later!! Lol

    • yeppers

      i hear you…and you are RIGHT…different strokes for different folks. I was brought up by a mother who taught me this was the way to do things and she was my example as well. So some people have lived lives where other ways have worked for them….I wont say you have less class because u want to shack up with men. Thats on you, and if you put your foot down and know that mans intentions are real before yall shack then rock on sista. We all have different requirements, mine is that you intend to make me your wife and that is expressed to me before i take on a wifely role to any man. im not treating a boyfriend like a husband and vice versa. You may have a different requirement. But i wish u much luck love.

  • Eggy

    I’m doing it. Never thought I’d be shacking up….but in all honesty…even if we had separate living situations, I’d be at his place all the time anyway. I’ve lived on my own for ten years and I like having someone to come home to after a long day at work. I like cooking for more than just myself. I even like fighting over the remote and who’s turn it is to throw out the trash. That all being said, I am engaged, have a ring, a date, and a deposit. That all wasn’t the case when I moved in 3 months ago, but the plans for that were definitely stated and he knew I was serious that I did not intend to be a long term live in girlfriend.

    • yeppers

      But you made sure that your intentions were stated and clear…..that you wouldnt be living with a man for years with no talk of marriage. Some people move in with people they have known for a few months just cus they fell in love (chile cheese). My momma have told me a MANY DAY… ALWAYS HAVE A PLACE OF YOUR OWN! IF U NOT MARRIED….CUS THAT MAN UP AND DECIDE HE WANNA PUT YO A… OUT, THEN THERE U ARE….STUCK. There are consequences to getting a divorce and most people try to work it out before going thru those measures to get out of living together like the article writer said. All that stuff u like to do is fine and dandy, and if you like being in relationships alot, some people cant do without companionship at a certain point in their life. Im more of a home body who likes my alone time, and really cant stand people in my house like that. But Id rather be safe than sorry…..U had trust and understanding that your man was Going to do the right thing eventually, and im glad he did….but people lie and thats not the NORM, Im not bout to be stuck out here homeless trying to have a fairytale. Naw Bruh….we engaged before i sell or move out of ANYTHING…OK. Aint nobody got time for that. lol Blessins to yall girl.

    • pretty1908

      I agree, and yes engagements aren’t rock solid … some marriages aren’t, but the like the reader below said..there were intentions to do so. You and your fiancee’ probably discussed this as a couple.

    • You also didn’t pop out 2-3 of his kids and live with him years on end. Good for you.

  • I agree. Didn’t move in with the hubby until two months before the wedding. Ladies if you want to marry that man do not move in with him until their is a ring of the finger, the date has been set, and the deposits paid.

    • pretty1908

      Amen sista ! Set a standard for yourself and get a relationship with God. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved and married someday, but we have to go about the right way.

  • Nope

    I have lived through it and agree 100% with this article. I honestly do question if this works better in theory or practice though.

    And ladies, having both of your names on the lease or mortgage isn’t what’s necessarily keeping women from getting rocked up. Could be a lot of other reasons including men usually do it for practical reasons and women tend to think way ahead of the reality of things. Not to mention a lot of women with their own places aren’t rocked up either.

    • Pivyque

      Well, it worked for me. However, my sister did live with her husband before they were married. They did have a talk about where the relationship was headed though.

    • You don’t live separately to get the ring. You live separately because there is NO ring. You figure anyone not serious enough with you to make it permanent isn’t someone you need to be playing house with. Its very simple really.

  • Shonda Johnson

    I don’t think you should shack up before getting married because 9 times out of 10 he won’t marry you and you will end up like Yandy,Chrissy,Emily and other females who shack up before getting married. You’ll be waiting 10 years to get married.

  • Ann

    I agree 1000%. I don’t think it is a good idea to “shack up” or “live together”. The man in some cases will never marry the woman. You are playing house, and by the time they decide to get married (IF they do), the marriage won’t last due to they done everything that married couples do. I personally am against co-habitation.

  • yeppers

    I agree wholeheartedly with your post…..I will not be living with anyone until marriage….Living together in my eyes is for husbands/wives. If you like living with your boyfriend then thats good for yall. However my view is that a when u are boyfriend/girlfriend status you should have separate homes. If 2 people are that close anyway in my eyes any time you spend together is special…whether we go out on dates, I come over to your place and watch movies or go on vacations. To me it doesnt mean you are a closer or more solidified couple if yall live together because that shouldnt be the solidifying factor. your feelings for that person no matter where you live should do that. And ok you want to know how that person lives…but if I am in LOVE with my man Im not going to divorce him if he leaves his socks on the floor after we get married and we live together…any living ways that you didnt know about before marrying him should be a compromise. And who doesnt live differently when they are in an apartment by themselves??? I know i do…..Good post brotha

    • Pivyque


    • sheila

      I’m married and I never lived with a man before, not saying I never committed fornication. I had children out of wedlock. i told myself that I am going to wait until I get married to live with a man. I might of did things the right way but it is not too late to do something right. I dated my husband and we got married first. I decided not to renew my lease. My husband and I found a place together and he moved in two weeks later. With that being said shacking is not the way to go if you want to be married!

      • pretty1908

        I concur I have seen a lot of my friends get so excited by moving in with their mate only to be bitter and pregnant next without any formal or concrete wedding plans. I have committed fornication, and I have spend the night over a man’s house , but I live with anyone unless we are engaged or married.