Dan and I have been seeing each other exclusively for about nine months. We both spend alot of time together (his house some nights, mine on others), but we have kept our individual apartments. My lease is coming due soon, and Dan has asked me to move in with him. I know our relationship is “serious” but I am not sure what kind of commitment Dan ultimately wants to make. I don’t want to move in unelss we’re going to get married, and Dan hasn’t said anything about getting engaged. The thing is, he’s just a year out of a painful divorce and has said from time to time that he’s not sure about marrying again. My friends are encouraging me to move in with Dan because he really is a special guy and they’re saying he won’t be able to live without me once I’m with him. I’m afraid that if I move in there’s no incentive for him to commit to me any further. Moving in together would definitely cut down on our expenses, and I do love Dan. But if I move in, will I ruin my chance to get married?
Alison’s Take: More people are moving in together and even having children together, without the benefit of marriage. In fact, the percentage of couples who choose to marry is at an all-time low. In many areas, couples living together without marriage is accelerated by the cost of paying for two apartments and the bother of traipsing back and forth between them. For others, it’s a “trial time” to figure out if they want to be together in a more permanent way. But Rebecca, if this isn’t something you want, and you’re not engaged with no promise of it, don’t move in with Dan, hoping to “hook” him.
Is saving money is the best reason to make a move, especially if your boyfriend is fresh from a divorce, and doesn’t seem to have any plans to put a ring on your finger? Not likely. And having a roommate to “save expenses” isn’t the same as having a husband. Marriage is a legal and binding commitment that requires a legal proceeding to do, and undo. Living with someone doesn’t come with the same bonds. You can bail if you are married, but married couples are often motivated to try harder when the going gets tough, because they did commit legally to one another.
Although living together is a reasonable and legitimate relationship choice, it isn’t for you, if it is not what you want. Dan may be thinking that “playing house” with you is going to bring the promise of hot sex and no restrictions on him, but living with someone still comes with some responsibilities. It isn’t the care-free romance of dating. Either you or Dan will discover that daily life together can be stressful and frankly, unromantic. Without a commitment, either one of you is free to bail — and just might. One woman I know who refused to marry her boyfriend who was fresh from a horrible divorce, even though he really wanted her to tie the knot. She just didn’t want to be the rebound relationship. She eventually did move in with him, and after a year, realized he had too many issues to live with forever. She moved out and found someone who was ready to be her husband.
Call me old fashioned, but why make a move until you know what Dan’s ultimate intentions are? If he really loves you enough to live with you, he’ll wait until you are both ready to move the relationship forward in a way that works for you as well as for him. There’s also that worry: why buy the cow if you can have the milk? Dan may get comfortable having you around, but that won’t change his mind about marriage if he doesn’t want it and your boyfriend has already told you more than once that he isn’t sure he wants to make that kind of commitment again. If you move in, hoping to change his mind, you may be severely disappointed.
Tony’s Take: Rebecca: you have not told us how old you are, but your ages make a real difference in what life impact this has.
Life has stages. When we are in our teens we are figuring out what the world is like. In our twenties we are figuring out what people are like and in our thirties, what we are going to do with our lives. I wouldn’t advice you to move in if you’re in your early twenties. There is a whole world out there, and moving in together when you are very young blocks you from it. In your late twenties I would advise you to go with it, because you can still give him a couple of years to get his act together before you drop an ultimatum on him. You did not say why you want to get married, but if it is because you want kids and you are over thirty, then you really can not afford to waste time with casually living together unless he’s going to be willing to step up. Similarly if you are in your forties you have to look forward to forever and if it looks like it is not going to last then you need to find another life partner now.
If you want children then you have to be very sure about his thoughts on the issue, because bringing up a child alone is a lot of work. Similarly if you are shopping for a life partner, you need to sound him out about his plans and hopes for the future. How do you fit into them and do you want to fit into them?
You did raise one very big red flag; he is recently divorced. Understand that what he was looking for in you was all of the things he was not getting in his previous relationship (this is true of any rebound relationship). What he was not looking for and will eventually miss are the things that attracted him to his ex in the first place. If you want this relationship to survive, you need to talk to him about what he liked and enjoyed about his ex and life with her. How does what he says, apply to you? Since he is important to you, you want to make him happy and keep him happy. Don’t get jealous, defensive or depressed, just smile, listen and learn.
To keep a relationship strong, communication is key. But you seem shy about talking to him about your emotions and needs or reluctant to put pressure on the relationship by asking direct questions. When you have trouble confronting things directly often a “third party role play” approach may work for you such as playing the “little girl” on him and say that you are scared about moving in, then let him reassure you. You haven’t mentioned the other L word here but it is important. If he does not actively and unreservedly say that he loves you and you do not actively and unreservedly say you love him, then your answer is that right now is really not the time to move in (at nine months this should have happened, and statistically you should be engaged by 18 months). If you both have careers, then statistically you would expect to be married three years after moving in together. To reassure you most couples at this point in time live together before they get married. The downside is there is then no force driving a non-engaged couple living together towards marriage, so it often delays the process (but for the majority of the couples it does happen). If you are clear to him about your time frame for marriage and wanting children and the fact your fertility can decline 10% a year past 30 so there is an expiration date on his asking for your hand, then why not find out what living with him is really like? It’s better to know now before you are married.