Do you think my boyfriend and I should live together?” My friend asked. I could tell from her bloodshot eyes that she’d been pondering the question all night. What scares you the most? I asked. She said, “I’m afraid it’ll ruin our relationship” and also my parents won’t approve, we were raised to not even think of living with a man before marriage.
I knew she wasn’t being dramatic, for many couples in a serious relationship, the next logical step before marriage is living together. But not for 45% of women in South Africa who believe that moving in with your partner before marriage will make him not want to marry you. As the saying goes “Why buy the cow, when you get the milk for free?” and I don’t blame these women; because when I was a little girl I would see and hear the senior female members of my family lecture my cousins about how wrong that is and they would often hold a “family meeting” to put the disobedient children in line for doing exactly that.
Living in sin as they would call it, is not for the faint hearted, whether the reason to do that is to test the relationship, having the fear of living alone or just plainly having the desire to live together. As a couple you need to have the “talk” first before you move in together; If you have concerns about cleanliness, how chores are going to be shared, paying the bills, and even who is welcome when you are not there. My friend looked even more confused by my response because she thought it will be all fun and roses, which it has a possibility of becoming as long as you get the hard discussions out of the way. If possible run a trial by spending a month in each other’s place, bad habits and how a person normally lives tend to emerge when you are feeling at home.
When you are living with your partner, pick your battles because it requires a lot of compromise but it shouldn’t be constant. If small, low impact habits (toilet seat down, anyone?) are getting on your nerves, consider finding a solution that doesn’t depend on your partner changing, bare in mind that you also have a thousand bad habits of your own that your partner might have to get used to; so don’t ask for changes unless you are also willing to work on some yourself.
Living together is the ultimate test; will the relationship survive the less glamorous aspect of cohabitating? Will it survive the meaningless arguments about dishes and dirty laundry? Living together isn’t like in the movies-studies show that believing movie portrayal of ideal relationships can increase one’s dissatisfaction in their own relationships. So I said to my friend at the end of the day it is your choice to do it and whatever the outcome of that decision you will be responsible for it. Not me or your family. Given these many cultural and emotional obstacles, is it any wonder that couples wavering in their commitment often witness the demise of their relationship once they start living under the same roof?