Although I’m referred to as one in certain circles (including here), I’m not a fan of the title of “relationship expert.” Expertise implies that a person has every right answer, and with a subject as varied, nuanced, and randomly arbitrary as romantic relationships, it’s just not possible to have right answers all of the time. In that sense, there’s no such thing as a “relationship expert.”
But, although I’m aware calling my knowledge “expertise” may not be applicable, the advice I give is derived from a combination of experience, education, and observation that helps me determine probabilities. For instance, if a woman asks whether she should stay with a man who has been cheating on her but swears he’s going to be faithful now, while it is possible that he may be telling the truth, experience, education, and observation has shown me that in most situations like this, the guy eventually reverts to his old ways. My advice just mirrors what I think is the most likely outcome.
I’m bringing this all up because there are dozens of different dating/relationship questions, theories, and concerns where there are no real right answers. While one side may seem more likely to occur, you can easily make the argument that the other side is in fact the right answer. Today’s topic—Why I believe people should wait until marriage before living together—is a perfect example.
You can just as easily craft a convincing pro pre-marriage cohabitation argument. If in a committed, monogamous, adult relationship, it may make more practical sense to live together. First is the obvious. Both parties will have the opportunity to save money. And, with your combined incomes, you may be able to afford a larger place and nicer things. Also, if you do plan on eventually getting married to each other, the pre-marriage cohabitation period can be a bit of a test run to see how things might be in the future. Plus, there are certain things you just won’t know about someone unless you live with them, and it’s better to learn “secrets” like “This bastard brushes his teeth like three times a week!” and “Damn, ever since she moved in, my bathroom smells like whiting.”
But, the convincing co-habitation argument fails to consider one of the die hard truths about relationships: most relationships end. When you’re not living together and the relationship ends, aside from deleting your own boo from your Facebook page, there’s really nothing else you have to do. But, cohabitation just makes things messier, more drawn out. Who stays and who moves out? Who keeps what furniture? Since you were splitting bills before, how is that going to be handled now? Also, as I learned, a post-cohabitation break-up ensures that you will have to continue seeing and interacting with each other for at least a few weeks while you figure everything out. When this happens, you’re not able to make the type of clean break necessary in order for a relationship to truly end, and this has a tendency to put you in a “are we or aren’t we?” limbo that ends up making things even worse.
Most importantly, with pre-marriage cohabitation, you’re committing yourself to husbandly and wifely duties without any type of husbandly and wifely commitment. Yes, this can happen even without living together, but when you are sharing the same space, that dynamic basically just creates itself. And, while doing this may seem cool in theory, ultimately one party (or both parties) will feel taken advantage of, and/or tire of “playing” married couple without actually being a married couple, and this can put another level of unnecessary strain on the relationship.
I do realize many couples aren’t going to wait for marriage to live together, and it’s probably unrealistic to expect that to happen in every case. With that being said, I do believe that any couple planning to cohabit should have a plan. Not a plan to save money or a plan to have sex more conveniently, but an actual timeline with a clear expectation of where the relationship is headed. You may not agree with me, but experience, education, and observation tells me that I’m probably right.