[COLUMN] The Lover's Rocque:<br />
Is Shacking Up For the (Love) Birds?

Together forever...or until the lease is up?

Whenever the subject of living together before marriage comes up, people (read: women) often say, "Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?" I'm lactose intolerant, so I have no need for a cow or its milk. In all seriousness, I understand the sentiment behind the age-old analogy but it had no bearing on how my relationship evolved from boyfriend and girlfriend status to husband and wife. In fact, I don’t think I’d be married now if I hadn’t lived with my wife before jumping the broom—and we’re not alone. A new study by the National Center for Family and Marriage found that about 60 percent of couples now live together before they marry. With the economy in disarray and the cost of living constantly rising, cohabitation makes sense for couples in serious relationships today.

When Mrs. Rocque and I decided to move in together--a year into our relationship--it was an organic transition. She already spent a majority of the week at my place; so sharing a mailing address seemed natural as we were practically living together already. I’ll admit that getting hitched wasn’t on the agenda at the time but, truthfully, it didn’t matter because we were more focused on our relationship. Living far away from each other even in the same city (in our case, it was the Bronx and Brooklyn) can be a strain on a couple when you both work long hours. Being under the same roof allowed us to work on us without losing quality time during long commutes. The shacking up gamble worked in our case but not every couple’s cohabitation adventure leads down the aisle.

Living with someone is a gift and a curse. After the honeymoon stage is over you get to see who your partner really is. Weekend or mid-week sleepovers are completely different than sharing a living space 24/7. Living together reveals all the dirty little secrets—from how messy your partner is and whether or not they’re good at managing bills to the reality of what happens in the bathroom after that Mexican dinner. More importantly, it allows you to see if those traits are things you can (or can’t) live with forever.

While the idea of waiting until marriage to move in together sounds great in theory, I would hate for the first time I discover my new bride’s at-home flaws be the day after the wedding. I’d much rather prefer that any potential deal breakers be unearthed and addressed before saying, “I do.” That’s why I’m an advocate of shacking up before putting a ring on it. Let me clarify: I’m not saying every couple should move in together, but sometimes it doesn’t hurt to play house before actually buying one. Yes, there are those (read: men) who become complacent once they’re co-habitating and don’t push to take things to the next level but living together allows you to take note of those flaws and accept or reject them before any wedding bells ring.

To combat waiting in commitment purgatory I’ve found it best for couples to talk to one another about their long-term relationship goals ahead of time. If living together makes sense for the couple and one person is looking towards marriage, he or she should put a timetable on how long they’re willing to co-habitate without a commitment. If the other party wants to push that date back indefinitely perhaps they’re not the one for you, but it’s up to the individual to decide whether or not they’re willing to stay or leave. 

In the case of those who are more traditional, perhaps living together is something that should wait until after there’s an engagement. That way the couple can get a true sense of who the person they’ve made a commitment to before going down the aisle without worrying about the stigma of “living in sin” because marriage is on the horizon. Whatever the case, living with someone is a big step in a relationship that takes hard work and isn’t something that should be rushed into because someone might end up crying over spilled milk. 

Do you think couples should live together before getting married? Sound off!

Mr. and Mrs. Rocque are the couple formerly known as Anslem Samuel and Starrene Rhett, New York-based journalists who found love in between bylines. Follow the newlyweds’ musings of a marriage in progress here, on Twitter and via their joint blog.