Bucking Tradition: Are More Latino Couples Living Together Before Marriage?

The age-old playground song goes something like “First comes love/then comes marriage/then comes the baby/in a baby carriage,” right? Well, times they are a changing. For many, moving in before marriage has become the new normal, whether one is religious or not.

A recent Op-Ed article in the New York Times (“The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage”) stated living together before getting married is a bad idea for most couples, as many aren’t rational or communicative about what living together actually means to each person. He may see it as a test before proposing, while you may just want to save some money. Meg Jay, the author and therapist, said those who hastily move in together and then marry usually end up filing for divorce.

However couples living together before marriage doesn’t seem to be slowing down in the least. A marriage survey conducted by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that 60 percent of married couples today lived together before getting married and that “cohabitation is no longer considered, by many, a casual convenience that undermines marriage.” They also found that the percentage of young women currently living with a male partner has more than tripled in the past two decades.

That made us wonder: do Latinas, especially in today’s dire financial climate, still uphold more traditional values when it comes cohabiting before marriage?

For Ashley Islas, a 23-year-old Mexican American, and her boyfriend, a U.S. Army Officer, the answer is “yes.” Money woes come secondary to her values.

“We live within two hours of one another, but have agreed to not move in together even though we live in an area that can be costly, with two rents, insurance policies, gas prices, and every other living expense,” Islas says. “We have seen how living together can affect finances and create unnecessary pressure and drama.”

Islas was raised to believe that marriage is sacred, and that to live with one’s partner you must also be married.  “Aside from it being traditional thinking, my parents now tell me that it is because they want me to be an independent woman who can show the world that I can do it on my own,” Islas says.

But with more and more couples shifting more towards cohabitation before marriage, many church members have had to as well. Father Frank Sabatte, of The Church of St. Paul the Apostle in New York City, says that the Catholic Church applies their teachings according to each couple’s situation.

“That doesn't mean that a couple is going to ‘get permission’ to live together,” Sabatte says. “It simply means that caring, pastoral priests help the couple to come to a deeper understanding of their situation and how the teaching applies.” Meetings with the couple help to bring to light the ways in which the couple might work towards these teachings.

The CDC study also concluded that “women and men with bachelor's degrees were more likely to delay marriage but also more likely to eventually get married and stayed married for at least 20 years.”

Lisa Andrews, a 27-year-old Costa-Rican American, says that establishing a career was very important for both her and her boyfriend “especially before getting married.” They saw living together as a way to test the waters before marriage.

“Living with someone is when you truly get to know them.  It is a great test for your relationship,” Andrews says. “What happens if you get married and realized living together just does not work? This way you try it and you know whether you can handle it or not.”

Andrews and her boyfriend have been living together for six years. And while they do plan to get married, there’s no set date. Her parents have been supportive, and Andrews claims that moving in together has made their relationship stronger and will help smooth the transition to husband and wife.

Diane Clemente, a therapist located in New York City, says couples who are serious about their relationship shouldn’t move-in together based solely on convenience.

“There is no hard and fast rule that applies to every couple. Mutual expectations should be clear from the beginning,” says Clemente.

In any serious and committed relationship, whether you see marriage in your future or not, the ultimate goal of sharing a home with someone should be a based out of love, right? We think Lori Colon, Latina’s Facebook fan says it best:

“It's interesting to see how much of a focal point marriage is for so many women, and I wonder about what it really represents to them. While I understand the religious and cultural implications marriage has for so many Latinas (myself included), in my instance my partner and I have been together for five years, and living together for half of that time. We have no immediate plans for marriage, nor do we feel it's necessary to be married to feel secure about our love and commitment to one another––and isn't that the best reason to be in a relationship with someone? A marriage license isn't a magical guarantee of forever, so why not live your lives however you see fit?”

Tell us: Did you (or do you want to) live with your partner before marriage? Do you think it strengthens a relationship or creates more problems?