This has been a question posed by significant others to each other since the dawn of time (I’m being a bit dramatic, I know). This is a question that EVERYONE has an opinion on (solicited or not *side eye*). Personally, I don’t think there’s one right answer. Depending on your experience, generation, and/or religion, your opinion on the subject will be drastically different.
Me? My opinion on the matter changed over time. As a young girl, I never planned to live with my significant other prior to marriage. There was a system in which things were done. You go to school, you get married, you move in together, you have children. In that order (oh little ol’ naive me).
As I got older and had more relationship experiences I started to change my view. Although I’d never lived with a boyfriend full time, I recognized the benefits that could result from living together prior to marriage. I also realized some of the pitfalls.
When I finally reached the point in time when the idea of living with someone was about to become a reality I thought I’d weighed all options and thought of everything (tah! The hubris). I could not have planned for the things that surfaced once James (my now husband) and I decided to take that step.
First opinions. We got mixed opinions from our friends and associates. I can’t speak for his friends and what they said since I was not there. On my end the consensus of what I got was “BEWARE OF COMPLANCEY”. Basically, why would a boyfriend ever buy the cow at that point when he’s already getting the milk for free. He’s getting the benefits of a wife without actually having a wife. I won’t lie. This was something I struggled with before getting opinions from others, so the added cautionary tales I got from friends did not ease my worry. James had his own church and mentioned it to a few people. As you can imagine those responses weren’t too open-minded. Which is funny because we ran back into this issue later in our relationship but that’s a post for another day.
Surprisingly, the feedback we got from our parents was supportive! As a daughter, I was beyond nervous to tell my dad that my boyfriend and I were planning to move in together. The day I told him my palms were sweaty, I slowly crept up the stairs to his room, nervously moseyed on over to his lazy-boy-esque chair and sat down. I started rocking and making light conversation but I can’t hide from my dad. He’s a straight shooter and basically just flat out asked me what was up? I told him what I wanted to do and he basically gave me his blessing. He told me that he and my mom actually lived together before marriage which I was surprised to hear. After that blessing from my dad, I was good to go and we moved in together.
Exposure. The thing about living together is any and all insecurities get exposed, real quick. When you are going back to different abodes you can hide hurt, anger, nervousness, hesitation, irritation and the like. If you don’t feel like being bothered, you don’t have to. You can simply not answer the phone. Or say I need a day to myself. Once you are coming home to the same place there is nowhere to go when you are in the midst of your feelings. There’s nowhere to go and hide until you can get yourself together or you feel like being bothered. These are the times when you are really tested. James and I were accustomed to having our own space and dealing with things in our own individual way. Coupled with past relationship experiences lingering in both our minds, it caused us to not always communicate effectively or respond unbiasedly. We reached a point where we had to sit down and make a conscious decision to either work with each other to help ease any insecurities and past scars or go our separate ways. We decided to work together. It was NOT easy in the beginning but we did it and now, I am Mrs. James D. Cowan Jr. *insert Kool-Aid smile here*. HA!
A glimpse into financial soundness and spending habits. Although living together is not an automatic open invitation to lay all your dirty (financial) laundry on the table it does offer a glimpse into each other spending habits and how you operate. Do you pay bills first? Do you spend frivolously? Are you a budgeter? Being that you live together you have to discuss how the bills you share are going to get paid, when, and by who. This process will give you a glimpse into each other’s thought process and approach towards finances. Working together to develop your plan of action to tackle shared bills is a good indicator as to how you will work together as husband and wife to tackle large items like buying a house, buying a car, or perhaps relocating.
Honesty. By the time James and I got together. I was at a point in my life where I was tired of playing games. I knew what I wanted, I knew what my end goal was. I was to the point and made sure I was CLEAR to anyone who I was considering dating. Anyone who could not get with it or was trying to feed me a crock of shit, got lost! Now, disclaimer, I was a little jaded so my clarity came off a bit harsh and I almost scared poor James off. So word of advice, don’t be afraid to be clear. Honest. BUT be aware of where you are emotionally and try to be as nonabrasive and unjaded as possible.
As we discussed living together we also made sure to discuss the end game. His intentions and mine. Over the coarse of the year and a half we lived together before he proposed. I would bring up my concerns regarding complacency, my desire to be married, and where we were on that road from his point of view. This way we were always on the same page. He consistently knew where I stood and I consistently knew where we were in our journey from his point of view.
As previously mentioned, there is no right or wrong answer to whether or not living together prior to marriage is more damaging or more beneficial to a relationship. I think the road to marriage or whatever your relationship end goal is, is different for each couple. For us, living together first, made us stronger. It forced us to look at our foundation and work on the cracks and weaknesses before we decided to make a lifetime commitment to each other under God.