Is Living Together Before Marriage Reasonable?

The argument goes, by living together you can know how someone behaves in various situations. Once you have spent a year or so under one roof, you have tested the relationship to see if it can withstand the varied pressures of life.

But wait. That isn’t true. You only know how things are for that year. You haven’t seen how things will be five years from now. A lot can happen in five years. Surely you need to spend five years together to see how that works before committing for a lifetime.

And then there is the concern about what may happen in ten years. People change, we grow older, sometimes wiser, sometimes not. So you should really live together for a decade before deciding to commit.

And what about children? They change the equation entirely. You need to have kids first to see how the relationship will be when you have kids. And then, a lot of relationships become strained once the kids move out. Maybe you should live together through empty-nesting and old age, and only then see if you are compatible and ready to commit.

This is upside down thinking. Committing when you know everything will be fine is not commitment. The very definition of commitment is that you will stick with it no matter what will be. And none of us know what will be.

If you base your decision to marry someone on the assumption that you know everything about them, what happens when you discover that in fact you don’t? Better recognize that life is full of surprises. Commitment is the force that keeps you together when those surprises come.

So when you meet someone, find out about their values, discuss their priorities, explore their character. Their habits may change, but their character and deep seated values won’t change much. And if you later discover that they sleep with the window open and you need it closed – people with good character who are committed to the relationship will be able to work that one out.

Rabbi Moss and Rabbi Menachem Bluming of Potomac Maryland. The above is not meant to cover all issues, including the Biblical prohibition, of living together before marriage, just to explore how reasonable the argument of its necessity is. There is a lot more on the topic that should be explored.