There is a way that seems right, but in the end leads only to death. As marriage rates have fallen, the number of U.S. adults in unmarried cohabiting relationships continues to climb, reaching about 18 million in 2016. This is an increase of 29% over the past decade, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Cohabitation is an increasingly popular and socially acceptable move toward taking the “next step” in a dating relationship.
I was formerly caught in this myth. Carlos and I moved in together after a few months of dating – on a whim and without considering the repercussions or a bigger plan. After a year and a half, we decided to separate because we want to be married someday. Here’s what I learned.
Physical proximity ≠ Intimacy
Living together is what married people do. When dating people move in together, the setup introduces additional expectations that can potentially ruin a relationship prematurely. For example, Carlos began to exhibit the presumption that I would cook a hot fresh meal everyday – or even multiple times a day. Meanwhile, I am more of a simple eater. I wasn’t used to cooking for 2. As a wife, I do want to cook for my whole family and prep huge healthy meals more often. But as a single person, I’ve been accustomed to cooking small for just me. I assumed that Carlos would be the same, but I was mistaken.
I shouldn’t be expected to perform wifely duties as long as he hasn’t yet made me his wife. Boyfriends do not get husband privileges.
These kinds of arguments surfaced because we had not first discussed any of the expectations we had going into living together. A lot of dating couples move in together upon no solid basis, no definite goal or promise to stay together for any determined amount of time. This open-ended type of relationship leaves room for doubt, distrust, and conditional love. If they don’t make the bed or wash every dish immediately after use, are these grounds to call it quits? Physical closeness does not promise spiritual closeness.
It is difficult to grow.
Another reason a dating couple might want to move in together is for simple convenience. To save gas money from going to see them everyday. We’re eating the same meals anyway, so we might as well keep our groceries in the same cabinets – type of logic. The danger here is losing the cultivation of love through effort and action. When you get used to being around each other daily, things get comfortable. Osho said that the most comfortable and convenient life is in the grave. If marriage is a part of your vision for the future, then what is the incentive to propose if he’s already reaping all the benefits without? And how can you tell if you are consciously choosing marriage at that point, or if you are simply pressured into it by measure of time?
Additionally, it’s easy to lose yourself in a relationship. Once it’s in your home, you may never leave the house. Isolation from friends and family may arise, as was the case for me, as well as premature codependency. The issue of splitting finances is awkward for a relationship that is not firstly built upon the long-term trusting commitment of marriage, and you are susceptible to becoming more roommates than lovers.
It will be difficult to get out.
Breaking up is hard to do. Add a binding apartment lease contract into the mix and it can seem impossible. The more that is invested, the more difficult it is to break up. I’ve witnessed several couples around me resort to cheating in order to live the lives they truly want – because being pushed out of a plane is sometimes easier than taking the jump. “Without commitment, couples begin to nurture resentment for what they think is missing in their relationship instead of nurturing gratitude for what they have,” writes Dr. Marni Feuerman, couples therapist.
It is not the next step.
Building a home is more than furniture shopping. Building a life with someone is more than being roommates who sleep together. Living together is what married people do. If you don’t plan on marrying this person, then moving in with them will introduce a ton of commitment and tension that you may not find “worth it.” And if you do plan to marry, then first establishing that commitment will be the solid foundation upon which patience and humility will grow to allow for a peaceful and deeply satisfying living situation. For us, setting boundaries has actually brought us closer together until we are truly ready to take the next step.
The very first story of the Bible says that the only reason a person should move out of the house to live with someone of the opposite sex is in the case of marriage. “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24 ESV)
Before moving in together for convenience, or because you’re afraid of what they’re doing when you’re not around, or because you think it’s the next step: First consider that love transcends fear and logic. Perfect love drives out fear. Enduring love will step down from its throne in heaven and lay down its life for you.