I didn’t live with my husband before we got married, and I’m proud of that decision.
Now, I know that to some, this is not a noteworthy comment. But to many, especially in my generation of millennials, this is a completely unheard of and foreign concept.
You see, when my husband and I first got engaged, somehow the topic of where we currently lived always came up in conversations. The thing was, we didn’t live together. We both lived at home, with our parents. We were both college graduates with full-time careers, living with good ol’ mom and dad. And when people found out my fiancé and I, two grown mature adults, didn’t already live together, these were the responses I most commonly received…
“Is that because your parents are old-fashioned? That must be it, right? Yeah, I totally get it…”
“Are you guys, like, really religious or something?”
“Ooooohhh…” (insert judgey eyes and immediate change of topic)
and sometimes, I even got this response:
“Well, that’s a big mistake! What if you find out you don’t like living with him after you get married? Or worse, what if you find out you can’t stand each other? How will you know unless you try living with him first? You should really reconsider…”
But regardless of how judgmental or opinionated the response, none of the reactions I received changed my mind on the matter. Here’s why I wasn’t worried about moving in together and discovering that I couldn’t stand my spouse, why I wasn’t worried about making a “big mistake.” Here’s why I didn’t live with my spouse before we were married…
I had always known that when I got married, it would be forever. Not because I could see the future, not because I was a hopeless romantic, and not because I was the perfect, flawless candidate for a wife. I knew my marriage would last forever because of the very way I view marriage.
To me, marriage is a covenant, not a contract. A covenant, unlike a contract is based on trust, not distrust. A covenant cannot be broken if new circumstances occur, while a contract can be voided by mutual consent. A covenant is a permanent commitment, and that’s what I expected my marriage to be.
So, for me, finding a spouse wasn’t about finding someone who would always make me happy and meet all of my needs for the rest of forever. Yes, I absolutely wanted to be happy, just like everyone else. But to expect that one human could single-handedly provide that happiness would have been unrealistic. I knew I couldn’t hold someone to those standards, nor did I want to be held to those standards myself. It would have been setting the bar too high, quite frankly. I am not perfect, and my spouse wouldn’t be either. And I knew that together, we were bound to come face to face with those imperfections throughout a lifetime together. I had also been in enough relationships in the past to know that, being in love doesn’t make your life complete, and if that was my expectation, I’d likely be setting myself up for failure. Now, I know that might sound harsh, but it’s reality. To me, marriage was about choosing to connect my life with another’s, for better or worse, so that together, we could build a life, work through life’s challenges, raise a family, and most importantly, do more good for God together than we could have done on our own. And I knew, with that perspective in mind, and by putting my hope in the Lord instead of my spouse, I would be able to find a forever love.
Now, don’t get the wrong impression. I didn’t just go and pick out any old joe shmoe off the street to marry. I scored big time, you guys. My husband is the greatest guy I have ever met. And even after 3 years of marriage, and overcoming countless hurdles (including a miscarriage, lots of career changes, adjusting to life with a new baby, and lots of sleepless nights and poopy diapers), I’m still crazy about the man.
So, like I said, I wasn’t worried about saying “I do” before moving in with my husband. Why? Because, I knew that no matter who I chose, there were going to be hardships. I knew there were bound to be roadbumps when trying to blend two very different lives into one. Every human on this earth is flawed. We all have goofy quirks and habits. And to expect that I could “weed out” the bad ones by living with them first would have been setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment. And on the flip side, I didn’t want to be judged or deemed “worthy” to be a wife based on my own living habits. I would have never passed the test if that had been the case. I can be pretty tough to live with at times, and I know it.
Instead, I wanted to marry someone who knew those differences would exist, and viewed them as challenges to overcome instead of deal breakers worth ending a relationship over. I wanted to find someone who loved me enough to say “I do” without “testing the waters.” I wanted to find someone who would actually love me unconditionally, not someone who would love me, depending on X, Y and Z. You see, to me, it was all about perspective. If I allowed myself to live with my husband before we were married, of course I would have been more critical. Too critical. I would have inevitably second-guessed our relationship based on every annoying habit and petty argument. I may not have ever found someone who was “good enough.” But, by saying “I do” first, I saw those challenges in a completely different light. Instead of dealbreakers, those differences were simply an opportunity for me to not only extend grace, but to identify my own selfish ways. And to be honest, I think a lot of marriages fail because of this difference in perspective. We are all selfish, and we want to find someone who is perfect and flawless, without holding ourselves to the same standards. And I think for many who have unrealistic expectations of marriage, they go running in the opposite direction when perfection doesn’t prevail. They think they can somehow avoid any growing pains by living with the person first. They say for better or worse, but what they really mean is for better, or else. Because when “for worse” shows up (which it inevitably will, no matter who you marry), they want to call it quits. They complain that their needs aren’t being met. And instead of using the challenges and the differences as opportunities to overcome, compromise, give of themselves, and ultimately, grow their relationship stronger, they give up.
The way I see it, if I’m in a relationship with the expectation that it’s forever, it doesn’t matter if it takes 2 days or 2 years to fix a problem. That person is my partner for life, afterall, so I keep working to make it better. I keep fighting, keep on growing and compromising and extending grace. In order to be successful, I have to acknowledge that love is a verb, not a feeling, and make an effort to truly love my partner, no matter what. And when I do, it’s worth it, because I have a stronger marriage, with more love than when we started.
So, did my husband and I discover some surprising (and sometimes annoying) quirks about one another when we finally moved into together? Yes (cough – he never puts his dishes away – cough). Did we face unexpected challenges? Yes. Have we had to compromise, make changes, and admit our own imperfections? Yes. But not for one second have either of us felt like we made a mistake. We promised to love each other no matter what, and we meant it. We didn’t have to test each other out first, because that would have been a contradiction to the very vows we planned on promising – for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, for better or worse. And even though the hard times haven’t always been fun, I think the reality is, we would have faced them, regardless of whether or not we lived together before saying “I do.”
I’ve made plenty of big mistakes in this life, but waiting to live with my spouse until we were married definitely wasn’t one of them.