It’s springtime, and love is in the air—which means that lots of 20somethings are packing up their belongings and embarking on a romantic rite of passage that has become de rigueur: moving in with their significant other.

Yet if Sunday’s viral New York Times op-ed, “The Downside of Cohabitation Before Marriage,” is to believed, this now beyond-mainstream part of the modern dating dance—living together before marriage—should be met with great caution, if not downright avoided. Here’s why, according to the author of the piece, Meg Jay, a Charlottesville, Va., psychologist who specializes in treating young adults.

“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.”

Jay spotlights the oft-cited argument that cohabitation is a casual arrangement that just happens—in the lexicon of researchers, “sliding, not deciding.” And once two people shack up, it’s harder for them to disentangle, leaving many young people with the double-whammy of being stuck in a living arrangement that was born out convenience (and that can turn awkward fast), and one that leads to a tepid level of commitment and a doomed marriage. Or so the theory goes. But cohabitation researchers see the outcomes a little differently.

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