Cohabitation makes courtship more complicated

Moving in with your significant other isn’t always best for your relationship.

by Paige Vigil

One of the things I remember from childhood is the innocent, if not irritating, repetition of four-line songs on the playground. One lyric in particular seems to have embedded itself in my memory and lasted through the years: âÄúFirst comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby in a baby carriage.âÄù I am sure most of my fellow college students remember it well. Now that I am in my third year of college and in love, I find myself trying to shirk the marriage step by thinking of something that could be put in the middle of love and marriage. I am not alone. Many of my friends think about moving in with their boyfriends or girlfriends in order to fill the gap, and just as many others are actually taking the plunge. While moving in with your significant other may seem like the perfect solution to help stall the big walk down the aisle, it isnâÄôt. In fact, it will eventually have the opposite effect on your relationship, and more than likely youâÄôll end up old, alone and unhappy. Your beauty will have faded, and the fellow singles in your now middle-aged category will be seeking younger, more nimble models. YouâÄôll wish you could have done something to save your marriage. Marriage is something that most of us will inevitably come to face within the next five to 10 years. I have always loved the idea of my hypothetical husband carrying me up the steps of our first home together after a big, beautiful, white wedding. Yet, if we moved in together before getting hitched, that dream would no longer be able to become reality. I do believe that couples who move in together before marriage can find ways to make it work, but the odds are against them. I was raised in the nuclear insulation of a Christian home. I have since come to form my own beliefs and do not believe my upbringing influences this decision. What does influence my opinion is not only the dream of sharing my first home with my loved one after marriage, but also objective proof all around me. It is easy to spot the unhappy couple stuck in a marriage because of children or for financial reasons. I can only hope that my future marriage will not mirror that of others and that I will indeed have the fairy tale ever after I have dreamt of. I canâÄôt say I donâÄôt see the benefits of moving in with your lover, especially considering the current state of the economy. Splitting rent with someone whoâÄôs already constantly with you seems efficient. And, as I see it, the biggest benefit of cohabitating is that you find out all of your significant otherâÄôs vices before deciding to take the leap into marriage. If you can withstand repeat exposure to his or her previously hidden idiosyncrasies, itâÄôs a good sign things are working out. And if your partner has a habit so repulsive it becomes a deal breaker, well, you have the opportunity to dodge the marriage bullet. However, dodging the bullet may not be the best avenue for the healthy growth of an intimate partnership. Waiting to discover your predominant annoyances about one another in the home setting is best left until after marriage. A study published in the February issue of the Journal of Family Psychology reported that 70 percent of couples live together before marriage. In the same study, couples living together pre-marriage reported not only a lower quality of marriage but a higher divorce rate. These statistics donâÄôt lie. The disadvantages of living with your significant other definitely outweigh the benefits. Not only is it a violation of your possible morality, it requires a lot of patience. If you are fighting with your partner before living with him or her, you have the easy option of leaving to go home in order to cool down; however, if you live together your house can become a battlefield. Not only does living together require patience in regard to the bickering, it also requires patience with regard to household chores. I donâÄôt live with my boyfriend, and even though we have separate living spaces, our dissimilarities are apparent. He likes the seat up, and I like it down; he likes the doors open, and I like them closed; he likes boyish furnishings, while I like a more chic living space âĦ the list is endless. Even though I am in love with him, I am not ready to leave the toilet seat up or the doors open. These would be minor things, but how would we begin to bring our things together to decorate a home in a boyishly chic way? This is something that is best left up to a partnership bonded by marriage. Without the commitment of marriage it is easier for such disagreements to derail the relationship. While moving in with your partner can be detrimental to the relationship, once the mistake has been made there are ways to keep the flame flickering. There are so many things couples stop doing once the honeymoon is over. There are, however, some things that can spur a couple out of the sluggish rut they may be experiencing. It is important to revive the little things that bring butterflies. Let your live-in boyfriend or girlfriend have a night out with his or her friends. Play games with one another, go to an exciting event or visit a neighboring town and go window-shopping after eating brunch. When extremely committed couples participate in new activities together, it can bring out those same feelings that were experienced long ago. Taking things slowly is not a bad thing. There does not need to be an in-between step between the love and marriage phases. Moving in with your partner is not the answer; by no means is that taking things slow. It is just a way to mimic a marriage with no license or vows. First comes love, then comes marriage. Perhaps the children know best. Paige Vigil welcomes comments at [email protected].