In today’s American society, it is common for people in relationships to live together before getting married. According to a CDC report, the research has mixed results, but the reality is cohabitation is common in our society and the end results can be either good or bad. Personally, I do not think it matters if you shack up before marriage, but it needs to be done intelligently. Below are five reasons why I believe that cohabitation is as serious a decision as marriage. Why much thought must go into such a choice especially since there is remarkably little legal protection in the event that things get nasty.
- 1. People are not cars. You cannot test drive them.
If moving in is your idea of “testing driving” a relationship, then stop and consider why do you feel the need to “test run” another human being. If you are insecure your relationship, it is not a bright idea to spend the cash on a place, fill it with furniture only to realize what you may have already suspected about your relationship and break up. If you think about it, it is a foolish notion. A person does not marry someone to find out if the person is “the one”. People marry because they believe they already found “the one”. The same goes with cohabitation; you do not pour thousands of dollars in an apartment or house to put your relationship through an experiment. It isn’t smart and a little crazy.
Cohabitation is a serious commitment and if you enter such an engagement with negative feelings and thoughts; you may have very well doomed your relationship and waste a great deal of money and emotional energy on something you were not 100% sure of. If you do not have an idea of whom you are in love with, such as you had no clue he was a messy person, and your obsession with cleanliness borderlines mental illness, before you guys decide to rent a place, then you may want to put off living together for a while longer.
- 2. Moving In is not a casual decision, and it should not be treated as such.
Moving in together should be a mutual decision that reflects the commitment two people share with each other. The reality is you are officially sharing your life with someone. If you are not prepared for it, it may not be a good decision at all. The choice to cohabitate should come with real expectations and planning, not because someone is broke and one of you needs a place to stay. Living together should not be a temporary fix to an ongoing problem. It should be done to reflect the level of commitment between two people with positive, happy, expectations of the future.
Another reason why moving in should be taken seriously is because we live in this world called “life”. Life has very little regard to our expectations and moves on its own way. If you move in together just to test each other, life will not care that you suddenly realize you were not ready for this sort of commitment. It even care less about the surprises it throws at you such as pregnancy, unemployment and even a break up when the lease is nowhere near about to expire and one of you needs a new place to live.
- 3. The same conversations needed before a marriage should be discussed before moving in.
Moving in with your partner is a lot cheaper than a marriage because there isn’t the planning of a wedding involved but it does not erase a lot of issues that can arise in any typical marriage today such as money, stability and the prospects of having children. A discussion is needed about the sort of events that happen in life such as what happens if unemployment arises or someone becomes ill. What about birth control and children, if you aren’t using protection, then you are expecting. According to a CDC Report, one out of every five women engaged in cohabitation will become pregnant during the first year of living together, and half of those pregnancies were unattended.
Should we start a family or should we hold off having a family? Who will pay which bills? Who will keep and maintain a budget? Who should create and set up a savings account for the home or future expenses? How about health insurance, life insurance, car insurance, renter’s insurance? Who will baby-sit the children or babies if grandma or grandpa cannot do it, if they exist at all? How much will it cost for a baby sitter? How about child rearing, schooling, travel, groceries; who should be responsible or can the responsibilities realistically be shared? What issues are crucial to the both of you and what would be deal breakers within your relationship? How should family crises be handled? What happens if the relationship ends and the lease has not expire? Does one of you move out? What if there is no money because a savings account was never set up because you and your partner were living paycheck to paycheck. What happens now?
These real worries and conversations must be taken into consideration and discussed before moving in because they are real realities. It may also cost an arm and a leg if you are not adequately prepared financially, emotionally and mentally. You cannot be prepared for every situation but for the obvious ones, make plans. Keep an eye on the future and be prepared.
- 4. Like marriage if someone has cold feet, be an adult, open your mouth, and communicate or do not move in at all.
Just like marriage, if you are not ready to move in with your partner, then open your mouth and say it. Do not waste the energy, waste money and maintain a facade that you are prepared when you are not. It is cruel. If you are 18 and older, it is imperative that you begin to employ the “Honesty is the best policy” rule and say what needs to be said, no matter the consequences that follow.
Any worries should be discussed between you and your partner and made clear in the air. It will help your relationship remain on solid footing and make the move much easier for the both of you. If after you voice your opinion, you are still hassled to commit to something you are not comfortable with, then moving in is not a bright idea.
It also means that the red flags that you worry about must be taken into serious consideration if you decide to move in together. If your girlfriend has to have things her way and only her way, it is not a smart idea to spend money on a place for a “test run”. If she was selfish before, it should not take a rocket scientist to tell you that she will be a selfish roomie later. If your boyfriend is a jerk, is rude to everybody and does not understand the basics of common courtesy, it may not be a good idea to think that moving in will change for the better. Some people find jerks “funny, and fun” to be around with, but I doubt living with one will keep the party going.
- 5. Like marriage, it will take a great deal of compromise and communication living with another human being.
Compromise is must, even in the most ideal of cohabitation and marriages. It cannot be put aside, and if it is not done, a relationship can quickly deteriorate. It will take a great deal of work, so if either one of you is not prepared for it, there can be potentially disastrous results.
Clear communication is necessary for cohabiting because the mere idea forces you to ponder on the future. What does moving in mean for the both of you? What expectations does each of you have for the future? If it means starting a family or starting a lifelong journey together, you must think of the realities. Does it mean one of you attends school or will both of you attend school? Should one of you work on a career while another child rears? Does it mean both must work to support the home and children? Children are another reality; if you are not taking precautions then you are expecting children in the future, it is simple science.
Another tip for people who are living together for years at a time; it is not wise to be a wife or husband to someone who does not want to become your wife or husband. Marriage is more than just a paper; there are real legal protections and ramifications. There are reasons why many marvelous people are fighting for the very right to get married. It’s not smart to be a wife for someone for ten years, playing house with someone, while the house or apartment remains under his and you never sought out to gain skills applicable to the real world. If you are going to cohabitate, be smart about it and protect yourself. Both men and women, no matter what kind of relationship you are in, be smart.
In conclusion, the decision to move in together is serious and if you and your partner succeed, it is a truly rewarding experience, whether it leads to marriage or a life long journey together. Take your relationships seriously, treat each other well and communicate freely. Anyone can love himself or herself, but the love between two people is the greatest kind of love there is. It should always be taken seriously.
CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nhsr/nhsr064.pdf