I just heard on a radio show something you hear often, from everyone… from parents of adult kids, from friends, coworkers, movies, TV. It’s so common you’d never know it’s dead wrong! It is an argument that “just makes sense.” It’s so grounded in reality you would actually question NOT doing it… I heard it a lot when I was engaged and made a certain choice about not moving in with my fiance.
Living together before marriage. Specifically while dating someone, moving in together with one main purpose of “testing” your relationship. The logic goes that it is important to make sure you are compatible before you commit the rest of your life with this person. After all, what if they snore, or are messy and you’re a neat freak? And really, how can you really know someone unless you are living with them?
Now, if you’re wondering where I’m going with this blog, I want to give a shout out to the liberal, non-religious people by saying I do not take a religious stance or a more “conservative” view of this topic. But I come to the same conclusions, just for very different reasons. It’s too bad the only voice against living together is strickly the religious voice. Most young people don’t go to church and it’s actually the non-churched who are as likely, or more likely, to think it’s a good idea and have social support.
I could bore you with the research. The following up of couples who lived together and what their future marriages holds is a grim reality. Those couples fare much worse than their counterparts who do not live together. But not just divorce is grim, even those who stayed married their happiness about their marriages is lower than their counterparts!!
WHAT GIVES, then? How on earth can you commit the rest of your life with someone who you have never lived with, hip to hip, day in, day out, sweaty armpits and all?
Obviously we are all special and unique. Or so the logic goes, right? YOU of course are marrying the love of your life. YOU are never getting divorced. YOU don’t fit “statistics”. YOU are an outlier in a scattogram of research data pointing towards clear trends of divorce and unhappiness.
And let’s not even go into the harassment, the eye rolls, the “you are just SO STUPID and NAIVE” looks you get from friends, coworkers and others when you announce you are not shacking up. It takes strength, courage, and a lot of patience to deal with all that community baggage.
Here is my take on marriage and why this “living together before marriage is smart” stuff is totally bogus.
One, marriage is about having similar values and views of your future. You can fall in love with someone completely opposite from you in almost EVERY WAY, but if you have similar values and goals for your future, you should fare well. After all, the real stresses of life aren’t about being a neat freak, cleaning up the beard shavings, or who does the laundry. The real stresses are about how you earn money, how you spend money, whether and when you want children, how you raise them, how much you save for retirement, how you relate to your families, how well you balance your sex life and parenthood roles with some level of independence and self-growth.
Two, marriage is about being committed. Through it all, you are committed to the marriage. Commitment is not something you ‘test’. It is a choice you hold and then a choice you let go of because there is no alternative except perhaps in horrendous situations – your spouse murders someone, is violent, abusive, etc. But if you are in a committed relationship you will survive because while the rest of your world (physical or emotional world) falls apart, the one rock in your life is your commitment. It is the one constant, the one unwavering, unchanging element in a crazy, unpredictable world. Commitment doesn’t care if you experience tremendous growth in your life while your partner is the same old person, change careers (for more or less money), gain or lose a lot of weight, develop a dibilitating illness, disability, or emotional problem.
Values, trust, admiration, respect, commitment. These are not things you build just living with someone. If that were the case we’d want to marry our roommates in college or when we enter the real world. You can hold those things dear for a best friend you have never lived, right? The difference is you aren’t marrying your best friend. You are marrying someone you want to commit your entire life to. You work around the quirks of daily life because you are holding onto something much stronger and deeper than the petty annoyances that invariably happen when two people live under the same roof.
On a bit lighter note, if you have the confidence in your dating relationship, there is no need to “hurry it along” by living together. You are more likely to have those intense conversations while dating than while being hip-to-hip, falling asleep to the television. Why? Because you stop dating! And dating is where we get out of our daily routine and truly spend time, alone, having those conversations we don’t have at breakfast about our values and deep seated notions of our future.
So hats off to those who chose to have fun dating and when the time is right, the wedding date is set, and commitments are made, still consider waiting til the wedding. Have fun spreading out, alone in your bed. Have fun doing anything you want in your own space. Enjoy the alone time. For when you get married, those times will quickly pass.
For full disclosure my husband and I were engaged for 15 months. 5 months before the wedding my husbands apartment lease was up and we needed to get a house before the weather got cold. We couldn’t afford my apartment rent and a house so we planned for me to move in with my parents (after 9 years living away) until the wedding. We both got a ton of crap for what others perceived as a foolish, naive, dumb choice. We bought a house and everything changed. Those who own property know how much that shifts your world. I had no idea and there was no way I could co-own a home and stay at my parents. So for 5 months we lived together, after being engaged for 10 months, dating for a year prior to that. And I still hold firm – living apart as long as you can before the wedding is something you’ll never regret and if you’re purposeful about it, will build your strength and character to withstand more social pressures coming your way post-wedding.