On shacking up

Posted on December 7, 2008. Filed under: reality | Tags: |

Okay, I realize that this is a controversial topic, and I’m bringing it up not to judge anyone who’s already made the decision, but because once upon a time I was faced with that decision, and I Googled the heck out of it to get some perspective.  This post is an attempt to offer my experience to anyone in that position, Googling “living together” or “engaged before living together” or “cohabitation.”  I’m going to leave out any reasons that aren’t specific to living together before marriage (like “waking up next to the one you love is awesome” — it is, but marriage isn’t necessarily a factor there).

Five reasons I wish we didn’t live together:

  1. I worry that we get into habits that I don’t want us to continue after marriage, simply because we let them happen by default.  Let me explain: before we were engaged, we still sometimes danced around uncomfortable topics because we didn’t want to “jinx it” (yea, yea, that’s my explanation, anyway).  It feels like before I knew it, I was always the one cleaning up the kitchen.  I wonder if, had we waited to cohabitate, we might have discussed those kinds of things first.
  2. Pre-nesting happens.  We are fixing up our house while trying to plan a wedding and it can get overwhelming.  Also, we are holding off on buying things that we registered for, but sometimes you have to break down and buy a rolling pin, you know?  I think it might have been more fun to move in together after our wedding and then start nesting.
  3. Impatience.  My biological clock has started ticking (freaked me the heck out when I first lusted after someone’s baby at an airport!) and because we already live together, I find myself wishing that we were married already so we could start talking about babies.
  4. Roommates.  We have a roommate, and I’ll just say I haven’t had a roommate in like a decade (that’sallI’msayingaboutit).  If we’d waited until we were married, we undoubtedly would not have a roommate (who wants to live with a married couple?).
  5. We had to have some uncomfortable discussions about money and file a ton of paperwork to protect each other in case something happened.  As far as I know, in every state your spouse has a legal and financial right to your stuff if something happens to you, but no such thing happens if you’re not.  So, we had to update our beneficiaries on our life insurance, and we should have (but haven’t) gotten power of attorneys and stuff like that.
  6. {This one’s a bonus reason…} Wedding dresses (and underwear and veils and such) are hard to hide, as is wedding gossip between a girl and her MOH.

Five reasons I’m glad we live together:

  1. It’s more fun and normal and easy than I thought it would be.  I’m the one who has trouble with the idea of commitment, so living together reassured me that life together would be great — because it is.
  2. We figured out the toothpaste situation.  Long, long ago I read an article about compromise that stuck with me.  One person was frustrated that the other never put the cap on the toothpaste.  The solution? Two tubes of toothpaste!  We figured out that as long as we buy the toothpaste with the flip cap, one of us (*cough* Mr. Cheese *cough*) will actually remember to close it.  Essentially, the little things that drive us nuts are getting worked out as we go, without the added pressure of being “newlyweds.”
  3. We’re learning to merge our finances before the stress of saving for our wedding really hits.
  4. Projects (even/ especially wedding projects) can go late into the night before we fall into bed in exhaustion without anyone having to drive home.
  5. We could theoretically be saving money.  In our case, we’re not (we’ve kept his house as well as the new one) but there could be financial benefits.  I don’t think that’s a great primary reason to live together, but it is a nice side benefit.

Initially I wanted to wait until we were engaged before living together, but this house became available and practical considerations changed my mind.  I did wish that we’d waited until we were engaged — I think I would have felt more “legitimate” when we moved in, but that’s just me.  We were certain we’d be getting married when we bought the house, though, just no ring. 🙂

By the way, if you’re considering living together before getting married, I recommend this book:

Shacking Up: The Smart Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin Without Getting Burned

This article on MSN Money is good reading, too: “Protect Your Finances When You Move In Together.”

Will you share your experiences?  Did you wait to be engaged before living together? Did you move in together before being engaged?  Did you wait to live together until after you got married?  Why or why not?


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2 Responses to “On shacking up”

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It was great to come across your comments about cohabiting. As you may know, living together has been harshly judged for decades but this has done nothing to slow down the rate of cohabitation.

Just this year, for the first time ever, there is good news for those who cohabit…

– Divorce among women marrying their only cohabiting partner is 28% lower than for women who never cohabite before marriage.

– 62% of all couples who marry will cohabite first, proving that years of condemnation have backfired and most couples reject the guilt-laden attempts to discourage their live-in arrangement.

– Women who only cohabited with their fiancée first, divorced less than women who went straight to marriage.

– Marriage continues to decline while cohabitation will skyrocket since 70% of high school students believe living together is worthwhile and harmless.

Also, I would like to offer my new book, “Happily Un-Married: Living Together & Loving It” as an additional resource on living together successfully. You can get a free chapter and learn more at…



My husband and I lived together for the duration of our engagement, and I have to say that it did make things better. Granted, we were planning from afar for a wedding that was taking place where our parents lived, so things like wedding dresses and underwear and such were safely stored in my parents’ house leading up to the day.

Then again…my dress did come in a wee J.Crew box so I may not be the best person to reference on THAT part.

Honestly, I think it’s better to “live in sin” than to try to merge households afterwards. It helps to make post-honeymoon interaction less awkward, amongst other things. 🙂

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    I’ve been there, done that, got the t-shirt (and divorce papers) to prove it. Here I am again, pledging my life to my (new) love with eyes wide open (and heart racing) knowing full well how emotionally traumatic this can end… and doing it anyway.


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