It used to be that two people wouldn’t even dream of living together before marriage. It was referred to as “living in sin,” and not only was it scandalous, but also grounds for gossip, being judged, and loss of respect. Fast forward to today’s more accepting attitude toward relationships and their configurations, and many of the negative connotations regarding cohabitation before matrimony have disappeared.
Now there tends to be a try-it-before-you-buy-it attitude when it comes to living together and marriage. People want to make sure they’re still compatible after they’ve combined their lives and are sharing a household before they make anything permanent or legally binding.
But what about those that still have an appreciation for the traditional way of doing things, or whose values or religion discourage living together before marriage? How do you navigate a relationship when you don’t want to live together, but your partner does?
Before we look at how to handle the conflict, let’s consider the point of view of each side.
The Benefits Of Living Together Before Marriage
Many will tell you it makes sense to spend some time living together before you actually get married. Even if it means waiting to move in until you’re officially engaged, proponents argue that the pros to cohabitating are considerable.
Some of the biggest ones that are often cited are the following.
- You get to workout the growing pains early. No matter how much you love someone, living together requires adjustments. Differing thoughts about how and when the laundry gets done, do you roll or squeeze the toothpaste tube, and general household maintenance issues can all cause strife at the beginning. Over time these things get worked out and you (hopefully) settle into a routine that works for you both. So, why not get this done as soon as possible so that when you’re married you can enjoy the bliss?
- You save money. No doubt that maintaining two households is more expensive than maintaining one. So, especially if you’re saving for your wedding, home, or other investments, combining households and cutting expenses in half makes sense, right?
- It deepens intimacy. When you share a home with someone you grow closer. So, it makes sense that if you love someone and plan on spending your life together you should do all you can to deepen the closeness and intimacy. What better way to accomplish that than spending every night and morning together and beginning the building process for your future?
- It reduces stress. The going back and forth, needing to double up on supplies, and the extra energy it takes to have two households can just exacerbate the stress already caused by planning a wedding or just life in general. Not to mention the extra stress of planning a move after a wedding. Wouldn’t it be better to already be living together and know that after the wedding you’re home free?
These arguments are just some of those used by partners who think that living together before marriage makes sense. And admittedly, most do seem fairly logical.
The Benefits Of Living Apart Until Marriage
The problem with love, emotions, and traditions, however, is that logic isn’t always and doesn’t have to be, a factor.
Those who feel that living together before marriage isn’t a good idea will tell you the following things are what’s important.
- Keeping the commitment strong. Many couples who live together before marriage will tell you they are just as committed as already married couples. But the truth is that there is something very weighty and important about making things “official” through marriage and the commitment that comes with that. When you are simply living together you have the ability at any point to leave. It may not be easy or without repercussions, but it also doesn’t require a lengthy legal filing or the breaking of a commitment made in front of friends and family to love each other until death do you part.
- The excitement of a new marriage. Yes, marriage, moving, unpacking, etc. can all combine to make it feel like the stress is never-ending, but that stress also brings with it a certain amount of excitement and happy anticipation. Carrying your spouse over the threshold that you’ve already crossed together a million times as a couple living together loses some of the luster that doing so for the first time in a place that’s now yours together holds. There is something undeniably exciting and special about the newness of being a married couple and living together for the first time.
- You’re less likely to put things off. Remember the “why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” phrase? Even if you’re already engaged, living together can make it easy to postpone things for any number of reasons. If you are waiting to combine households until after the wedding it can keep alive the momentum and motivation for conquering obstacles.
- It’s not all about the money. Despite Meja’s claim, it’s not always “All Bout The Money.” Yes, yes, two houses are more expensive, etc. but is that really what we’re reducing love, commitment and tradition down to? There are many partners out there that will agree there are some things that are more important than money in the long run.
- Compromising on what you think is right for you can cause problems. Going against what you feel is the “right thing” for you can be uncomfortable and create distrust and resentment. If you feel strongly that, despite the “logic” of moving in together before marriage, you want to wait, your partner should respect that. Why is this a point here on this side and not also on the living together first side? Probably because waiting until marriage is generally more rooted in emotional and perhaps religious or moral reasons. A person who compromises here is way more apt to feel as though they have betrayed something important within themselves and regret it later.
What To Do When You And Your Betrothed Don’t Agree About Living Together
No matter how you slice it, moving in together is a big deal. This means that communicating about the right time and right plan is important and consequently reaching a comfortable agreement on that time and plan is also very important.
If you aren’t ready to move in together it’s crucial that you are clear with your partner about that and the reasons why. It then becomes crucial that your partner listens to you, respects your feelings, and is patient. Taking a step this big under pressure will backfire.
By the same logic, however, listening to their reasons for wanting to take that step is also important. You both owe it to each other to listen respectfully to one another on all topics.
If, however, you are having trouble finding a way to agree on this topic, you might want to consider couples counseling. This is advisable in general before marriage as it helps you establish a strong foundation for communication, joint decision making, and resolving conflict. Some of the first areas that can break down and also the most crucial for a successful marriage.