Living together isn’t the equivalent of marriage, but it can negate some of the stress of merging your life with another’s.

However, according to a recent New York Times Op-Ed, cohabitation in the U.S. is now less about prophylaxis than it is a risk in and of itself. “In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, ‘You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.’ About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce. But that belief is contradicted by experience. Couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages – and more likely to divorce – than couples who do not. These negative outcomes are called the cohabitation effect,” writes Times correspondent Meg Jay, a clinical psychologist at the University of Virginia.

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