Just Put a Ring on It—Shacking Up Is Not the New Marriage

No cohabitationMy generation: an overall kick-ass group of kids who’ve made living together a standard before getting hitched to make sure a potential mate is a right fit. We’ve made it make sense to play house before we walk down an aisle and rationalized not needing a piece of paper to represent the ultimate covenant. We’re hip. We’re innovative. We’re substituting shacking up for marriage.

There are just some things I refuse to do without a wedding ring:

1) Being at his sexual beck and call in the middle of the night. Them’s beauty sleepin’ hours — but most importantly, them’s wife duties.

2) Depositing my hard-earned duckets into a joint bank account, splitting any household expense, or sharing a doggone pet.

3) Generally assuming the role of a woman who has a lifelong commitment because guess what? Without a ring, I don’t. I’m not an actress, so I’m not playin’ anybody’s practice spouse.


Seriously, that milk and cow adage may seem archaic under our new age, how-fast-can-I-get-it? agenda, but sometimes — a lot of times — there’s something to be said for doing stuff the old-fashioned way.

My grandparents enjoyed 46 years of holy matrimony before my granddaddy passed on. My aunt and uncle will celebrate their 25th anniversary at the beginning of June. My pastor and his co-pastor-slash-wife, they’ve been happily hitched and totally smitten for the better part of two decades. And you know what these fabulous couples have in common (besides being my relationship role models)? They didn’t live together before they got married.  

I’m well aware that some folks have, for whatever reason, a mutual aversion to the institution of marriage. Those people can shack up to their hearts’ content because that’s not part of either one of their game plans. I don’t particularly understand it myself, but hey, I don’t rock the boat or knock the sailors.  

But I feel like this right here: if your desire is to go from Miss to Mrs. and you have a man who’s willing to give you pet names, cuddle at night, meet your parents, number crunch bills, delegate household duties, sex you up one side of ecstasy and into the next, he can drop down to his knee and ask you to be his wife. You’re worth more than being a live-in convenience.

Besides, you don’t need the dry run of living together to know if a dude is husband material. That’s what the whole dating process is supposed to do. If you’re that uncertain that you need to put him on a trial basis, chances are those doubts won’t work themselves out by sharing an address in a condo complex. And if you’re just that much in love that you can’t bear another goodnight kiss of separation, it’s time to toss on that sacred white gown — before you sign a lease.

Boyfriend 4.0 never suggested we split a residence. He lived with his last girl and confessed that he had zero interest in ever playing house again. That worked out beautifully, because I’m adamant that we need to share a last name before we share our space. I can’t even imagine what a live-in breakup must be like, anyway. I’d probably have a mug shot and be watching a Dateline special on myself if I lived with any of my exes during the time of our splintering. Breaking up is one thing. Breaking up when you can’t help but be in the face of someone you’re in love-hate with is quite another.

This much I’ve learned from watching on the sidelines: there’s more at risk financially, emotionally, and mentally when you shack up instead of settling down. A boyfriend/girlfriend relationship is really nothing more than next-level dating. You’re taking that person on a test drive that should be all worked out before you start operating a household together — especially if you have kids. Gracious, don’t drag the babies through a tenuous, maybe-he-is, maybe-he-isn’t situation.

Do some couples who live together eventually end up hitched? Sure do. In fact, my friend just proposed to his girlfriend last week (on his birthday, no less), and they’ve been living together for a few years now. But there’s no increased chance of making a relationship the next Great American Love Story because you shacked up before you took the dive. I say if your desire is to go from Miss to Mrs., don’t settle for being just the other name on the lease.

Is shacking up a healthy road to marriage? What are the benefits of living together before getting hitched? The disadvantages?

Image via Big C Harvey/Flickr

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