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Should you live together if you have kids?

Posted on Monday, April 11, 2011 in Happiness, Kat, love, Parenting, Relationships, single dads, single moms, Singles, Women

Sara, her new beau, and Sean and I had gone out to Rancho Nicasio to hear some music, eat and dance.

At one point I caught Sara watching Sean and me in a slow dance out of the corner of my eye.

“You guys are so cute together,” she whispered to me later at the table, when Sean went to the restroom. “When are you going to move in together?”

Good question, because I’m not sure we’re ever going to move in together. But certainly not now.

“I don’t know, Sara; not before The Kid’s out of the house. Plus, his kid’s at home, too, remember.”

“Oh, kids, schmids —That’s so old-fashioned. They know you two are sleeping together, right? So, what’s the difference?”

It seems like a pretty big difference to me. Living together when you’ve got kids is sending the wrong message — that marriage doesn’t matter.    

I know, I know — I’m divorced. If marriage really mattered to me …

No one goes into marriage expecting to divorce. But, marriage does matter, if you’re planning to have kids.

Marriage is under attack lately, perhaps rightly so given the insane expectations people place on it. Fewer people than ever before think it’s necessary. Let’s face it, marriage certainly isn’t for everyone. And people often get married for all the wrong reasons, and sometimes couples marry because they’ve been living together for a while and it seems like the next logical thing to do.

Often, it isn’t.

Couples who live together before marrying tend to argue more and communicate less. If they eventually marry, they divorce more often than those who don’t. Plus, they get fat, and that alone is reason to make me say, no way!

But it you’re going to have kids, it makes no sense to live together without getting married first. Shacking up is marriage lite, with all the daily annoyances and relatively predictable roles of marriage without the commitment. And if you think it’s any easier to split if things aren’t going great, well, just look at Halle Berry and Gabriel Aubry.


And once you have kids — who’ve gone through the trauma of a divorce — it’s all the more reason to tread very carefully on mixing families. Yes, it sure would be nice to go to sleep and wake up next to Sean more often, and to feel more like a family (although we sure do like our “space”). But I’m aware of the message we’d be sending our kids, and it isn’t the message I want to send.

There are like 5 million or so couples shacking up nowadays, and a lot of them are probably like Sean and me — single moms and dads. So I’m pretty sure we’re the minority. But, I’m OK with that. Plus, there’s none of the real or pseudo “step” or “half” things going on — stepmom, stepdad, half-brother, etc. Or worse — “mom’s live-in lover.”

I’ll bet that’s why we’re still so cute together after all these years.

  • Is it OK to live together if you and/or your boy/girlfriend have kids?
  • Do you think it’s any easier to split if you’re living together with kids than if you were married?
  • Did you live with a parent’s boy/girlfriend? How’d that work out?

Photo © Gorilla –

Bring on the comments

  1. jim
    Twitter: mobilene

    Hear, hear.

  2. BloggyDaddy says:

    I think what you are doing is very respectable, and I applaud it. Too many times, the kids are somewhat of an afterthought and it’s really not fair to them. You’re doing it right in my book.

  3. Crissi Dillon
    Twitter: Santarosamom

    I seriously just wrote about this! And as I went to publish it on FB, I saw that you had too. I’m of the mind that, while I definitely want to be married one day, and I do like the idea of being married before living together, I don’t believe marriage is under attack if an unmarried couple moves in together. I also don’t think it wrecks the kids in any way, as obviously their parent is with only one person and not with a string of boyfriends/girlfriends (way worse, imo). But moving in together shouldn’t be taken lightly, it’s just as serious as marriage – especially when kids are involved. It’s just less expensive then a fancy catered affair. And if the BF and GF split, it’s just as sticky and horrendous as a divorce.

    Oh, and my two kids and I are moving in with my boyfriend (of 2 1/2 years) and his teenage son this weekend. 🙂

  4. A dude says:

    I basically agree with Crissi- I don’t think it sends any “wrong signals” or undermines marriage. But I think it might sorta suck for the kids and maybe you guys when you both have them- forced step-siblings at the older-than-toddler stage often doesn’t work that well, the Brady Bunch notwithstanding. If I were in your situation I wouldn’t want to up end the status quo- they’ll be out of the house soon enough. But don’t blame it on a defense of marriage- that’s the religious right’s trick!

  5. Kat Wilder says:

    Should you #livetogether if you have #kids?

  6. Kat Wilder says:

    Jim and BloggyDaddy — thanks!

    Crissi — shall we say great minds think alike? I will check out what you wrote; do you say why you’re not marrying?

    A Dude — I don’t mean to defend marriage (not that I have anything against it). But, you either commit or you don’t; otherwise, it’s just a financial arrangement as far as I can tell.

  7. brian says:

    i would say it depends on the circumstances surrounding the kids relationship with the other parent and kids age
    if absent and uninvolved it could create a greater likelihood of jealousy and resentment
    remember in such cases you may be the only parent

    older kids?
    just be careful lest you loose moral authority
    you don’t want your teenage daughter moving in with the second coming of marilyn manson do you?

  8. Crissi Dillon
    Twitter: Santarosamom

    Kat, we’re going to marry, it’s just not official yet. And I haven’t totally divulged the details surrounding that on my blog. Let’s just say, more to come. 😉

  9. terri says:

    BF and I have eight more years to date – that is when his youngest daughter and my youngest son are out of the house. We already have four years under our belt. We won’t live together, and feel like marriage would be too hard on our little families. Our children feel safe knowing that we aren’t going to spring anything new on them based on our relationship, and they still love it when we all get together to have fun. Why ruin that? Imma withya sistah!

  10. The Observer says:

    Kat, I support your individual decision to not flaunt your sexuality at home by having sleepovers or a “move-in” situation. But I don’t universally advocate this position. The other side of the coin is: “…well mom moved in with her boyfriend just a soon as we all left home…I might as well move in with my boyfriend…” What gets accomplished in the artifice of “we’re not sleeping together”? And you freely admit you’re divorced, so what’s the deal? Again, you are doing what’s right for you. Again, I support that. Are we trying to trick our kids into thinking that people don’t have sex when they’re divorced? I really, really want to know what’s underneath this. Surface = I’m not doing this, I’m waiting for marriage. Underneath = I’m not getting married, so I’ll pretend I’m not sexual. Am I missing something, here?

    I totally “get” that merging families most likely is the hang-up. There’s support issues, etc. that are “difficult” to work out. Would that change if you and your awesome guy got married? Last time: I support what you are doing–not shacking up, but I do wonder if the prohibitions are based on old tired ethics? I have personally stayed in a marriage for the sake of my kids. That’s a whole different blog. Am I crazy, here, or what? What?

  11. terri says:

    RT @tweetmeme Should you live together if you have kids?

  12. NL says:

    I agree with Crissi and TO.

    I’m dating a really old man twice my age (he is 55) for 3 and a half years. We are both divorced. He wants to marry. I don’t.

    Right now, we are both enjoying our space. And quité frankly I dont want to mess with pre-nup which is inevitable once we talk about M. I have a trust and business left to me by my parents and a career. Marriage will def complicate things financially. And Im not going there.

    If we decide to live together which I’m ok (instead of FWB, NSA, booty calls). I dont have morality issue with moving

  13. Chopper Papa
    Twitter: chopperpapa

    I this this will sum up my response on this topic…