The Facts of Living Together

moving in

My boyfriend and I just celebrated our five year anniversary last month, and I can thankfully say that we are happy together. We began dating in high school, and held together a long distance relationship for the first three years of college. Last year I took a leap of faith and decided to transfer to UH Manoa because that is where he had been attending. When I was getting ready to move to Hawaii, all of my friends were grilling me with the details of my living situation with my boyfriend. As a strong, independent, morally correct woman, I pledged that I would not be living with my boyfriend because I wanted to to live by my self and I didn’t believe that we should live together before we got married. To make a long story short, I changed my mind and moved in with him after two weeks of living in Hawaii. By doing this, I received much skepticism and criticism from my family and friends, however I can honestly say that is the best thing I ever did for my relationship. In the media I see the pros and cons of this topic coming up more and more, however by examining the facts,  it will become obvious why living together before marriage is the key to determining the future of a relationship.

In 2009, a study by Dr. Galena Rhoades, a Research Associate Professor at University of Denver,  stated that people who cohabited before marriage were more likely to see their relationship end in divorce once they got married. This finding sounded very shocking and very controversial to many people, so over the last few years this topic has been looked into with great detail by researchers. When researching this topic, it was found that it is extremely common for people to move in together before they get married. According to the New York Times, “Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation.” This poses the question of; Why do marriages still fail as much as they succeed even after this incredible social change? It turns out that Galena Rhoades was not completely wrong, but she was also not completely accurate on her findings and bold statement.

In the recent months, a new study by Arielle Kuperberg assistant professor of sociology at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, revealed the most important characteristic of studying the topic of cohabitation is not whether couples decided to live together before marriage, but how old the couples were when they decided to move in together. I feel that among my peer group, and among other couples I have talked to, it is not uncommon for couples to move in together during their last few years of college, or immediately after they graduate. From what I have gathered, this is because it makes more sense economically, and/or because couples have dated in college and want to take their relationship to the next step. Kuperberg says that this type of reasoning among couples is actually what leads to low success rates. She says that people in their early 20’s are technically adults, but our maturity levels are still very undeveloped. She says that couples should not cohabit before the age of 23, however other studies have shown that the longer couples put off their cohabitation (perhaps until their late 20s/early 30s), the more successful their marriage will be once they get married.

Proceeding my decision to move in with my boyfriend, my parents main reason for opposing my choice was that I was not mature enough. This statement did not make any sense to me, considering that I was 21 and thought that I knew everything. However, after a full year of cohabiting with my boyfriend, I can actually see where my parents were coming from, and I can completely agree with the findings by Professor Kuperberg. According to BBC Online, the maturity level of cohabiting pre-marital couples is important because you must be able to successfully and maturely communicate about your relationship, finances, budgeting, and other necessities in order to combine your households. The fact of the matter is that the younger you are, the less experience you have in these fields. This is unfortunate because communication about these certain necessary aspects about life, are vital to success in a relationship which could ultimately lead to marriage. In my opinion, where people go wrong is deciding to get married before they have figured out how to successfully communicate and combine households. Just because you share a blender, a dog, and a mattress, doesn’t mean that you are ready for a life long commitment to your partner. According to a New York Times article, the reason incompatible people who live together first, then get married, then divorce is because getting married seemed to be an easier step then getting a break up and splitting up their belongings. Unfortunately some couples have the false notion that getting married will solve their problems.

Another con about moving in together premaritally, that I frequently hear circulating around, is that it goes against tradition. In my family, I am the first generation that has moved in with their significant other before marriage (that I am aware of). My parents, their parents, and their parents parents, all moved in together post-maritally. My parents exact words were that by moving in with my boyfriend premaritally, I am going against my family’s “morals and values.” This argument is something that I completely disagree with. A portion of my family is religious, and I asked them if it states in the Bible that living together premaritally is taboo. They said that the Bible does not mention it. When I asked specifically what particular morals and values they were talking about, they could not name a single one. Their rebuttal was that “thats just the way our family has always done it,” and to this day they sill use the vocabulary “morals and values” when opposing my choice. The irony of this whole situation however, is that both my parents parents have been divorced once and then remarried. So clearly my family’s tradition is not bullet proof. What was interesting though about both sets of my grandparents divorces, is that in both cases each couple was married directly out of high school (between ages 18 and 20). I feel that when people say to me that I am going against tradition, the best thing that I can say is that tradition’s change, and that just because something is a tradition, doesn’t mean that it is the best way of doing something.

Other arguments that I hear about moving in together premaritally are so common, and so easily refutable. People say that if your significant other’s name is on the lease, and then you break up, then you will be left temporarily homeless. The solution is to have both of your names on the lease, and have a mature conversation when you move in about who will take the lease in the event of a break up. The next refute, is that if you have an intense argument, you will not be able to get away from each other to lay off steam. In my opinion, the best place to have an argument is in your shared home because it forces you two to come to a solution or common ground. Speaking from experience, the most intense arguments that I have gotten into with my boyfriend have been solved within a few hours, because both of us do not like being mad at each other. I feel that most people would rather hug a cactus than live with your significant other who is fuming at you -because of this solutions are met. The last common refute, is that you act like husband and wife, but technically you’re not. I feel that there is no problem acting out how your life will be once married, to see if you and your partner are truly ready for that commitment. The best analogy is that you always test drive a car before you buy it.

There are so many things that I have learned about myself and my boyfriend after this last year. I have to admit that things were not always easy over this last year of living together. However I can honestly say that by living together, the maturity level of our selves and of our relationship has certainly increased. The first time that you move in with your significant other is scary. It is truly a leap of faith. Prior to moving in, I had no idea that it was even possible to get in a heated argument about the cleanliness of a fridge, or who bought toilet paper last, or who would be responsible for unclogging the sink. On top of that, when you get in a those arguments with your significant other as opposed to your roommate, the argument is not just frustrating, its personal. But to me all of those arguments were completely worth it because it taught us how to communicate with each other. It taught us not to raise our voices, to not allow the argument to wander into other topics, to respect each other’s opinion, and to actively try to come to a solution.  However to me the most important thing that I have learned from living with my boyfriend pre-maritally, is that the ultimate goal for us is to be happy. Living together allows us to not feel rushed into getting married, or having children, or buying a house. We are living in the moment, and soaking up all the good that life offers us. We strive to be happy on a day to day basis, if marriage is in our future, then so be it -but as for the moment, we are blessed with being content.

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