The other day I asked my husband, Brian, if he’d ever considered asking me to move in with him before we got married. He told me cohabiting never crossed his mind:
“To me living together for the first time was one of the exciting parts of getting married,” my husband said.
I was surprised by his response. Initially, I thought he would say something like: “Because I knew you’d say no.” And that was definitely the case.
Single motherhood, cohabiting, and divorce were widespread in my family. And I had seen how those experiences affected the lives of the women I loved. I didn’t want any insecurity about our future when we moved in together. I didn’t want to be his “maybe,” or “someday.” I wanted to be his “for sure” and “forever,” and that meant him marrying me.
For her part, my mom always cautioned me against moving in with a guy. That’s probably why I was so surprised and disappointed when her boyfriend moved in with us when I was a teenager. At the time, my mom explained it as a matter of convenience (he worked with her in her business and did not have a place to live). She also said they planned to get married.
I stayed upset about the situation for awhile, even though he ended up being a really decent guy, who read his Bible every night, rarely raised his voice, and treated my mom tenderly. He also spent a lot of time with my little brother, who was hungry for a father figure.
But about a year after he moved in, just as I was beginning to get used to having him around, I came home from school to learn that he’d left in a taxi that morning while my mom was taking a bath.
I was kind of relieved that he was gone, but I was also stunned by how quickly he came into our lives, and how easily he walked away. That moment made a big impression on me. Later, I would discover that my family’s experience was not so unusual.
Even though many people today view living together as a first step toward marriage, research actually shows the opposite is true. For example, studies show that cohabiting before marriage is associated with a higher divorce risk for the majority of couples, especially those who have lived with several different partners.
As I look back over our relationship, I am thankful that Brian and I did not move in together before we got married. Both of us have divorced parents and we sure didn’t need anything else to weaken our chances of building a forever family.
We wanted something more permanent and safer for each other and our children. And that meant marriage, not just living together.
It made our wedding day that much more special because it marked the day that we really started our life together. And I agree with my husband: There’s nothing more exciting than that.