Two weeks ago I wrote about moving in with my boyfriend, Mr. W. This was a decision we did not take lightly in our 2 ½ years of being in a relationship with each other, and I’ll be moved out of my own place and into his by this weekend. By moving in with each other, we are each giving up our total independence of having a space to call all our own – something that became very sacred in each of our single lives. We’re giving up the separateness of our families as we combine them into something new. But these are no longer sacrifices as we gain so much more – more time with each other, a shared life, a break in the financial obligations, and all the other perks of living with the one you love.
There was plenty of discussion before we finally came to this stage of feeling confident enough (and out of shellshock from our previous divorces) to be able to live with someone we love once again, plus going through the complicated process of combining families. We’re making a bunch of decisions that are solidifying the permanent status of our relationship – but without yet being married.
Understandably so, several readers took issue with this – questioning the example that is being set for the kids, as well as feeling that “it’s a slap in the face” to those who are married. I had originally written this article as a story of hope for those just starting their single parent adventure, feeling pulled apart by the financial hardships and lack of time that go along with that role. But I realized there is a whole other issue at hand that needs to be discussed –
Merging families without marriage.
According to a survey conducted by the Census Bureau in 2007, 6.4 million couples chose to cohabitate before marriage – making up roughly 10% of all opposite sex coupled Americans, and rising almost 1.5 million since 2006. And of that number, 45% of them had children living in the household that were related to at least one of the cohabitating adults. And while past research showed a higher percentage of failed marriages in those who chose to live together before marriage, the present research shows there’s virtually no difference.
I have several friends who chose to live together before marriage. One couple in particular just recently tied the knot, and is now in the final stages of an adoption process that will make their unified family complete. Another couple, who has no children, is showing no interest in ever getting married. And yet it’s unthinkable that they would ever split up despite their lack of marriage license. My sister (also no kids) is in the process of planning a wedding with her fiancée while also living with him. And one couple that swore off marriage yet raised a whole family together for 30+ years finally bit the bullet and exchanged rings a few years back – after their kids were raised, finished college, and making lives of their own. Heck, even the royal couple, William and Kate, are setting their own cohabitation example for the world while in the spotlight by “living in sin”. And another couple I know are raising their two children together and are unmarried. In fact, they weren’t even allowed to marry until recently, being that they are also lesbian.
I have friends who did not move in together at all until their wedding night – planning a life together in separate homes, yet letting the reality of it be a mystery until they were legally joined. One I wrote about here, her marriage 6 months ago also symbolizing a sacred promise to her new husband. My own parents just celebrated 34 years of marriage last week, starting their new life together on their wedding night. And another couple I know who waited until marriage to cohabitate has been married for 40 years – yet are now living in, not only separate beds, but separate homes, just so that they can remain happily married without killing each other.
And then there are my single mom friends who choose NOT to live with someone else while raising kids. One in particular has only been divorced for 4 or so years, has a steady boyfriend, and promises she will never marry nor cohabitate again. She enjoys her personal living space too much, and she’s adamant in her unwillingness to ever give it up – especially while raising her kids. This same mom lived with her ex-husband before they got married and had children, and shared a wonderful marriage with him before they grew apart and divorced.
So here’s your chance to sound off – no judgment. I’d love to hear your point of view about living together before marriage in general. Do you see a problem with it? Does your view change if there are no kids involved? Do you think relationships suffer from living together before marriage, or suffer if a couple does NOT live together before marriage? Do you have a personal story to share? Let me know. And as always, anonymous comments are welcome, but mean comments are not.