Think twice before signing the lease: Side effects of college cohabitation

Gracie Speer | Cartoonist

By Ashlyn Beck | Staff Writer

The idea that cohabitation before marriage leads to divorce is a myth according to a Baylor lecturer’s research, but they still say to think before moving in with your significant other.

Dr. Tamara Lawrence, senior lecturer in the department of psychology and neuroscience, said she focuses primarily on romantic relationships in her research. According to Lawrence, cohabitation is not proven to be always beneficial or negative.

“When couples live with their future spouse — in other words, they cohabitate after they become engaged — it has no impact on marital stability really at all,” Lawrence said.

The real indicator of relationship success or dissolution, Lawrence said, is the reason for cohabitating. If a couple is planning on getting married and cohabitation is the “financially feasible next step,” then it can be highly beneficial for a couple.

“If the plan is already to get married, so they’re thinking of marriage or they’re engaged, then it does seem to be a good idea,” Lawrence said.

Centennial, Colo., sophomore Miranda Ford is planning on moving in with her boyfriend this summer. Ford said she and her boyfriend have been together for four years and have been long distance for most of that time. Ford said they met when her boyfriend was on active duty in the military and was deployed to Iraq for about eight months of their relationship.

“Both him and I would be going to Baylor, but even if he doesn’t [get in], it’s just a way to close the distance and for us to take that next step, and we feel like we’re ready for it,” Ford said.

Ford said she and her boyfriend are planning on getting married in the next couple of years, and moving in together is a step to take before they are financially stable enough for marriage.

“We’ve always talked about it, and we know that we want to get married,” Ford said. “I think it’s honestly just something we’re ready for.”

Another factor that goes into relationship success is age. Lawrence said taking the step to cohabitate or get married too young might not be a good idea.

“I think the biggest thing that those relationships would have working against them is age,” Lawrence said. “Are you mature? How far down the path of your life are you before you make a decision to join paths with someone else?”

Being in relationships and having experience, Lawrence said, is a way to grow and learn how to have a healthy relationship, so getting married in college tends to cause more problems than it solves.

“I tell my students in my relationships class, life takes you on a lot of twists and turns,” Lawrence said. “It’s highly likely that the younger you are, the more your lives could diverge.”

Aly Pasche graduated from Baylor last May and got married right before graduation. Her husband is still in school at Baylor, and she works remotely from their home right
off campus.

“The most important thing [for us] is being committed to each other and getting married, and then everything else just follows after, like the challenges of potentially living in a different city or me working full time in person somewhere else,” Pasche said.

When it comes to marriage in college, Lawrence said a shared faith, which can be common at Baylor, tends to preserve marriage and guard against some of the negatives of early marriage.

“[A lot of] Baylor students share their faith tradition, and that’s important to them and maintains importance throughout their life,” Lawrence said. “That can certainly be a buffer against a lot of the negative things that can affect marriages too.”

Some couples engage in cohabitation thinking it will strengthen their relationship, but Lawrence said it is not the best reason for a couple to decide to live together.

“People sometimes think that living together will bring [them] closer together and will make [their] relationship better, and that seems to be a flawed assumption,” Lawrence said.

Getting married in college might pose an issue to anyone hoping to pursue a career because of the attention and responsibility required for maintaining a marriage,
Lawrence said.

“I think sometimes when women get married, they have a tendency to sign over their life to nurturing their spouse and any potential future children,” Lawrence said. “But if a woman wants a career and wants to make a contribution beyond her family, sometimes getting married too early sort of stifles her own personal and professional development.”

Though Lawrence said this happens, it isn’t always the case. Lawrence said the important thing is living with or marrying a partner who encourages personal growth and ambition.

“I don’t ever want to see a woman feel like they’re getting up on their own personal growth and development to get married and have a family,” Lawrence said. “I think that both things can happen.”