You might be looking at cohabitating in a different light – as the express train to marriage. There are generally four categories of live-ins (and the “traps” inherent in each one).
- MARRIAGE SEEKERS – Seventy percent of the woman surveyed saw moving in together as a prelude to marriage. The way they viewed living together ranged from a test of compatibility, a means of ensnaring a noncommittal man, or as a natural step toward the altar.
- MUTUAL USERS – These cohabitors share an address long before they share feelings of love. They’re often motivated by available and plentiful sex; monetary savings (“two can live as cheaply as one”); convenience and companionship (attractive to those living at home); and nurturing (especially true for men).
- ROMANTIC ROOMIES – These live-ins have different degrees of emotional involvement in the relationship. For less-involved partners living together is cozy and fulfilling for now while more-involved roomies think they’re actively building a life together.
- TRUE BELIEVERS – Both partners truly prefer living together to marriage of principle. (“A marriage license is just a piece of paper”), they may be disillusioned refugees from divorce or families of divorce. Some “true believers” maintain a lifelong opposition to marriage while others eventually change their minds (say when the urge to parent strikes).
Should You Sign the Lease Together?
Alicia, an employee, thought she wise when it came to men. By age 30 she was living-in with someone and later on separated from him. She thought she was prepared to handle her latest love relationship with Terence, a recent widower old enough – and loving enough — to be her father.
They moved in together after dating for five months and quickly became engaged. Alicia accepted not only his explanation that he had some business to clear up before they could marry but his conditions — no contact with his grown kids, no new kids and no interfering in his business.
“Everything was perfect,” recalls Alicia. “We had this wonderful little life — having fun, going places, and buying things.” She continues, “We set a wedding date but I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone until a month after the fact. It upsets me that I couldn’t tell my parents.”
At Christmas later that year Alicia realized why her husband wanted to keep their nuptials a secret. His grown children despised their just-deceased mother’s replacement and rebuffed Alicia’s efforts to win them over. She says sadly, “The worst was that my husband didn’t even stand up for me.”
Alicia’s live-in heaven had become a marital hell. “Terence turned into one of the most fun and games. I was supposed to cook, clean and satisfy him sexually — and nothing was good enough. Then his financial problems –including some illegal real-estate deals came to light. On top of everything else, his health took a nose-dive.”
Alicia’s error was not asking tough questions during those halcyon live-in days. Instead, she assumed the best and saved the questions — for her lawyer.
Drunk on Love? Take a Sober Look
Live-in liaisons can have a happier resolution if both partners thoroughly and honestly examine their motives and expectations, know the facts of each others lives, and are aware of the hidden dangers of cohabitation.
Both of you must be equally committed to the relationship and should be able to come up with at least five healthy reasons for moving in. Can you make the other person feel secure and at home? Make sure your expectations are reasonable. Discuss and define your roles, responsibilities and what you will and will not share – time, space, money, chores, and family obligations. Who will cook? Clean? Walk the dog? Pay the bills? Joan, for example, was a sales manager who earned much more than Jim, a draftsman. In the name of fairness, the couple decided to divide the rent according to their incomes.
Also decide on where you will live — his place, yours or a neutral, new address ready for the memories you will fill with?
As we’ve seen, live-in love has the best chance for survival — or better – when you slip off the rose-colored glasses and balance your romantic fantasy with some earthbound pragmatism.
To happily cohabiting, Ann, a nurse advises, “You have to check yourself constantly. When Ronald asked me to move in with him, I managed to look beyond the euphoria of our new love. I said I would move in if he planned to marry me — and if we visited my parents and explained all this to them. We didn’t set a definite time frame because we both had some financial and personal problems to work out”.
“But in my mind, I set a deadline for each of us to become financially and professionally sound, to establish better relations with our ex-spouses and to become closer to each other. Every few months, I asked myself: Is where I am right now food for me? Is this relationship progressing? And can I still bail out if I get stuck?” Ann and Ronald are now engaged.