Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Move in together only with a firm commitment to each other
Denver: My boyfriend and I, both 26, are planning on moving in together in a few months when our leases are up. This decision makes sense, from both a financial and an emotional perspective. However, I can't figure out how to tell my parents! They're conservative Christians, and loving enough that I know they won't reject me or anything … but I'm afraid of their disappointment and how to handle/address their concerns about why we're not getting married first. Thoughts on how to broach this topic?
Carolyn: Why are you moving in together, versus getting engaged or married?
Not Denver: I wish someone had asked me the opposite: Why getting married versus just living together? Now I'm in a loveless situation with no real reason to divorce except wanting some change for love.
Don't marry unless you really, really know this is the person you need to spend your whole life with. Getting married because people say you should rather than living together is an equation for disaster.
Carolyn: No no, that's not what I was saying! I'm trying to see why they're moving in before they're willing to take vows. No agenda implied or intended.
Besides, people who move in together also find themselves in exactly your position, in epic numbers. It's not as if they can all walk away; there are leases/mortgages, commingled possessions, mutual friends, entwined hopes and expectations, pets and even children. In other words, it's often a marriage sans vows. So please don't look at your failure to cohabitate as the reason for your unhappy state right now.
I'm skeptical of the whole idea of one thing a person could have done in the past to prevent an unhappy present. Your decisions back then were the result of countless factors, including who you were at the time emotionally; you don't know what that person would have done with the changed circumstances you're envisioning.
It's much more productive to take what you've learned and revisit your future, not your past.
Denver again: There's been a discussion of engagement, and how that's the next step and will probably go hand-in-hand with moving in together. He was married young before and divorced quickly, and is concerned about getting married hastily again, without the "test fit" of living together. For my part, if I'm going to get married, I want to make sure it's forever, and I feel it's hard for me to tell that without seeing how I fit with someone day-to-day.
Plus, on a fun note, we want a puppy and it's much easier to care for one if there are two of us instead of one!
Carolyn: Argh, don't do it for the puppy! Or for the rent savings.
Together-for-life is hard to tell, period.
So, move in when you consider each other life partners, whether you marry or not, and whether your parents would faint or not. Not as a tryout, but as two people who are integral to each other's plans, goals and families.