Thursday, March 15, 2007

Living together before marriage

I've considered writing about this many times but could never quite finish my thoughts. This headline has been sitting as a draft for months. I bring it up now more because Juan wants to discuss this idea with Chi. It's just an idea at this point. I'm guessing it will be several months before it becomes a serious consideration. She's not enthusiastic with the idea for several reasons.

When I was in my twenties, I thought living with a guy seemed like a reasonable progression towards marriage. None of my relationships, however, progressed to a point where this ever became a necessary or desired discussion.

After a few months of dating Ryan, there were hints to the idea. He lived some 30 miles away, so we spent the weekends together. The work commute made it inconvenient for me to stay with him, and he never seemed to like staying at my apartment. For whatever reason, we never discussed it directly. Once, on a Sunday night, I made the comment that I had to head home soon. He quickly said, "oh, you need to go to the bedroom, okay." I said how much I wanted to stay with him, but that I needed to get back. It probably would have been a good time to discuss his feelings, but I missed it.

At the time, I think I felt like I didn't have much choice because he was the one who owned a condo while I was a renter. It would have made sense for me to move to his place, but that would have tripled my commute, and maybe he was hesitant to bring it up knowing that. I also knew that there were only two cities he was willing to live in, the one where he currently resided and the city just north. He occasionally mentioned a desire to "someday" getting a bigger place but never was willing to consider my suggestion that he browse a few open houses to help think through the idea. It seemed like he never liked any of my ideas... but that's a whole other past I won't bother with.

Chi and Juan have been dating some eight months. They both own condos but live some 40 miles apart. She lives fairly close to her work, a very convenient commute. He lives in an popular, urban neighborhood and travels for work. Her place is a 1960s two-bedroom unit while he has a cozy, modern one-bedroom unit. Can you guess what some of their difference are about moving in together?

I mostly just listen as I don't feel it's my place to inject too many opinions. In the early discussions, Juan said he wants her to sell and move into his place. She doesn't think they could live in his small condo as there's barely enough space for his stuff. Ideally, they'd move into hers since it's two bedroom, but he doesn't like her place. She suggested buying a house halfway between their current locations, but he's unwilling to live anywhere else but in his city. The commute wouldn't be ideal, but Chi's considering living most (4-5 days) of the week with him.

Next, they talked about buying a place together to solve the space issue. Chi also likes the idea of establishing a home so they don't have to move later when there's babies to juggle. Juan's idea is that she sell her place (or both sell if necessary), and they use that equity to buy a two-bedroom condo in his area. I was impressed how she immediately pointed out that she felt it was unfair that she contribute her equity for a joint place while he retained his own property. He offered that her name get added to his title. She is also concerned that his area is expensive and that they'd have to move again in a couple of years to afford something bigger. I agreed that it seemed impractical. I told her it seems like he's hanging onto his urban pad perhaps as a way to cling to his single lifestyle a little longer.

Still, she's hesitant. It's not her ideal situation before getting engaged though it sounds like they're both pretty serious about marriage. Why do guys these days all seem to want to live together before committing? Based on the marriages I've seen in the past few years, it seems like it's the only way to get a guy to move forward. Would things have worked out with Ryan if I had lived with him? It makes me feel like I'm going to have to do this if I want a guy to marry me.

In the right relationship, I suppose it shouldn't matter. I should trust and believe that regardless, a man I'm seriously dating will have mutual feelings about getting married before living together. There's part of me that still worries that people don't take it as seriously as if they were married. I'd hate to think that a big fight would occur and the guy would bail at the first sign of difficultly rather than work through it. It's silly, I know, but it's scary. Marriage isn't a guarantee either, but it feels more secure.

I offered Chi one alternative option to consider. If they both want to keep their condos for the time being, why not find a two-bedroom place to rent for a year? That addresses several issues: 1) it allows him to stay in an area he loves while she gives it a try, 2) they don't have to buy property twice in less than three years, 3) they each get to keep their condos for the time being. She thought it might be a good idea.

It's good to hear her talk about her relationship. Of course, I care about her as a friend. I want to make sure she's being treated right and doesn't get hurt. I also use her stories and learnings to teach myself about what I could do to have a better relationship should I be that lucky. There are times I think she gives up too much up for Juan; other times I see that she has better patience than I would to work on habits that Juan needs to change.


mini said...

i never realized the emphasis that a seemingly large percentage of the dating population places on living together before marriage. was with a big group of friends, and only 2 of us said that it's not necessary to live with someone before deciding if you can marry them ...

not to mention that most of the people i know are still renting. i can't imagine the complexities involved in having separate jobs and separate places that are owned

i like to think that with the right person, it wouldn't matter if we lived together or not. we wouldn't need the "test"

Anna May Won't said...

i totally agree with mini. i used to think of living together before marriage as a good test, but now i think that if you're with the right person, you should be able to work through the tiny kinks of adjustment in living together.

or, if marriage isn't important to either person, then just co-habitating is fine in my book, as long as both feel confident in the commitment.

Pandax said...

I feel like I've become more old-fashioned as I've aged. I don't want to move until there's an engagement. The truth is, once you get into a serious relationship, you often spend enough time at one person's place that it's almost likely living together. For me, moving in together must be a solid commitment towards a lifetime together (in whatever form).