Tag Archives: moving in together

Merging families without marriage

Sound off: Is an unmarried merge of families setting a bad example for the kids?

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.

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Goodbye single mom home.

So Mr. W and I are planning on shacking up in the next couple of weeks.  We’ve been working out the details for several months now.  Mapped out are how the kids will be going to school, how the finances will be split up, who gets to park where in the driveway, and calendars coordinated to include a merged family’s daily schedule.   Each kid has their own room, and they’ve selected colors to paint the walls and make their space more personal (DQ has a lovely shade of brown, the Taz chose a wild shade of bright golden yellow after I put my foot down over “Startling Orange”.  Trust me, it was definitely startling). And Mr. W’s son gets a brand new room that we’ve had built just for him.

Every day I’ve been setting time aside to go through the corners of each room, separating my items into ones I want to keep and ones I want to give away.  It’s not a fast process, placing my hands on things I haven’t seen for years, bringing memories of the past several years flooding back in.  There’s my diary that I kept from the very beginning, chronicling every triumph and mistake I’ve made in my dating life after divorce (oh, the juicy shame in that little book!).  There’s the box of art that contains a Mother’s Day card that turned into an “I’m Sorry” card when the kids spent the morning fighting while I waited for their promised breakfast in bed.  There are the clothes I no longer fit into when I took a stand and decided to lose the weight I’d put on and take pride in my appearance.  There are the blue flowered plates I coveted so long that now sit in my cupboard.  And there are cabinets upon cabinets of kitchen supplies I’ve collected over the years when all I started out with was a drawer full of borrowed silverware, $2 ugly dishes, a few dented baking sheets, and a pan I used for everything.  All of it is now to be divided up, bit by bit.  And while it’s freeing to be rid of some of the clutter and exciting to be moving into a new life, it’s a little melancholy as well.  For in those boxes, I’ve divided different compartments of me – deciding what of myself I’m keeping and what I’ll be saying goodbye to.

I moved in here a scared single mom.  I had never lived on my own, and frankly, I had doubts about what I was capable of.  Could I afford to feed my kids and pay my bills all at the same time?  Would the landlord kick me out once she realized I was just a silly girl playing make-believe house?    Would my mom say “I told you so” when it proved to be too hard and I needed to move back home?  All we had in the house was a kitchen table and our beds.  But it was after a few friends made the house a home by furnishing the rest with donated items that I realized it.  This was home.  And I was determined to succeed.  I became a wizard with my money, making it work each month even when I wasn’t exactly sure how it happened.  I watched every penny, and my landlord never had to worry about when my rent was going to come to her.  I went from a stay-at-home housewife to a full time worker, to where I finally am now in the desk I’ve always wanted to sit in.  We graduated from a timid family just barely scraping by to a seasoned one that knew the ins and outs of being a one parent household…and having that be no big thing. 

Frankly, we made it. 

I think I needed to prove this to myself more than anything, that I really was capable of anything even when I wasn’t coupled in a marriage.  I created my own white picket fence reality.  It may not have been perfect to everyone, but dammit, it was mine.  Being a single mom didn’t diminish who I was, it made me more.  And I take pride in that as I leave my single mom house behind and join into one of a partnership with Mr. W.  Yes, I’m saying goodbye to my complete independence, my very own bed, bills and schedules that are dealt with in my own way, and dinners on my own terms.  But in exchange, I’m gaining space I’ll share with my best friend, another son, a partner in parenting three fantastic kids, waking up to the man I love every morning, someone to help me clean and cook, help with the bills…  I’m gaining a co-conspirator in life.  And knowing that I could do it all on my own, that I did, what I’m gaining now means that much more.