A case against shacking up

SaraBeth Caplin

When statistics show that today’s marriages fail as often as they succeed, it seems logical to take every precaution you can to know every little detail of your significant other before tying a permanent knot. You can be well aware that the person you’re dating has flaws, underscored by all the things you love about them, yet somehow the qualities that made you fall in love in the first place aren’t enough proof that the two of you are compatible for a lifetime. So, you decide to move in together.

Some couples move in together for financial reasons, but many others move in as a test run of sorts. In theory, the logic seems sound: you just want to find out how compatible you truly are, and what better way to do that than to share a home together?

I disagree with that logic for several reasons. For one, it feels too much like a job interview. Why would I agree to move in with a man so he can observe the flaws he wouldn’t get to see otherwise— the way I leave my bed unmade in the morning, or my dirty clothes on the floor— before deciding to “hire” me as his wife? If he truly loved me, shouldn’t that love be great enough to cover all those minor annoyances?

With the “test drive the car before you buy it” attitude so prevalent in today’s culture, I’m not at all surprised that so many marriages end in divorce. Living together before marriage may seem like the best way to ensure that won’t happen, but consider the purpose of having a wedding ceremony in the first place (hint: it’s more than the fancy dress and the nice gifts). When a couple gets married, they exchange vows before an audience of their relatives and closest friends. The witnesses of these vows have an obligation to help hold the couple accountable when times get rough. Living together with the intent of “testing” each other to see if you’re as compatible as you hope you are skips that vital step, and forsakes the idea of sacrificial love. That is the only kind of love that holds a relationship together.

When a person cares more about his or her own happiness than that of their significant other, it becomes more apparently why the divorce rate is so high. Too many people get married for the wrong reasons, have unrealistic expectations or lack the commitment to make it work. It’s not because they didn’t “test each other out” by living together before making the trip down the aisle.

Anyone longing to have a serious relationship should understand that real love is big enough to cover all the little things about our significant others that drive us crazy. Real love doesn’t treat a person as an experiment that can be disposed of. When times are tough, it’s much easier to pack up your things and leave if you aren’t married. The test-drive mentality of living together takes for granted everything that marriage requires in order to succeed: patience, courage and above all, a leap of faith— loud snoring and all.

SarahBeth Caplin is a senior English major and a columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].