Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Should You Move In With Him?

Hi, Terry,

I was just wondering what your advice would be about under what circumstances it is okay to move in with someone?

-Thinking About It

Dear Thinking:

I have mixed feelings about living together, really.

Part of me gets the 'try before you buy' theory; live with a guy so you know exactly what you're getting before you bind yourself for life to him. The other part of me says you're better off keeping your own place and just doing your very best to get to know him before you tie the knot (if that's even your goal; we'll go into that in a minute). Let time do its job. Keep your eyes and ears open. Be truthful with yourself.

Know that the qualities a man displays before you marry him will only become increasingly apparent after you marry him. All of us -- men and women -- are on our best behavior when we're dating, so figure if a man's selfish now, he's only going to get worse later. Conversely, if he's kind and generous and funny now, he's probably going to be all those things later.

You don't have to live together to know that a guy who snaps at a waitress is probably one of these days going to snap at you. Or that a guy who flips out when he can't remember where he parked his car might harbor a few anger issues.

The danger of living together (in my view; others may disagree) before you're married is that it can take some of the fun out of actually getting married. In other words, you've already got a microwave and sex has become seriously routine. I've read about people who try to mitigate the problem of too much familiarity by establishing a no-sex rule weeks or months prior to the wedding, but that seems to me jarring and weird. And then there are those instances where the man or the woman no longer even sees the point of getting married: Things are fine the way they are, they figure, so why rock the boat?

Again, to some women (and men) it's important to see exactly what they're signing on for, so they opt to live together. But there are women who move in with the goal of convincing a man that she's going to be his perfect wife. She immediately takes on what she perceives as wifely duties (i.e., cooking, cleaning, ironing, changing the sheets, taking care of his dry cleaning, and so on). It drives me nuts.

It's a lot of unnecessary work.

So, if you're thinking about moving in with someone, know what your goal is. Do you want to get to know a man well enough to make sure he's the right one? If so, could you be better off doing that while maintaining your own turf?

If you're in it mainly for sex and reducing your expenses, make sure he's in it for the same thing, so that he doesn't get hurt. Be open to the possibility he's in it for sex and reducing expenses. If he is, and you're hoping for something more, be fair to yourself and stay in your own apartment.

If you see living together as a step toward marriage, know that it indeed could be a step toward it. Then again, it very well may not. If you want to get married, be open to the possibility that you still may still be living together without a formal commitment five years from now.

I have a good friend who lived with a woman for 15 years, and then learned she'd been seeing other guys all along. He moved on and, after dating a woman who shares his values for just nine months, exchanged rings with her. They've been married for seven years.

I hope I've been clear, and I certainly hope this helps.

Thanks for writing.