“We’re together all the time anyway.”
“I wouldn’t want to deal with moving right after we got married.”
“We could save a ton of money.”
If you have ever decided to live with someone, you’ve probably said or heard those things. It sounds practical, right?
It certainly made sense to me, when Matt and I became engaged in 2008 after only ten months of dating. Matt had moved from Maryland to Virginia a couple of months before in anticipation of becoming engaged to me. I was living with three roommates, but was barely ever home anyway because I was always at work, with my new fiancé, or socializing with friends. Since our courtship was short, and we wanted to save money for our wedding, I wanted our engagement to be a year or more.
I had been raised a fairly strict Catholic, and I had been taught that living with a man who wasn’t my husband was a bad idea for many reasons. My fiancé wanted to live with me, and he made a persuasive case: We could save thousands of dollars a year in rent and utilities costs if we only kept one residence. We spent most of our free time and nights together anyway. And, of course, there was the perennial argument in favor of moving in together: We needed to “try out” living together before we got married. Just to make sure things would work.
Deep down, I wanted to live apart a while longer. I was only twenty-four and had only been living on my own for a year or so. I was enjoying my new city, with so many educational and cultural opportunities to offer. I liked cooking for myself and having my own space to keep clean. But my fiancé seemed pretty determined that this was the right move—and I felt a bit guilty that he had moved so far for me in the first place. So I moved in two months after we became engaged, and shortly thereafter we set a wedding date.
Mere weeks after I moved in, my dad called me up—he wanted to drive down for a visit. After a few seconds of stunned silence, since he had not visited me in almost two years, I decided what I was going to say.
“Dad … you know, you’re always welcome to come visit where I live … it’s just that, well, where I live is … where Matt lives now.”
I could tell that this conversation had now shocked him, too. He replied shortly, “OK … well just don’t tell your little sister.” Our phone call ended pretty quickly after that.
My face burned with shame and sadness. I knew my dad was disappointed in me, but it isn’t his style to berate an adult child for decisions he doesn’t agree with. But sometimes disappointment from your parents hurts so much worse than anger.
Our seventeen-month engagement was a rough period, for many reasons. And I think that us living together—and my resentment at feeling pushed to live together before I was really ready—contributed to the strife. Of course, we had a happy ending and did get married. And we are happily married today. Yet, I still regret moving in together. If you are thinking about moving in together, I would urge you to hold off.
I’ll briefly rebut each of the arguments I commonly hear in favor of moving in with someone you aren’t married to:
1. “We’ll save so much money.” Holding off getting married so you can save enough money for a nicer wedding, but living together in the meantime so you can save money, was a truly superficial way to make critical decisions about our future. The flowers, food, and other wedding expenses were lovely—but not at the expense of our happiness and doing what was best to get our marriage off on the right foot.
2. “It’s better to deal with moving before you get married.” Think about it: If you move in together before you’ve made the commitment, it’s going to be that much more painful to split up if you are sharing a home. Even though we are now happily married, I wish that I had had the security then to know that if we decided to call it off, I could do so freely. For all those reasons, it’s so much better to deal with moving in after you have made the commitment to each other.
What I wished we would’ve done: Hire the movers to come during the honeymoon and entrust a friend or family member to supervise. And if that wasn’t financially an option, we could’ve hosted a moving party with friends.
3. “We’re together all the time anyway.” Yes, but part of the fun of dating is that you do have to consciously decide to be together—even if it’s coming over in sweatpants to eat pizza and watch a movie. This is part of the magic and fun of dating. Don’t rush for it to be over.
4. “We need to try out living together before we get married.” Please take it from me: You can’t “try out” marriage by living together first.
That lifelong commitment changes everything. Speaking for myself, our problem areas as a couple were only really addressed after we were married, after we’d made the commitment to be there for each other for the rest of our lives.
Even if your trial period is unicorns and butterflies, and he NEVER leaves socks around and you NEVER take too long in the shower, tough times are going to come in your marriage. That’s just a fact of human relationships. Your marital commitment is going to get you through it, and you can’t prepare for that through some sort of “trial period.”
Take it from me, don’t shack up. Marriage is worth the wait.