Shackin’ Up: Should You or Shouldn’t You?
By Mel Bancroft
Some say there’s no use in buying the cow when you can get the milk for free. While others counter that the cow will never be purchased as long as the milk is free. In general, people tend to take one of these two sides in their viewpoint about living together before marriage. Some of us find it to be a practical approach to getting to know a potential spouse while others reject the idea altogether due to its noncompliance with the principles of certain religious beliefs.
Steve, a security professional, for instance, says he would recommend living together before marriage to make sure two people can get along. “You can see how a person really is and you can find out if that person is easy to live with or not,” he stated. Steve lived with his girlfriend for two years, but in that time span learned that they weren’t suited for marriage. He went on to say that sharing your space and loss of the freedom to come and go as you please are some of the drawbacks of shackin’ up. “You have to be willing and ready to give up that freedom,” he added.
Carolyn says that at first glance, the advantages of a man and a woman living together before marriage are quite obvious, but “there’s nothing legally binding them together.” She believes that too many people today think that it’s something they can jump into and out of if it doesn’t work out. “They don’t have a real understanding of the marriage covenant and don’t take marriage seriously. They soon may find out that their desire for each other turned out to be lust instead of love. The grass on the other side now looks greener. So they move on. The price is costly and sometimes devastating.”
Living together before marriage can also become a safety net that will hold one back from making the full commitment to marry. The initial intention may have been good, but over time, if no definite wedding date is set, someone in the relationship will grow weary of dangling from a string. Often times, a woman will find herself on hold for “the ring” as the man gets way too comfortable with things “just the way they are.”
Marriage has a cycle to it. The beginning is exciting yet you’re still learning how to integrate your lives, bonding with the other person, and looking out for their day to day needs. After the newlywed stage, there’s the pressure of planning for the future, having children, managing finances and careers. Then all kinds of problems can arise to throw that couple off their plan for a successful marriage. If a couple is five or six years strong into building a life together, they’ve overcome some obstacles. When the next curve ball is thrown at them, they don’t see it connected to their decision to be married. It’s just the next stage of the relationship. They focus on the issues as a team. This is typically when a couple who has been living together for the same length of time decide to get married and fall apart at the sight of a new problem, blaming it on the decision to get married.
Some of the most common problems for couples who live together before marriage are lack of common purpose, division of labor disagreements, and money problems. This is attributed to the perception that their union is not a totally cohesive one. They don’t feel bound by an official ceremonial act of exchanging vows and therefore don’t always expect their financial plans and future goals to be tied together.
Anyone contemplating this arrangement would do well to make sure living together before marriage is the right decision for one’s habits, lifestyle, and values. There are several legal aspects which also need to be considered. Couples who live together do not have the same rights as married couples, such as spousal support, inheritance of estate property, and power of attorney. Find out how your state laws deal with cohabitation before you make this decision. Then ask yourself why living together before marriage is for you. Are you doing it because you want to or are you just settling for it to please the other person? Answer these questions honestly and you will know for sure if you should or should not do it.