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Last week, I celebrated my worst birthday yet. The big two-six. Not only are there no positives to this age, I am now officially off my parents’ insurance and have to drop a significant chunk of my own paycheck on basically keeping my own decrepit body alive. What I’m trying to say is, I’m old, and my friends are old too. Because of this, there has been more and more talk of “life plans.” The group of idiots that I was shotgunning beers with just a few years ago are now starting to move in with their significant others and shop for rings. At least, that’s the order I assumed everyone would do it in, until recently.
I was talking with a friend of mine and found out that her plan is to be engaged before she and her boyfriend move in together. While this originally seemed like a backwards move, she explained to me her reasoning, and now I’m not sure how I feel. My original thought process was that moving in together is basically the last step in seeing if you’re compatible enough to get married to someone, but now, I can’t be sure. Let’s break down both sides of this issue.
Being roommates with your boyfriend or girlfriend isn’t easy. There’s normal roommate shit to deal with, like fighting over cleaning the bathroom, and then there’s the special fights that can only be had when you’re both living and having sex with someone. How much alone time do you each get? Is the other person going to get offended when they want to hang out but you just want to watch three hours of YouTube videos such as, “Hockey’s hardest hits 2002-2003?” What if one of you isn’t feeling well but the other wants to have friends over? Whose shows take precedent on the DVR? This is serious stuff, guys. My asshole is puckering just thinking about some of the screaming matches that will occur. That’s why, in my mind, living together has to be the logical step before getting engaged.
How do you really know you want to marry someone before you know for sure you can live with them? I know “love conquers all,” but let’s be real. You can love someone with all your heart and still be incompatible roommates. Jesus, what if they’re one of those psychos that keep the A/C at like 63 degrees instead of a comfortable 72? I like to think of my relationship as pretty strong, but I’m fully convinced if I was forced to be cold in my own home, I would break up with my girlfriend within three shivering weeks. Asking your partner to live with you is basically saying, “I see myself marrying you in the future, but logically, I must see how compatible we are as roommates before I commit to that.” If you’re in a healthy relationship with a live-in partner, realistically, you’re already married. The only difference is spending tens of thousands of dollars on a shiny rock and a party (a concept I’m not thrilled about, but that’s fodder for another column).
However, my friend’s point of view is very different. She agrees that cohabitation can be a very difficult step, and she thinks that being engaged prior to living together gives your relationship a better chance of survival. In her words, “I need to know that we’re already committed to getting married so we don’t break up over some petty roommate shit.” Basically, living together is too serious of a step to take with someone that hasn’t already committed to wanting to marry you, and living together before making that commitment makes it more likely to break up over the stress of sharing an apartment.
I see where she’s coming from. I really do. I just disagree with her on how people (and relationships) work. If you’re in a relationship that has reached the point of wanting to live together (very serious), and you’re still worried that you could break up over the strain of cohabitation, I don’t think a ring is going to save you. If anything, it would make both parties feel trapped, and avoid a breakup until two years after the wedding, when they end up getting divorced. She sees the engagement ring as an extra level of commitment that will help deter against a breakup, and I see it as a Band-Aid that will hold off a breakup until a few years into the marriage, which is much worse.
My second issue with her plan is that there’s not many exciting steps left in relationships, and I’d rather spread them out as much as I can. Moving in together is exciting. Getting engaged is exciting. After that, there’s getting married, buying a house, having kids, and maybe retiring together? All exciting, but shit, that’s only six steps left to spread out over the next 60 years. If you combine two of those into one by getting engaged and then immediately moving in together, you’re just not maximizing your big life events. I’m feeling moving in together, waiting a year or two, then the engagement. Stretch that puppy out for a year and a half, then you have the wedding, then a few more years before the house and kids. It’s too easy to get stuck in a rut, you have to save some of those big moments for when you need them.
After this careful analysis (read: 1000-word stream of consciousness narrative), I still stand by my original opinion. I’m convinced getting engaged before you live together is a crazy move. Let me know what you think in the comments..