[Guest Post by Arleen Spenceley] – If, or when is it appropriate for a committed dating couple to try moving in together?
A young woman stood behind my seat, combed my damp curls and lifted her shears to cut my hair.
“Do you have a boyfriend?”
“No,” I said, over the buzz of the blow dryers and the pop music piped into the salon.
“That’s ok,” she said. “You’re young.”
Then the stylist, only a few years my senior, shared a relationship story with me. It ended with a word of advice:
“Don’t marry a guy if you haven’t lived with him for awhile.”
Moving in together first is a good idea, she said, for a few reasons.
Reason #1: You can’t truly know a person until you’ve lived under the same roof.
Reason #2: It’s easier to move out before you’re married than to get a divorce afterward.
Reason #3: If you don’t like living with him before marriage, you won’t like living with him afterward.
For my then-stylist, cohabitation is a litmus test.
If it works, you get married.
If it doesn’t, you don’t.
Because it’s better to say “I’ll love you if…” instead of “I’ll love you despite what’s yet to come…”
For others, cohabitation is like a practice run.
If you like it, you commit.
If you don’t like it, you call it quits.
Pre-marital living together isn’t just a good idea, the stylist said.
It’s how a man or a woman discovers whether he or she is compatible with his or her partner. And, she said, it’s essential. I – then in my early 20s – wholeheartedly disagreed. And I didn’t tell her that, because she had scissors in my hair.
But if I could go back, I’d speak up.
Our culture has concluded that how easy it is to live with people predicts how easy it will be to be married to them.
Which is sensible, if marriage is supposed to be easy.
But it isn’t.
Marriage is supposed to result in the destruction of self absorption. This is why a wedding involves vows. We need vows because marriage is hard. Because stuff’s going to happen that will test your commitment. Because it is never easy to live with other people.
“I’ll commit to you if I’ve lived with you first and I like it” undermines the purpose of vows.
The logic that underlies it is this: If living together doesn’t work, nor will your marriage.
But how well can living together really work when there isn’t commitment?
My stylist’s quest implies that there are relationships that work independent of effort. That commitment is for relationships that work.
But that’s a lie.
Commitment is not for relationships that work. Relationships work when the people in them are committed to each other.
Reason #1: Because we accept that attraction is conditional, but love isn’t.
Reason #2: Because when we die to self like Jesus did, we are in favor of what’s best for the beloved.
Reason #3: Because commitment is “I’ll love you despite what’s yet to come…” and not “I’ll love you if…” (which isn’t love).
Arleen Spenceley is a Roman Catholic Christian, a freelance writer, a counselor and a grad student studying rehabilitation and mental health counseling at the University of South Florida. Click here to read her blog and click here to like her on Facebook or connect with her on Twitter.
[Photo: MyLifeThroughPhotography, Creative Commons]