Girl Talk: Is It Bad To Live Together Before Marriage?

It’s undeniable that marriage and relationships in general look nothing like they did 40 years ago. What’s happened? Women’s lib, skyrocketing divorce rates, the death of the nuclear family — and that’s just for starters. The whole game has changed. Sometimes I think that each generation exhibits a reactionary trend to their predecessors. I am part of the “divorced parents” era. Although my parents are still married, about 60 percent of all people I meet my age come from broken homes. While this phenomenon didn’t necessarily make us “anti-marriage,” it has certainly made us “marriage cautious” or “marriage disillusioned.” As a modern woman I know the statistics – if I ever do tie the knot, I know it ain’t gonna be all sunshine and roses. And that’s why I plan to be as sure as I can possibly, possibly be. Before I exchange any vows, I’ve made a vow to myself: I MUST live with someone before I marry him. I’m not alone in this thinking. About 70 percent of couples are cohabitating before marriage these days.Now, I’ve heard all this “Why buy the cow, when you can get the milk for free?” business (wait, why does it have to be a cow?). And guess what? I don’t care, because it’s not about my milk; it’s about the farmer. That’s why when Jeff and I were getting serious, I felt the natural next step would be for us to move in together.

When people say, “You never really know someone until you live with them,” they are speaking the truth. Even though Jeff and I had been dating for a year before we moved in, I had no idea I would discover so many new things about him.

Our first major moving-in fight totally caught me off guard.

“I am going to take up more of the closet because I have four times as many clothes as you,” I laughed as we were unpacking.

“No, I want half of the closet. We share this place,” he said, not laughing.

“Are you serious right now?”

“Yes.” And he was.

He proceeded to spread his four shirts out while I crunched my 50 million blouses, dresses, and pants into exactly one half of the closet.

Another surprising moment was our first laundry time together.

“Can you throw my towel in with your wash?” I asked casually.

“No, I don’t really want to mix our laundry.”

“Wait – really?”

“Yeah … we should do our laundry separately.” I was speechless.

Other things I learned about Jeff: He always paid his bills on time; he didn’t mind doing my dishes; he spent a great deal of time cataloging his music collection; he was frugal, except when he splurged on important purchases; he was consistent night and day; and, most importantly, he was an extremely caring and generous person (except when it came to closet space). Living together is a two-way street. I’m sure Jeff had no idea that I hated doing dishes, slammed doors when I was angry, liked to eat out for almost every meal, couldn’t control myself around his ice cream, and hated to sit around the house doing nothing.

Even though Jeff and I ended up splitting after three years, I would not have traded the experience for anything. We’re still good friends and sometimes I call him up just to remind him about the closet fight. We both find it amusing in retrospect. Living with Jeff gave me a more realistic perspective of marriage and relationships. That’s why I’m very skeptical about a new study that claims that couples who live together before marriage have a way better chance of getting divorced. Really? The study suggests that couples who cohabitate may be entering into marriage for the wrong reasons – like financial convenience, testing out the waters, or because of a “We’re already here, why not?” mentality.

While the study may have a point, I don’t think it changes my mind in the least. The findings make me no less cautious about marriage. You’re damn straight I want to test-drive the car before I purchase it (to use another awful analogy). And believe me, this “cow” will be in the driver’s seat before she ties the knot.