Last Saturday, I heard this one over and over as people used it as their talking point for a radio audition. I’m sure we’ve all heard this reiterated endlessly. It always surprises me how blithely people rattle this one off, with little thought for how vapid the argument really is.
First, this thesis is usually followed by their one and only line of defense for it: “You don’t really know someone until you see how grumpy and grungy they are in the morning.” Seriously? You have to live with someone to know that they’re grumpy and grungy in the morning? Isn’t everybody? And if we already know this, then we don’t really have to live together first in order to learn it, now do we? News flash, folks: that special someone you’re thinking of making a commitment to also has really bad breath when they wake up. And I didn’t even have to live with them first to figure it out! There, I just saved you the cost of some moving boxes.
“But,” interjects our torridly anxious co-habitants, “you need to live together first in order to truly know them and see if you’ll work out together.” This “reason” is even more lame than the first one. When, exactly, do you know if things are going to “work out” with someone or not? After six months? Three years? Ten years? What magic sign of “working out” are you looking for?
I fear that people who say this are thinking that if it’s meant to be, they’ll never fight, or be tempted by someone else, or some other such silly thing. Here’s another news flash: in every relationship, you are going to have strong disagreements, you will find other people attractive, and you willface unforeseen problems that will test your resolve (hint: it’ll probably have to do with money!). Bottom line, relationships don’t just work out or not: the only marriages that last didn’t get that way because they lived together until they were comfortable, they lasted because the partners chose to do the hard work and sacrifice involved in making it work, day in and day out. (I know, romantic, right?)
And that part about not knowing someone until you live with them? Here’s how I know that one’s wrong, too: you never really know someone. I’ve been married six years. Do I know everything about my wife? Of course not. We’re still learning things about each other and surprising each other all the time. Not only are people more complicated than co-habitants seem to think, but their excuse seems to ignore the fact that people change. Are my wife or I married to the same person we were six years ago? Not really. We’ve both grown and evolved over that time. So living together is pointless if you want to “get to know someone.” There’s no such thing as knowing someone well enough to know if you’ll make a marriage work. The goal is just to grow together over time.
Here’s some sad proof of what this: how many people do you know who got divorced because their spouse “changed?” Like that should be a surprise. You mean your spouse isn’t exactly the same as they were five or ten or twenty years ago? No kidding?
And some more proof that these arguments are self serving excuses: we also all know plenty of people who said they were living together before marriage who just never got married at all. From their point of view, really, what would be the point? But if there’s nothing wrong with what they’re doing, then why the excuses? Or let’s put it this way: if you actually were just making excuses so that you could live with your playmate without doing the hard work of real commitment, wouldn’t you be saying all the same things?
Besides, study after study has shown that living together before marriage makes you much more likely to get divorced.
To listen to the excuses of people who cohabitate, you’d wonder how all those marriages work where they didn’t live together first. But, somehow, they do…