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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Relationships » Cohabitation and Marriage

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Author Topic: Cohabitation and Marriage
Shiny
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I've got a bit of a problem, and the standard advice columns answering other people's questions just aren't cutting it. I lurked here tons back in middle school, so I figured why not give it a look again? :) I apologize in advance for how extremely long this is. I'm very detail-oriented!

So, I'm 18 and my boyfriend, Chris, is 19. We're both freshmen in college, and we're both unusually mature for our age -- we each have various scholarships, good grades, and neither of us enjoys drunkenness or the use of controlled substances. Since we met three-and-a-half years ago, Chris and I have spent the majority of our days as a couple.

When we were first together, we were completely infatuated with each other. Obviously, that didn't last. Each of us went through a time when we weren't sure about the relationship and wanted to see other people, so we did. I explored relationships with some perfectly nice (and perfectly incompatible) guys, and he tied up loose ends with a girl he was "in love" with before he met me. She was my best friend in early high school, and actually introduced us, saying she had "made it clear to him that she wasn't interested" (ok, I'm slightly bitter about that turning out to be a lie, but I don't deny it, nor do I let it affect our relationship) -- they ended up being completely incompatible because she was a fundamentalist Christian who didn't respect his agnosticism and liberal political views at all (nothing wrong with Christianity, just don't be mean to other people about it!).

After all that was over with, we got back together last July. We're definitely not infatuated with each other anymore, but we are completely in love, and very comfortable in our relationship. We recently signed a lease for our first apartment, which we'll be moving into after the summer. However, with the matter of living together comes the discussion of marriage, and for the first time in this relationship, I am at a loss as to how to come up with a compromise that will make everyone happy.

I was raised with the mentality that if you are in love with someone, and it is for the right reasons, then you marry them, regardless of whether you are completely financially independent or not. I'm also very honest with my parents about our relationship -- my mother knows that we have been sleeping together for most of our relationship, and she and my father both approve of my choice of mate, since he is very smart, loving, and responsible. Since I was brought up as a Baha'i, I've had to come to terms with my own disagreements with the faith's stipulations regarding sex/cohabitation and marriage -- after much soul-searching, I came to the conclusion that regardless of what the community might think (and they don't have to KNOW, since it is my own business), God is not going to hate me for sleeping with my boyfriend in the context of a long-term, committed relationship, regardless of whether we're married. However, I would like to make the public commitment in front of our family, friends, and God. I do not think that it would have any great impact on the way our relationship works, but it would make me a lot more comfortable.

What I see as the problem is that Chris is not open at all with his parents, and he was brought up to think that it is NOT okay to marry someone until you are financially independent, and until you have lived with that person for a certain amount of time. He has two older siblings -- a brother who is married with a four-year-old child, and a sister who is approaching 30 and I believe has recently ended a long-term relationship. He says that his avoidance of marriage is mostly related to the fact that he thinks his family would think poorly of him if he did such a thing, but I don't think it has occurred to him that he could talk to them about the matter. I also think that he is really feeling the effects of what happened to his sister's relationship, although the impression that I have gathered is that it happened as a result of the man involved not being willing to make a commitment after several years of them living together.

I would have no problem talking to Chris's family on his behalf (ok, it's mostly his mother that is the issue), but due to his lack of openness with them, his mother has formed some very untrue conceptions regarding our relationship, such as the idea that I was "chasing him" when we were apart (I had multiple other relationships and made no extensive effort to keep in touch with him; while we were apart, he called me almost every night for at least around an hour, even when he was dating his "old flame"), and the idea that I am the aggressive one in the relationship and that he just goes along with what I want, regardless of what his actual opinions are (completely untrue; if we are not on equal footing, we're close enough for it to be indistinguishable -- we discuss everything from restauraunts to possible abortions at enough length to make sure we are both satisfied).

I have told him that it is no longer an issue that we are not going to be married when we move in. However, he seems to be fixated on that point, which I brought up back in December, when we were first seriously discussing the matter of moving in together. He has also taken to avoiding the subject when I try to bring it up, so it's very difficult to explain that many of my concerns are with his relationship with his family. What his mother has said about me being aggressive and him going along with it really seems to be her projecting her own relationship with him onto me.

This really upsets me, because not only do I feel very slighted (I do NOT work that way), I feel like the pressure to wait until a certain point in our lives to get married, regardless of the duration and quality of our relationship (which I feel is the real measure of whether we should be considering marriage) stems from a personal disapproval of me. I know this is probably paranoia on my part, but why would Chris fear the withdrawal of his family's approval so much if it did not have to do specifically with their opinions of me?

I have considered going to Chris's older (and supposedly wiser) siblings for advice, since my only sibling is young enough that he's not even worrying about dating yet, but I don't know if that would be seen as a betrayal, like speaking with his mother would be.

Oh, and as to how financial independence would affect the actual wedding, I'm dead-set against having a big and fancy type of wedding, which I see as being the only real matter in which that could possibly be involved. In addition to that, the only way I could see time affecting it would be regarding whether we had some burning desire to legally drink large quantities of alcohol at the wedding, which I'm not at all interested in.

It is also not as if we are not compatible enough to live together. We are best friends, and I spend enough time in his dorm room that his roommate, who is also a friend of mine, calls me their honorary roommate. We even eat all our meals together, whether at the dining hall or out, and I'm really looking forward to having access to my own kitchen so that I can cook again -- long story short, I was the cook in my family before I moved out, and I can cook almost anything and have it turn out looking appetizing and tasting awesome. Enough bragging about my elite cooking skills, though. While I keep things just on the edge of "clean" and, uh, borderline organized (I understand it, but anyone else usually has problems comprehending why I must keep papers covered in random notes all over my desk or dirty socks in a very particular pile in the corner), Chris is the stereotypical Virgo who keeps everything absolutely neat and clean, gets some unnatural sort of pleasure out of vacuuming, and yet he still understands that if I make a mess with my schoolwork, he can leave it there for a short time and I will clean up after myself in a day or two without the necessity for any fighting or blowups. I dunno about most couples, but judging from anecdotes and watching my parents and Chris's roommates, that is MUCH more laid-back than most people are -- and it extends to most other aspects of our life, too.

Anyway, any advice at all would be appreciated. I am having trouble figuring out exactly where to start trying to tackle this situation.

Thanks in advance. :)

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"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is in for a hell of a ride."


Posts: 4 | From: Kansas | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gumdrop Girl
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so, why exactly do you think cohabitation necessitates marriage?

living together does not necessarily mean you have to marry. some people live together ismply because it is a practical arrangement. this is especially true if you live somewhere with exorbitant rents.

as for financialy independence, it helps a LOT to be financially solvent and have practical experience managing finances before getting married. Money matters are the single BIGGEST issue to tear young couples apart. It's a good idea to have a handle on your $$$ before getting married because you will be less obligated to your debts, especially if your parents are supporting you. Marriage includes asserting independence from your parents because you are figuratively being joined to another person as one entity. It's hard to entirely give yourself to your spouse if you have some serious apron strings (and big debts)holding you back.

imho, you're young, and if you are as mature as you think you are (and honestly, anyone who tells me they're "mature for [their] age" never strikes me as being such), then you should have no problem delaying marriage until you are better settled.

of course, mine is only an opinion, you have every right to disagree and do your own thing. just be clear that you asked for opinions, and i handed you one.

i didn't read all of your post. i have the attention span of a fruit fly. maybe i'll look at the rest later. otherwise, everyone else is free to opine. pithy comments, no bloviating

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Posts: 12677 | From: Los Angeles, CA ... somewhere off the 10 | Registered: Jul 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Michelle Ravel
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Well, I read the whole post for some reason. And it looks like you don't really have that much of a problem.

If what you said is true, you don't have a problem living with Chris and not being married. And, if I got it right, his parents won't mind you living together, they just don't want you to get married. Right?

So don't get married. Have fun cooking great food and living together.

The only problem I can foresee is that both you and Chris know that you actually DO want to get married. You don't want that hanging over both of you. So why don't you agree to a time-frame for re-evaluation? Say, "Let's not talk about getting married until next year." Then, you can live together without the "marriage talk" hanging over you. In a year, open up the topic again... and, having lived together for a year, you'll have a better idea of how compatible you guys are.

Do you think you could do that?

As for his mother, stop worrying. She just probably doesn't want him to commit himself so young (which makes sense), so she's getting hysterical. BAck off for a year, and I bet she'll calm down.


Posts: 51 | From: Toronto, Canada | Registered: Dec 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
dailicious
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I have two friends who are in a deeply committed relationship. They are the same age as you and your boyfriend, 18 and 19, and will begin living together this coming summer.

The reason they are living together, even being very much in love and knowing that someday they do plan to get married, is more for financial conveience than actually deciding living together is the next step for their relationship.

My friend has said that while she knows her boyfriend is the one she wants to marry, she also knows that marriage is a big financial responsibility and also something that requires more experience in the working world outside of high school and away from your parents than two people will have when they are only a year or two out of high school and away from home.

She also believes that no one should get married until they're old enough to drink champagne at their own wedding, but that's aside from the point.

Basically, wait to live your life before you get married. Too many people jump into that committment too fast and that causes problems later on in life. It happened to my aunt, it happened to my mom, and it happens to thousands of couples who just thought they were ready too early. Now there are many coupls who do marry early who live happily throughout their years, and many who marry later and still have problems. All I'm trying to say is that you're still young and there's no reason for you to have to commit to marriage before you're really ready for it.

Living together is a good way to experience what married life will be like, as well, before actually diving into it, getting you used to sharing bills, managing funds, being around eachother day and night.

In my opinion, the mindset of, "Well if we know we want to get married, and want to or will live together, then why don't we just get married?" is a foolish mindset, but I believe in thinking all of this out you are being very mature and are being sure you won't put your relationship at risk by making a hasty decision that could wind up being too much.

This may have just seemed rambly, but hopefully it helped and addressed some of your thoughts.


Posts: 3382 | From: Denver, Colorado | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
summergoddess
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While living together doesn't always lead to marriage, as there are some couples who are perfectly fine with living together and not wanting to marry at all. It's okay to live together for a quite a while, and not marry for a couple years or so.

Me and my fiance had started talking about living together around our 2 1/2 years of being together, and we had planned to do this cohabitation last year (June 2004)but it didn't work out, there was still some fiances to be dealt with and other things. I had gotten engaged in May of 2004, and we spent too much on our anniversary and etc. We were still set on wanting to live together, but we though, okay, a few more months of saving and then we'll do it. So just earlier this month, we found our apartment and we're going to be moving out May 1st.

It's always been a big thing of mine, to have me living with my soon-to-be husband before we get married. So that's finally happening in just lil over a month from now. It's never really been an issue with my parents or his, they've all been really supportive, and Isaiah himself has been really excited about living with me and everthing.

We had known from the beginning of our relationship that we're the one for each other, and we waited three years to get engaged and by the time we marry next year, we'll have been together for 5 years as a couple.

So what i'm really saying is that it is your choice with how you want to do, and all honesty, marriage can wait a lil bit. It is very important to explore, and do things before making that serious committment.

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~Jules


Posts: 369 | From: Ontario, Canada | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Shiny
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Well, I have to say, thanks for the replies. :) I apologize again for talking so much. Detail-oriented, hyperfocusing, yadda yadda. :p

I guess I should clarify on a few things, though. When I say I am more mature than most people my age, it's taking into consideration that circumstances in my family (including my parents' divorce and my mother being bedridden for quite a while with fibromyalgia from a severe reaction to a hepatitis vaccination) basically forced me to "grow up" early, taking on a lot of responsibility that I probably shouldn't have had when I was that young. In addition to that, right now I'm in bed recovering from surgery on a suspicious lump in my right breast -- luckily, it turned out to be an unusually-textured fibroadenoma, and nothing really scary or malignant. :) So I've been under a lot of stress lately, which is causing me to be more emotionally sensitive about issues that I should be examining from as objective of a perspective as I can manage.

I really didn't intend to imply that the issue with marriage was incorrigibly connected with our moving in together. While it's definitely convenient for us to move in together (lower costs, having a roommate we know we won't want to kill), it's also definitely a factor for us to be together before marriage as a "peace of mind" issue for Chris, since it's a "family tradition," or some such nonsense. I know for certain that my mother is entirely in favor of us being married soon, if not already, ha. He and I have been occasionally bringing up the issue of marriage from time to time since well before we thought we would be living together in the upcoming year. It's not a new issue; heck, he brought it up before I did. However, it's hard not to feel a bit strange if someone is in a committed relationship, says "You're my best friend and I'm completely in love with you, and I have absolutely no doubt that I want to spend the rest of my life with you," and then starts talking as if the issue of marriage has nothing to do with commitment or the relationship itself.

So I guess -- after all this introspection -- what I really needed was outside perspective to explain to me why, outside the culture I grew up in, marriage is associated with financial stability and being obligated to have babies ASAP after being married (personally, I want to wait about a decade after being married to even start TRYING to have children). I know that there are a lot of people that have this goal of being married by 28 or 30, and I doubt it's a coincidence that it's the same point at which I will be considering having children, especially compared with the fact that lots of people want to have kids practically as soon as they're married. Eee, I think that would drive me nuts. Dealing with a little brother or with a litter of puppies is bad enough.

I guess I also tend to feel that society is not particularly friendly towards people in "committed-but-not-married" relationships. There's not even a term that has those specific connotations.. "boyfriend" seems awfully flippant (since people call someone their girlfriend or boyfriend after a mere few dates), "significant other" is a really broad term that irritates me with its political correctness, and I'm sorry, but "partner" sounds really silly to me, because it makes my dad's law firm sound like a polyamorous love shack.

Oh well! I am already compromising a great deal, and I suppose that I may just have to settle for a compromise that favors values that I neither hold nor agree with, as much as I dislike that prospect. Even though it ticks me off a great deal, I understand that there are other points of view that I have to take into consideration, and I also know that it's not harming me (aside from all that lovely "negative effects of stress" stuff :p) to bend a little on these issues. It's just difficult, that's all.

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"In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is in for a hell of a ride."


Posts: 4 | From: Kansas | Registered: Mar 2005  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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