As I mentioned in my post Why My Boyfriend Will Never Be at Christmas, being in a serious relationship involves answering to a lot of people. Yeah, yeah, I don’t owe anyone an explanation for my life choices and all that feminist mumbo jumbo, but that’s a wee bit easier said than done when you’ve got a family as nosy and opinionated as mine.
The troublesome thing about a large family, spanning several generations, is that they can’t seem to actually agree on any of these opinions, no matter what decibel they happen to reach in their attempts. As a result, I’ve heard every argument for and against living together before marriage and can address each of them accordingly, to explain why it’s not happening for Jake and me.
This is our last chance to live alone.
It’s no secret that Jake and I are discussing marriage.
Jake: “If I’m going like, bare bones, I could maybe keep it down to four.”
Me: “Oh my gosh, you are such a diva. I’m dating Kate Middleton.”
Jake: “I have a lot of friends! I have to include Aaron, Jason, Craig, and James.”
Me: “I assumed Aaron and Jason, but you don’t even like Craig and I’ve never even heard you mention James.”
Jake: “I like Craig… sort of… but I have to have my brother in my wedding and you have too heard me mention James.”
Me: “Fine. Bare bones it, then, because I may have 12 female friends, but I do not have 12 female friends who can handle being bridesmaids together. You get four groomsmen.”
It may be mostly hypothetical still, but all the same, we’re not shy about planning our lives together.
Jake: “My sister was herding cattle at eight months pregnant.”
Me: “I am gonna love hearing that story when I’m eight months pregnant.”
Jake and I have been together for ten wonderful months and things are progressing at a steady and healthy pace. I love him. He’s a good man. He’s responsible, yet fun. He’s never let me down. He’ll be a great husband and a great father. Laura’s contributed a slightly abnormal amount to my private Pinterest wedding board, after jumping into rustic wedding planning minutes after meeting Jake, who did not bat an eye. Things are good and it’s quite likely that marriage is happening… so I’m gonna enjoy this shit while it lasts.
I have a hard time leaving Jake each time we see each other. I get all weepy-eyed, because women are all little bitches as they get older and I wish I could fast forward to a time when I get to see him every day. Then, I reenter my own life and remember that there are a lot of really great and unique aspects to living alone, that no matter how hard they try, cohabitating couples cannot honestly say they still get to enjoy in the same way I do.
A couple of months ago, I got some great news. My apartment complex has changed its pet policy and I get to get a kitten! I have wanted a black cat for years, y’all. Jake, however, has not been subtle in his dislike of cats. He also realizes that, in absence of any allergies, irrational fears, or some kind of pet hoarding situation, it really wouldn’t be fair for him to dictate whether or not I could add a feline to the household. We’ve agreed that this is my decision and one with which he can live, but that if we’re sharing a home, new pets take unanimous agreement… and that’s never happening with future cats. When Jake and I marry, we’ll have to agree both on new pets and their names. Right now, though, I get to get a little black kitten and name him Thackery Binx and that’s awesome.
It’s not just the commitment of new pets, that Jake and I will have to agree on once we live together. We’ll have to unite on essentially every decorative issue, because Jake has an opinion on everything. This past weekend, we ended up in a furniture shop together and I’m pleased to say, we were able to find a lot of middle ground on the household décor… which is great, because we hugely disagree on the seasonal décor. That’s right, folks; the hot pink Christmas tree likely only has the one year left. It’s probably my last chance to decorate like it’s Babes in Toyland, because Christmas 2017 will be full of faux snow covered greenery and live Christmas trees. It’ll be beautiful, sure, and not only because it’ll be ours, but it’ll never again be mine. I am facing my last Girl Christmas in my Girl Apartment and that’s a little bittersweet.
Even household and seasonal décor are somewhat weightier issues, than the day to day things Jake and I will both be giving up to join our lives one day. As of now, if Jake wants to go on a video game binge and spend four days beating the latest Halo or Fallout game, he can do so. If I want to bomb the living room with fabric squares and straight pin landmines, I’m the only person around to complain about the blood. Jake can watch plotless boy movie after plotless boy movie at his place, because I’m having a Roswell marathon at mine. Sure, we can do these things when we live together… in moderation. When you live alone, you don’t have to moderate anything, from hobbies to meals (who wants sweet potato fries and breakfast sausage for dinner?!?!) to midnight dance marathons with the dog. I can have girls’ nights in or out and play the same song on repeat and drunkenly rant about Titanic and there’s no one around to be annoyed… except my downstairs neighbors, but that’s a different issue. Why would I give all that up for any reason but the true commitment that is marriage?
It’s a commitment all it’s own, while still not being a valid test of marriage.
I hear all the time that living together is a true test of being married to someone, without all that pesky entrapment. I call shenanigans, specifically on that last bit. You’re putting your name on utility contracts and a lease with someone, or worse, not putting your name on someone else’s utility contracts and lease, trusting that they’re going to step up financially and not kick you out or get you evicted… without the feelings of love and commitment that are singular to marriage. You both want to maintain a way out, just in case you’re not ready for marriage… but you’re going to share finances. Oh, you’re not going to share finances and you’ll just split it down the middle? Well, then, that’s specifically not a test of marriage, in my case. Jake and I have talked about money, a lot. One of the many reasons we don’t want to live together is because when we share financial responsibilities, we want to do so with the model we’ll use in a marriage, which is full inclusion and disclosure. Right now, if Jake wants to buy a new handgun on a whim, or if I want to buy a new Kindle on the installment plan offered, we do so without permission or even necessarily discussion. Keeping our finances separate while sharing bills, though, sounds like a great way to muddy the waters and set bad habits for the relationship we want to share as husband and wife.
I know, I know, people aren’t just talking about money when they declare living together to be the ultimate test. I’ve heard it dozens of times: “You don’t truly know a person until you live with them.” Why? Why can’t two adults be completely and totally honest with one another, about who they are and what they want in life? Jake and I aren’t 19-year-olds intent on convincing one another that we have no bad habits or gross bodily functions. We won’t live together before marriage, but that doesn’t mean we haven’t spent large blocks of time together. Jake knows I use a menstrual cup and I’ve watched him stir his whiskey and Coke with his own toothbrush. Humans are gross and we’re fully aware.
People are often referencing bad habits, here, and my response is the same. Jake and I have been completely honest with each other. I know he’s stubborn as an ox with a vendetta and that he won’t throw his shirts away, no matter how many holes are in them. He knows I suck my thumb and find any excuse not to wear pants, even if it means getting “ready for bed” at 6:00. Sure, we both do some inconsiderate things separately, as seen in my absolute refusal to fold laundry and his insistence on leaving his boots and weights in the floor for me to trip over and die at night. That doesn’t mean we’d be so inconsiderate together and if we slip up, so what? We’ll work through it. Bad habits shouldn’t be a deal breaker in what you’re thinking might be a lifelong relationship, if you’re even relatively respectful people. The things that matter, like his follow-through, my ability to control my emotions when I’m upset, his work ethic and determination to provide, my need to contribute to my own well-being… those things aren’t negotiable, nor are they only realized when you move in together. If Jake is always willing to bring home a paycheck, I think I can get over the fact that he fills the bathroom soap dispenser with one part Dawn and two parts water.
There’s an intimacy in living together.
I don’t believe that people who don’t live together don’t truly know each other, at least not to the extent that they won’t be able to stomach one another long-term. I admit, though, that until we’ve lived together, Jake and I won’t necessarily understand every facet of our personalities. I’ve never hidden my mommy issues from Jake. On the contrary, I’ve been very open and matter-of-fact, both about why we don’t talk and how the whole thing makes me feel. It’s unlikely, however, that he’ll realize how truly devastating the whole thing can be for me, until he’s my shoulder to cry on on a more consistent basis.
Similarly, I’ve only seen Jake genuinely angry one or two times. It’s enough that I know he’s not irrational or aggressive in this state, but not enough to know how to comfort him or take his mind off things. We both know the things we need to know about one another to promise forever. We don’t know each other with the familiarity of an old married couple… and that’s wonderful. I love that Jake and I will be able to share, only with each other, the intimacy of day to day married life. Yeah, yeah, there was that one time I was married, but that was so fucking miserable that it never even resembled what I’m referencing.
There are always going to be things you haven’t experienced together and that’s part of the gamble of marriage. Sure, you can cite “what if you can’t stand the way he pees with the bathroom door open?” as a reason to live together first, but you could also ask “what if you hate the way he tells your son that boys don’t cry?” Does that mean we should all raise children together before saying our vows, just in case? There are no guarantees, says this divorcee, so why shouldn’t we save the truly precious moments for marriage?
It’s cheaper and the social stigma is gone.
I admit, I’ve been Googling reasons to live together before marriage, so I could choose the ones I’ve heard most frequently and find the most ridiculous. These were, by far, the worst.
It’s cheaper? Really? I’m not going to make a lifelong commitment based on the idea that I’ll now have someone to split the electric bill with me. Perhaps this is so deeply irrational to me, because Jake and I live in the middle of the country. I pay $545 for my two bedroom, two bathroom apartment, with washer and dryer hookups and I make just under $50,000 a year. Sure, moving in with Jake and splitting the bills would ease some of my financial burden, but it’s not that big of a burden. If it were, getting a roommate would have the same benefit without the weird pretend commitment that comes with living together. On that note…
I’m aware that the stigma toward cohabitating is gone. That’s great. It’s no one else’s business what people decide on this matter. I know a lot of people feel like moving in together is a step on the way to marriage and they’re excited to enter a new stage of their relationship. More power to them/I wish them the best/[insert disclaimer here] because I do not care about other people’s choices that effect only them. For me, though, if Jake asked me to move in with him, my response would be “Wow! He wants all of the perks of marriage with none of the risk or responsibility! Swoon!”
The societal stigma may be gone. In fact, it may lean in the opposite direction, these days. That doesn’t mean that I’m ever going to be comfortable with Jake and I living together before marriage. That’s okay, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all situation and I don’t owe anyone an explanation for why my boyfriend and I will never live together… but I’ll continue to give it, because telling people to mind their own fucking business tends to ruin the pool party, even in my family.