Fifteen days ago, I drove from California to North Carolina to move with, but not in with, my boyfriend. Leading up to this move, everyone assumed we were moving in together, and seemed shocked we weren't. Or, they didn't seem shocked, and I found out later it was because they thought we were lying.
But don't you want to get engaged? You'd save money if you lived together. You don't know anyone -- he'll be so busy you'll only see each other if you live together. No one would know. C'mon, you're living together, aren't you?
Um, no, actually. We're not.
While the 20-minute drive between our houses seems longer each time, I'm really happy with the choices we've made, for a number of reasons.
I won't live with my boyfriend because...
- I think the "saving money" reason is bogus (if it even saves money?). I'd rather pay a little more to live on my own and make sure we're ready for together forever than save a couple hundred bucks for the next year or so.
- I've got culture and history on my side. For millions of years, billions of people around the world have lived with their parents until marriage, regardless of religious or ethnic background. There's got to be a good reason.
- I'm not ready to give up my decorations. This is a shallow way of saying "I enjoy the way I nest in my home." BF will never understand, but unless he becomes husband, I don't want to have to fight for my right to throw-pillow the crap out of my bed.
- Men can be a little gross. "Gross" might be too strong. Aloof? Dirt and germ blind? Bless their hearts, and I think I have one that values cleanliness more than most, but, until I have to deal with it...
- Let's keep a little mystery. If we lived together, then he would know that I wear a mouthguard and sleep with the toes of both feet curled into each other. Or that I look like a mole emerging into daylight when I wake up. Let's save all this until he's said "I do" and can't back out of it and will be forced to find my habits endearing.
- Let's keep it interesting. Because we aren't guaranteed to see each other every day, we get to anticipate when we can hang out, because we have to plan it. We work together and make the time for "us," making each time we see each other more meaningful. It means we can still surprise each other. Like when he coordinated with my roommates to wake me up at 6 a..m. on Valentine's Day, or when he sneaks into the backyard with flowers and ice cream.
But the biggest reason is... we're just dating. We're not engaged, and we're not married. Let's say we end up married... we would spend the next 50 to 60 years together. We're still excited just to be dating! While we do feel in love, we're not ready to promise ourselves and everyone we know that this is forever, so why rush? Why not stay dating, and be able to escape each other when we annoy each other? Or when we have doubts? Or when we want to visit family? From every married person I've talked to, these are some things they wish they still had. I've yet to meet a married couple who hasn't advised me to wait until I'm absolutely sure I want to be married.
Why not enjoy the time I get to be unreservedly independent, to fall asleep in bed with all the pillows, watching "Sense and Sensibility" with wine and brownies I don't have to share? Or have all my girlfriends over at the last minute for wine and brownies that I want to share?
I've seen many friends date and then move in with each other simply out of convenience. A few years go by, and they get engaged and married because "it felt like the next step" or because "everyone expected us to." And then kids "feel like the next step." These are supposed to be the most important relationships in my life. And I want to treat them with intentionality.
We're all going to enter into our "forever" relationships with a past. But I've never lived with a man I was in a relationship with, and despite any past mistakes or regrets, that is something intimate and wholly me that I can say, "Here, have these messy, secret, hilarious, questionable, honest pieces of me that no one else has ever had. These are for you and you alone. I want to discover how this works -- being a husband and wife -- with only you."
When and if we do get married, I want to start a completely different life together, not just come home to the same place we've been after a very expensive party.
Boyfriend and I come with relationship baggage, and elements of divorce in our families make us both (and, I suspect, many from our generation) hesitant to believe in anything honest or lasting. But we are willing to take the risk on this relationship, and when and if it's right, a commitment that means more. Right now, the next step for us is respecting the process of discovering our future as a couple, while still in our individual spaces. It may not be right for everyone, but it's definitely right for us.