First comes love,
Then comes marriage,
Then comes Jenny with the baby carriage!
Remember that childhood chant? Chances are you jumped rope to it at some point during recess, only it was your name linked with the baby carriage. You probably didn’t know it then, but your little-girl games were subconsciously reinforcing the way you would one day assume a relationship was supposed to happen. Or, at least, how it used to happen.
Today it would probably go something more like:
First comes love,
Then comes moving in together,
Then comes . . . we’ll see if we’re compatible enough to maybe get engaged if he ever gets around to asking and then possibly marry if things work out, and someday have kids.
Seems like things have gotten a little more complicated on the playground.
It does indeed seem that there is a new step between love and marriage. According to the Center for Marital and Family Studies at the University of Denver, half of today’s marriages are preceded by a period of unmarried cohabitation. But while that stat may sound encouraging to the woman who has just been offered a permanent set of keys, there is also the danger that living together may lead to simply more living together. Studies have shown that one of the main reasons young men today are not committing to a marital union is that they’re perfectly happy with the way things are once they’re living with their girlfriend.
So, to move in together or not to move in together. . . that is the question. The answer? Well, it depends. Unfortunately it’s not a clear-cut yes or no. The emotional maturity of the man factors in, as do the reasons for shacking up. However one thing is for sure, before you say, “Yes, I think we should move in together,” some serious thought is in order.
With that in mind, consider the following questions when contemplating cohabitation:
Queston 1: Has he ever lived with another woman before?
Cohabitation experiences play a growing role in the marriage attitudes of today’s unmarried men. Close to a third of the men in the National Marriage Project study say that they have lived with a woman in the past or are currently cohabiting with a girlfriend. What is more important here, however, is that the men who have had only one live-in relationship or are currently in their first live-in relationship are more likely to agree with the statement “Your most important personal goal is getting married,” compared to men with no living-together experience or those with more than one cohabitation experience.
Question 2: Are your reasons for moving in together based on something other than a desire to be closer?
Financial savings, convenience, regular sex, avoiding a fuller commitment for the time-being—each of these independently may not be a big enough reason to worry about agreeing to live together. But a smart woman should be aware that any or all of these as a primary basis for living together could indicate that moving in may not actually be moving things toward the alter. If marriage is your goal, make sure that you discuss why you’re shacking up before you set up house. You need to know his reasons for wanting to make this move.
Question 3: Have you discussed his feelings on marriage?
The National Marriage Project found that young men are reluctant to marry because just living with a woman is easier. Several men expressed the opinion that there was little difference between the commitment to live together and the commitment to marriage. According to them, marriage is “just a piece of paper,” a “legal thing” that you do for family and friends. The good news is that this was a minority of men. However, that still means there are men out there operating under this mindset. Make sure you know where your guy stands before you get in too deep.
Question 4: Do you find yourself falling into typical female stereotypes when you stay over for more than a day?
If you recognize that you’re doing all the cleaning up around his place or always cooking for him, his idea of how great it would be for you to move in may be less linked to your fabulous mutual connection and more tied to the idea of having a quasi-wife in place for a while—whether or not you end up his forever-wife. Pay attention to your own behavior when you’re around him and see if you’re making things so easy for him in a living together arrangement that he won’t feel a need to commit.
Question 5: What are your expectations concerning cohabitation?
You need to make sure you have articulated these to your partner. Do you think moving in together is a step toward marriage? Or are you okay with it being just a living arrangement with no promise of anything? Maybe this is supposed to act as a test for you as much as it is for him. Be honest with these thoughts and then share them with your partner before you move in together. It’s important to know your own expectations going in or no matter what happens, the experience will be a letdown for you.
These discussions and even eventual cohabitation can be a great thing for your relationship if you follow these guidelines and make sure you know what you’re getting into. Don’t just drift into living together arrangement if marriage is your goal. Be smart or you might find yourself locked out of your own matrimonial dream.