By D’Andra Simmons     To move in or not to move in…that is the Question

You have met the one! He or she is the soulmate of your dreams (or so you think), and you want to make sure that before you take the ultimate step towards the altar, you can “nest” together on a daily basis. So, you have “the talk” and both decide that moving in together is the logical next step in furthering your relationship because after all, you are going to get engaged at some time in the future, right? But why rush it? Alert…how many times have I heard this before??? It is the same swan song from a different bird.

Just because you both have decided to take this next step and “live together”, don’t get so excited. Hold your horses! Moving in does not mean that you won’t be moving OUT in the future, or that it will lead to a romantic proposal and a beautiful engagement ring. Don’t think this NEW relationship status is in any way a permanent situation, and research shows that couples that move in together before marriage most often don’t make it to the altar, and even if they do, the divorce rate is higher for unmarried co-habitating couples than for the boring old traditional types that leave the moving in until after the marriage.

When you come to the place where you can imagine spending the rest of your life with someone, and even dream about being with this one and only person, this is a very exciting time in a relationship. However, the quickest way to extinguish the flames of love is to pack up your life, leave the security of a home you created for yourself, and start sharing the same mailing address. Before you hit delete, let me tell you why.

I asked my married and unmarried friends what they thought about moving in together. The answers completely surprised me, especially from the men. My happily married friends almost hands down said the same thing, “Don’t move in with anyone until the marriage ceremony is over and you are back from the honeymoon (if you decide to take one).” The men almost all said the same thing. Their opinion was that marriage takes a commitment, for better or for worse (in one friend’s words) and moving in with someone doesn’t mean anything. You are free to leave whenever you like because there is nothing binding you to your partner, legal or otherwise, except the thrill of the minute, and we all know that marriage is not a thrill every minute, but most married persons are in it for the long haul, whereas most co-habitators are in it for the meantime. One of my male friends said, “Don’t even have a drawer, a cabinet, a hanger or a toothbrush at your boyfriend or girlfriend’s house, keep everything separate. If you decide that this is the person you truly love, you won’t have a problem making a real commitment by setting a wedding date.”

What do I think? I tend to agree. Having been faced with the same choice in my past and having made the wrong decision I think these friends and married couples are spot on. Marriage takes work. Living together is the free and easy, self-centered “playing house” way to pretend you are serious about your future, but when the going or living gets tough, you can pack up and leave without even leaving a note or a forwarding address. Think about it. And to boot, if the partner leaving the relationship leaves with some of your things, good luck getting them back! In a divorce there is normally a separation of assets, and what each person will leave with is also agreed upon by the court. In a co-habitation, it is “he said she said” and no one cares except maybe your best friend and your family. Taking a case like that to court is not just a headache; it’s a cash wasting nightmare! One of my friends put it this way when she said her last boyfriend left the house and the relationship with a $10,000 check from her, and most of her artwork, but she felt like there was no way to recover her things because legally they did not share anything and the cost of suing him and trying to recover her goods would have cost even more money and pain, and she just wanted to move on and not make the same mistake ever again! She had learned a good lesson and was not going to live with the next man she fell in love with unless she was his wife, end of sentence.

If after reading my opinion you STILL think you are different, that I am crazy, and you and your lover won’t become one of those unfortunate statistics I talked about, then here is a short list of contemplative questions you may want to reflect upon before you take the plunge.

  1. Do you feel relieved to have space to yourself? If you look forward to personal space, moving in might not be a good idea. You have to be prepared to share everything, especially space.

I am an only child, this has been my biggest challenge in marriage and in all my personal relationships, as I am used to being alone when I want to be alone. I have had to adjust, and it is much easier adjusting my life with my husband who is committed to me and me to him, than with someone who is a temporary fixture.

  1. Have you ever been on vacation together? Although vacations are fun and exciting, a long one can be a test run on how you both manage finances and live together in the same space.

My husband and I spent a month in a tent in India with 80 million other people at the Kumbh Mela in 2013. We both knew at the end of that vacation, as frustrating as it was that we were in it for the long haul and ready to take the next step toward marriage.

  1. Do you share similar lifestyles? Make clear your expectations to avoid arguments. For example, are you prepared for him to have friends over? Do you expect him to tell you these plans ahead of time?

My husband and I luckily have similar habitation styles. We are easy going about having friends over and we entertain and go out a lot because we are both very social people. We normally keep the same hours and enjoy doing things together like going to the gym, cooking together and doing our own grocery shopping. The only habit he has that annoys me is he plays “Plants vs. Zombies” in the morning with coffee and it drives me nuts! He is also a “Walking Dead” fan and I am not. So, on Sunday nights we are often in separate rooms for an hour while he watches his show. I’m a book reader so I like to curl up with a good read.

  1. When you argue, do you both handle it well? Combining lives will lead to disputes over small and big situations. Compromise MUST be a solution. Understand your personality faults, this will make compromise easier.

Once again, I am an only child, so compromise is not my strong suit. I am not used to sharing my toys or changing my opinions. I am pretty set in my ways, and luckily my husband is patient and kind. He is always the first one to apologize and make peace in the home, whereas I am just a stubborn mule. However, his example has led me to soften a bit and I am glad of that.

  1. What about your future? Are you guys on the same track? Do not move in if it’s just convenient.

Make the move because your relationship is ready for it and even better if you are a woman, you have a ring on your finger and a wedding date set. At least you are ahead of the game on that one!

Obviously I am not a big fan of “living together” before marriage. Some of my women friends have made this choice thinking it was a temporary one, and they are going on ten plus years of living with their man. They love him and after years of fighting over getting married and him not acquiescing, they have just given in and learned to accept the “rules” of the relationship… and they are NOT “rules of engagement”! That is their choice, and I do not judge them for it. However, I know personally from years of teary-eyed talks with me being on the comforting end as a listening ear that their situation is not going to change. By this time they have adopted the “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” motto that their man has preached for years, even though in their “heart of hearts” they dream about that wedding gown and walk down the aisle that every girl secretly wants and wishes for.

And, in addition to this sad reality, they often have no provisions for the future, as in when their lover kicks the bucket! They are not the recipient of a portion of his retirement plan, his insurance or his investments, unless that has been documented and set up prior to death. From my experience of speaking with my girlfriends, most of them do not have any such provisions or tangible assurances of security if something happens to their guy. And guess what? That beautiful house you all have been sharing for years is not in your name, so do you think his children are just going to let you live there since you were with their “daddy” for so long? I don’t think so!

Voilá, in one blink of an eye you could be out on the street and having to “gasp” get a job to pay for a place to live, a car to drive you around and pay basic bills. That comfy co-habitation doesn’t sound so appealing any longer, does it? Make sure you if you live with someone and are not married that you are still earning your own living and have saved up enough money to take care of yourself if something happens to your significant other that you hadn’t planned on. Life is like that, you never know what will happen next even if you think you have got it all figured out. Living together is a couples’ choice. It may work, and it may not. Take it from someone who knows and don’t buck the system! Let him “put a ring on it” and make it official. You will be happier in the end as my friend said, for better or for worse!

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D’Andra Simmons is a businesswoman and philanthropist.  She is the founder of Hard Night Good Morning Skincare and an active volunteer for the Dallas community serving on the Advisory Board of Booker T. Washington School for the Performing Arts, volunteering with the Junior League of Dallas, AIDS Services of Dallas or Cattle Baron’s Ball for the American Cancer Society.