I dated my husband for two years, then lived with him for another two years before getting married.
I specifically remember when he told me what his father said after he found out we had decided to live together before marriage. He had gone home for a visit and shared what he thought was very exciting news: that we would be moving in together, and we both felt it was the right decision for us.
“I don’t like that much at all” was his response. He didn’t approve, and he wasn’t happy about our plans.
While it left us both feeling a little sad (no one wants their parents to be disappointed in them), especially regarding such a big decision, we carried on with our plan anyway. We were self-sustaining adults, and we knew it was something we wanted to explore before fully committing. We have never regretted that decision or felt it took away the specialness of our new lives after we did get married.
There are things you find out about a person when you share four walls with them. You learn their sleeping habits, their eating habits, their grooming habits. You find out how moody they are, and how often they really do laundry. You learn how good they are with money, and how often they stay up late. Maybe they eat in bed, or have to fall asleep with the TV blaring.
You get to know someone on a deeper level than you do if you retreat to a different house each night. Living with another person is helpful in finding out if the two of you are truly compatible, and so I think it’s a great idea. I would even go so far as to say I highly recommend it and will do so with my children when they become serious with someone.
I won’t force them into it if they’d rather wait and combine households once they are officially husband and wife, husband and husband, or wife and wife. That’s fine, of course. But if they decide to live together before making a bigger commitment, I will fully support them and, deep down, be legitimately happy they are testing the waters before marriage.
I know this is still frowned upon by many. The saying “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?” has always bothered me. No one is a cow in this scenario; we are people. And no one is getting anything for free unless one person is paying all the bills, doing all the work, and shouldering all the burden. And if that’s the case, there’s a way bigger problem to address than cohabitation.
And on the other hand, if one of my kids wants a deeper commitment, like marriage or children, but feels they aren’t getting what they need because their partner is satisfied to just be living together, I will encourage them to address the situation. But it will be something they have to do themselves. I will never make them feel like a breakup or rough patch was their fault because they agreed to live with their significant other before obtaining a marriage license.
A relationship is between the two people who are in it, and that is it. They need to do what feels right for them at the time and realize they are capable of changing their situation if they are dissatisfied. If my kids want to move in with someone they care about so they can see if they enjoy living side by side before they say their vows, I am all for it. They have my full support.
And if they decide they want to wait and live together after a long engagement and a wedding, that is splendid too. Again, they always have my full support. They will figure out their lives as they go, and I need to give them the space to do that while offering as much love and support as I can along the way.
Besides, in the end, they are probably going to do what they want anyway, and I would hate for there to be tension between us about an issue that really doesn’t concern me. It’s totally not worth it.