February is an interesting month. And by interesting I mean I hate it. All of its attendant bullshit—Valentine’s Day, impending tax deadlines and snowstorms—are really enough to make a girl want to stab someone in the face with a stiletto. But instead of going to jail, let’s talk about why cohabitation is for suckers.
I’ve never committed to living with a long-term boyfriend. My relationships usually look like this: I start to really like to a dude, we spend a lot of time watching MST3K and Kurosawa movies, he starts educating me on obscure hip hop or jazz records I’ve never heard of, and then I start packing toiletries, an extra pair of shoes and a week’s worth of clothing every time I go over to his place. That last one is the most important: I always have a go bag in case I need to bounce and never see his face again.
This is classic commitment phobia, I know. It is true that I don’t like to commit to people, but that’s just because I think commitment is a very personal goal. There's no way to commit to someone if you haven't come to terms with the things you want for yourself in life. Commit to being true to yourself and you will go far. At the end of the day, you can’t trust anyone but yourself anyway.
Nothing is sexier than hustling so hard you don’t need to move in with your partner to attain the life you want to live.
But my argument against cohabitation has less to do with being afraid of commitment and more to do with the fact that a relationship needs mystery to survive, and most couples in New York only move in with each other because it’s more economical than living alone.
Let’s start with mystery, that thing that made her interesting in the first place. How do you maintain that if you’re constantly in each other’s business, sharing email passwords, going to the bathroom with the door wide open and taking swigs out of the same OJ bottle?
You don’t do that? Well, in my book, if you live with someone and don’t feel comfortable with over-sharing, you’re probably not really in love. There is a delicate balance between wanting to maintain mystery and also feeling like you can be completely open with your partner. To my mind, the best way to keep that balance is privacy and space. In other words, don’t live together.
In New York, most couples move in together for one reason: money. I would rather buy a bottle of Sriracha and eat it with Nissin Cup Noodles for months straight and deal with persistent constipation than move in with a dude just because it was better for my wallet. Fuck all of the, “why by the cow when you get the milk for free” bullshit. We live in an age when women are proud to enjoy sex. This is about priorities.
If your priority in a relationship is to save money, you’re doing it wrong. That’s not love, that’s laziness. It’s what science calls “sliding, not deciding.” Nothing is sexier than hustling so hard you don’t need to move in with your partner to attain the life you want to live. As reported by the New York Times, twenty-somethings are using cohabitation as prophylaxis.
In a nationwide survey conducted in 2001 by the National Marriage Project, then at Rutgers and now at the University of Virginia, nearly half of 20-somethings agreed with the statement, “You would only marry someone if he or she agreed to live together with you first, so that you could find out whether you really get along.” About two-thirds said they believed that moving in together before marriage was a good way to avoid divorce.
But if we know one thing, it’s that people in their 20s don’t know shit even though they think they’ve got it all under control. Couples who live together before they get married are more likely to end up unhappy and divorced. The Times also reports that it’s not that people are simply less conventional about marriage, the problem is cohabitation itself. “Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean,” and as a result, you get some very misguided expectations.
Women are more likely to view cohabitation as a step toward marriage, while men are more likely to see it as a way to test a relationship or postpone commitment, and this gender asymmetry is associated with negative interactions and lower levels of commitment even after the relationship progresses to marriage. One thing men and women do agree on, however, is that their standards for a live-in partner are lower than they are for a spouse.
I would rather buy a bottle of Sriracha and eat it with Nissin Cup Noodles for months straight and deal with persistent constipation than move in with a dude just because it was better for my wallet.
When people move in with each other before marriage, they aren’t thinking, “Gee, this is the person I want to spend my life with,” because if they were, they would just get engaged. They are thinking, “Wow, I’ll save so much money and get boned without having put in that much work.”
A healthy relationship is work. Don't cut corners.
Frankly, I don't even think people need to live together once they are "married" (which, LOL get the fuck outta here with that paper mill. Loving someone should be what drives you to feel legally responsible for someone else, not a piece of paper. #realtalk.) Why not have separate homes? The cliché goes "absence makes the heart grow fonder," not "I want you all up in my business so you can see how much porn I’ve been watching."
In these tough economic times, I know it's hard to resist the temptation to move in with your girlfriend, but you know what else is hard? Having to pack all of your things because you’ve been living with her for six years, she wants to get married, but you’re just not interested. I hope you packed a go bag.