I never officially lived with a significant other until Aaron and I got married. Honestly, I don’t get this whole “test drive” theory. Living with him hasn’t revealed to me anything I didn’t already know before we became husband and wife. Wait, don’t roll your eyes and stop reading! If you’re a big believer in moving in together before you get married, just hear me out.
(If you want to make sure you won’t hate me by the end of this, scroll down to the bolded part, read that, and then come back up and start from the beginning.)
It’s been four months of Aaron and I living together, and yes, Aaron has seen me in some worse moments than before we moved in together…you know, like the times you’re too tired to put on anything but underwear after a nighttime shower, and those underwear are probably too small so they create extra-pronounced love handles, then you crash on the couch almost completely naked with a bag of tostitos and a tub of Wholly Guacamole while you watch The Biggest Loser. I mean, fair, no one can prepare themselves for witnessing something like that. But if that’s a game changer in your relationship, you’re probably not on the level where you’d want to live together anyway.
What if someone’s messier than you thought? Or they squeeze their toothpaste roll in a way that annoys you? What if they wipe the hair that falls out while shampooing on the wall of the shower until the whole perimeter looks like Chewbacca without a face? What if they insist on watching T.V. shows you don’t like, or never take out the trash?
I’m sure some of those things matter, but you don’t need to live with someone to see them coming. Have you visited their house before? Then you should have a pretty good idea of their daily habits. Even if you get a few surprises, like the way he takes a brand new roll of paper towels out of the bag while there is still a full, unused roll on the rack, and slowly begins leaving full rolls of paper towels stuffed in random cracks around the house (coughAaronLeykocough), it’s not something that should alter the course of your relationship. You could’ve and should’ve known that he was the kind of guy that would do something bizarre like that, and you can easily decide ahead of time that you love him beyond the inevitably strange quirks.
I also found this scene in our bathroom the other day, which was a new one:
I’ll admit that I lucked out with Aaron– we have the same tolerance threshold for messiness. We’re okay living in disorganization up to a certain limit, then both hit the “Oh my God we need to clean or else I’m going to lose my mind” stage at almost exactly the same time. So, yes, we’re lucky. But we definitely knew we had similar living styles before we moved in. You certainly don’t have to live together to figure out that kind of thing.
I think the biggest issue that comes with living someone is learning their space needs. How long does it take the person to unwind after work? Do they expect you to hang out every night, or is it normal to make plans on your own? Do they want to cuddle all the time, or do you need to let them breathe a bit?
Those are the questions that often lead to feeling disconnected, or like something has “changed” when you move in together. But, as with everything else I’ve mentioned so far, you should already have a pretty decent handle of how independent and affectionate someone is before shacking up. If you think you’re going to get more (or less) attention when you live together, you’re wrong.
If anything, you need to know that instead of changing everything, living together pretty much changes nothing. If you don’t want to marry the person before moving in, living together isn’t going to change that gut feeling, and it’s certainly not going to make any bad parts of the relationship better. That’s why I deem it a totally unnecessary “test run” with entirely predictable outcomes.
Trust and confidence in your relationship is the primary key in living with someone successfully. If you feel completely secure that that person loves you no matter what, you’re able to be more honest about your needs around the house, while still respecting theirs. You won’t feel worried if they need a night to themselves, and wonder if that’s a sign they don’t want to be with you…or feel guilty for needing your own space, too.
With that in mind, people who treat living together as a trial period are saying, “I love you, but not quite enough to be sure about our future,” which is bound to create some insecurities and rockiness in the relationship. I’m not saying this is the case with every couple who moves in together pre-marriage, but I’ve certainly seen a pattern of insecurity that breeds controlling behavior or dramatic fights between couples who use shared rent as an experimental marriage.
The very happily married couples I know who lived together before marriage tend to have one thing in common: They weren’t living together to “see how it would work,” and many were already on the path to marriage (either engaged, or the guy was already ring shopping). Couples like those– or those of us who move in together after marriage– have already committed themselves to the relationship no matter what, so they are completely secure in the allegiance, which makes living together way easier. Plus they’re more willing to compromise and push past those annoying habits, because breaking up isn’t even on the radar.
Same as finding a pattern among couples who end up living together well, there is a pattern among couples who break up after living together (pre-marriage): They were hoping something would change by living together. Remember what I said earlier: Nothing changes when you move in together. If you think moving in with someone will lead you to finally feeling ready to marry them, it won’t. If you can’t see yourself marrying them now, yet you’re “serious” enough to move in together…that’s a big red flag. If you’re on the other side, and think moving in with someone will make them want to marry you…think again. If you feel stuck in the relationship, or that it’s time to take another step for the sake of taking another step, don’t expect things to feel fresh and new by living together. If something’s already not working, living together is not a sound tool to fix it.
Basically, if you both move in with the expectation that you’ll be together forever, then you’re probably ready to move in together. If one or both of you move in with the expectation that you’ll “see how things go,” the odds are not in your favor. Be sure to find out how your partner views living together, and don’t just assume he/she feels the same way you do.
Now, of COURSE there are examples of couples who lived together as a test run and came to find out that they’re perfect for each other and lived happily ever after, but you may not want to bank on being on of those lucky ones.
This is not me being preachy or judgey, but here’s my advice: Don’t move in with someone unless you already know that you’ll be happy living under one roof. If you’re not sure you’ll be happy under one roof, it means one of two things: 1. You don’t know that person well enough to take such a huge step in the relationship, 2. You already know that they’re not the one for you.
You can always ignore me and take the risk of this whole “test run” thing…but just be careful. Don’t convince yourself that you’re ready if you’re not. Don’t hope for a change that won’t come. Don’t ruin the possibility of a really strong romance by moving in before both of you are committed enough to make compromises and overlook quirks. Don’t think that you’ll be able to hide even an ounce of who you are at your messiest, craziest, most unfiltered moment…so you better trust that the person you’re living with is able to handle that. And you better feel ready to handle their ugly moments, too.
For me, I’ve always had faith-based reasons for not wanting to live with someone before marriage, but that doesn’t mean I condemn anyone who chooses to do so…especially since I’m pretty much the furthest thing from perfect ever to exist, so if I threw a stone at people who live together before being married, I’d have to have like, 6,000 stones thrown right back at me just to keep things fair. So, yes, I support the idea of not living together because of God, but even if you put religion aside, I’d still stand next to my argument for not treating moving in as a “test run.” I just want to see happy endings! And the likelihood of a happy ending is way higher if you already know you’re committed to the person for life.
When you live with someone simply because you want to conjoin lives until your dying day, it’s the best thing ever. I absolutely love sharing a home with Aaron, because I love his presence. We’re both very honest with each other and all that jazz, but above anything, it’s just fun. It’s fun to know someone so well that it’s scary, and vice versa. It’s fun to watch him laugh at me when I’m binge eating Nutella while I cry during an episode of Dancing with the Stars. It’s fun to have budget goals and dream of things we want to save up for together. It’s fun to chat while we’re washing dishes, or listening to music as we clean the bedroom. It’s fun to spend all my time with someone I love so much…and it’s fun to come home to him after evenings we spend apart.
Living with someone is awesome, so treat the decision to do so with the respect and certainty it deserves!