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

love, marriage, dating, dating mom, single moms


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nonmember avatar dannyfrom504

never getting married. ever. i mean EVER. i'm not letting a gf move in, and she's not allowed to nest at my place (no shampoo, no clothes, just a toothbrush and i keep contact lense solution in the bathroom). no gf on my end, just 4 women that i routinely sleep with. all are professional women who unfortunately passed up on decent guys and suddenly found themselves 30 years old and not married. i went so far as to tell one, "you made your bed, now you're sleeping in mine." all of them know if they get uncomfortable with our dynamic....i'll completely understand their wanting to move on.

i'm hoping at some point i find a relationship worthy woman, but until then....my current arrangement works JUST fine.

nonmember avatar A.C.

I agree with you that if you want to eventually get the ring, you shouldn't settle for "just another name on the lease." It should be a conversation you have before you move in together, about where your relationship is headed, and one that you agree upon. However, having lived with my current boyfriend for almost a year (we've been dating for 5) I couldn't imagine marrying him without the experiences we've had since living together. There are a lot of adjustments you have to make when you live with someone for the first time. Having all of them behind us and all of the little day to day annoyances worked out makes me even more positive that this is someone I can spend the rest of my life with. It's just a different way of doing it, and in these days where 50% of marriages end in divorce, I wanted to be 100% sure that the man I marry is someone I can live with and get along with (including financially).

elfis... elfishpirat

I have heard that the rate of divorce is higher for people who live together before marriage.

Beths... Bethsunshine

Janelle, I agree with you 100%!!! My husband and I never lived together before marriage, and we've been married for 15 years. Marriage to us isn't just a piece of paper and a ring; it is a lifelong commitment that isn't just easily broken by one of us deciding we've had enough, and taking our pillow and toothbrush elsewhere.

Junie... Junie1234

I heard that as well. I have lived with a bf for about 6 months after dating for 2 and a half years. It didn't end well. And breaking up but have the financial burden of a lease and of still living together through the breakup process was really terrible. We had discussed marriage but I think that us moving in together showed us we aren't supposed to be together. I know am living with a wonderful man for 8 months after dating for only 3 months. It's going amazingly well and has been so easy. We have discussed marriage as well and he is 100% sure that we are on that path. So if you had asked me inn the past i would havesaid you shouldn't live with someone because you have no reason to work on things unless your married. Now im just glad i have been living with him because it's been so different.

butte... butterflymkm

Nope. My daddy always told me, don't marry without living together first. You get to see each other at the best and the worst that way. But my choices are my own and everyone has to decide what's best for them. We have lived together for 3 years and been engaged for 2. We plan on marrying as soon as we can afford a wedding.

jaxmadre jaxmadre

Had I lived with my ex-husband before we got married -- I truly believe we never would have gotten married, and it would have saved me years of pain. I had no clue that he was such a lunatic until we shared the same living space.

Now am I "shacking up" with my boyfriend, and goodness, we brought our kids into the mix. They both live under our shared roof. And I tell you what? Best relationship ever. Normal and loving.

I don't know if we'll get married. Don't really care. If we do--great. If we don't--I'm still happy. And the kids are fine because they have parents who demonstrate and model a normal functioning parental team. Much different from their previously married-but-disfunctional households. 
If we're going to be together, then we will be together--with or without the same last name.

This isn't a one size fits all, what works for you will work for me subject. Maybe I'll eat my words one day, but that will be ok, because you just never know. Circumstances are not always predictable. And people grow and people change.


Furthermore, sex isn't a DUTY for anyone, nor should it be. Wife or not. I find it concerning that someone should believe they're at sombody's sexual beck and call because she's a Mrs. 
I know it's opinion, but I think this article could be construed dangerously for a woman living in a compromising relationship.

puasa... puasaurus

I'm glad SOMEONE noticed the "wifely duties" comment. Just because I'm married doesn't mean I should have to wake up in the middle of the night to "appease" my husband. It doesn't work that way. That comment is extremely dangerous and it's thinking like that that promotes marriage rape.

zandh... zandhmom2

My husband and I have been married for 18 years and I certainly believe our marriage is more than "just a piece of paper" but we did live together for almost 3 years before we got married.  We did move in together knowing that we would get married and already had our "life dreams" planned out.  I don't think it matters how you do it as long as you discuss before hand what both of your expectations are.  If you move in together and commit to each other, it should be b/c you both believe you are on the same page and working together to make your dreams/plans come true.  Going into marriage or living together without knowing where you stand is what leads to failed relationships.

yayhe... yayheadstart

I will not marry my partner until ALL fellow americans are allowed to do the same.

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