There are only two reasons why I’d move in and live with another girlfriend. We’re married and determined to fill a sweatshop with our nimble-fingered love critters. Or she cracks me in the head with a shovel, sews my mouth shut, replaces my eyeballs with marbles, and sits my stuffed body in the corner. Whatever you do, don’t move in with your boyfriend. What? It’s too late? Sweet Zeus, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl, winged serpent god of the Aztecs! I hope your cohabitation doesn’t end the way two (two!) of mine did – with helicopters launching off the roof amidst tornadoes of debris and smoke, a single individual hanging off the skids, flipping the bird to the person whose name is on the lease.
There are plenty of good reasons to move in with your significant other. For a man, the primary benefit is that the place where he lives suddenly smells great, like lilacs, and fresh meadows and Care Bear farts. Curtains magically appear, throw rugs sprout, and bed linens are soft enough to butter muffins with. I’m sure there are plenty of men out there with stylishly furnished apartments and houses, but I’m missing that chromosome. To me, “Ikea” is just Swedish for “International House of Tiny Meatballs.” I could make a fortune if I opened a store for bachelors called “Foam Block Depot,” where a single man could purchase all kinds of large-, medium-, and small-sized foam blocks that he could stack into couches, beds, tables and chairs. Spill-proof, soft yet firm, and totally utilitarian – they’d come in two colors, “industrial” and “medium-rare.”
Another positive reason to move in with the girlfriend is that it allows both parties to sample domestic bliss. In both instances of living with a girlfriend, I was surprised at how pleasurable it was to get home from work before her and to start making her favorite dinner. Or how Sunday mornings were easy, just like the song. There was even a Zen-like comfort in tackling chores together – I’d take out the trash; she’d do the dishes; we’d both read trashy horror novels while we did our laundry. But this seemingly mature merger of two adults in love was illusory, as I was out of my depths. In both instances, I made a major commitment without seriously considering the responsibilities.
I have moved in with girlfriends, and we’ve both kidded ourselves that it was to save money, that our marriage playacting was a smart financial move — it wasn’t and isn’t. This is probably one of the worst lies couples tell themselves when shacking up. If you want to save money, get a roommate. Bind yourself to a lease with someone you aren’t emotionally bound to, as money is a landmine in the intoxicating poppy field of romance. The saving money rationale is a smokescreen obscuring what was probably an impulsive decision made while freebasing love, pheromones, and giddy optimism. And speaking of those three: living together is the fastest way to go from Friday-night sex to Friday-night carbo loading.
I understand the excitement of making a decision that seems like a perfect middle ground between new love and marriage. But the red eye to heartbreak is fueled with sweet nothings. The worst reason to move in with your main squeeze is to test out whether or not he/she is marriage material. There are no guarantees when it comes to that institution, no beta-test, no half-measures. I’ve actually said, “We’re going to see if we’re compatible!” What a superficial thing to say.
Marriage is another word for “trust.” Maybe “trust, plus.” It is two people full of doubts, shortcomings, and love holding hands and jumping together. It’s a risk, fraught with the potential to fail, and that makes it beautiful. Three-legged races, where two people hop, stumble, get back up, and maybe hit a stride until they fall again. It’s funny, frustrating, and the wedding ring is a symbol for the rope tying two legs together. I’ve written a lot recently about my folks: They weren’t perfect. They fought, bickered, and had some tough years. But I admire their marriage and don’t really feel the need to top it. I should have known better than to have doomed two relationships to failure by writing a check my emotional maturity couldn’t cash.
Women want weddings too much, men not enough. Women embrace the intimacy; men fear the responsibility. Maybe if we switched those two, women would understand why men sometimes agree to moving in as a way to put off what they think is inevitable, and men would understand why a woman would settle for a major step closer to a cherished event in her life. I will never move in with another girlfriend, unless I’m pretty damn sure I’m willing to stand with her, in front of friends, family, Zeus, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl, and make the big gamble. Because, man, what a jackpot.
Of course, if I do end up living with my girlfriend, feel free to admonish me. You know, three’s the charm. Until then, I just like to pretend her place is my weekend cottage.