Please know, this is just my opinion and experience with a sometimes controversial topic. I welcome your (polite!) opinions and thoughts below. In no way am I trying to force a side!
Mr. O and I have been living together for just about a year now. I guess if you’re looking at it from a strict perspective, we’re living in sin. It has always bothered me that so many people feel like living together before marriage in some way harms your relationship with God and your faith. I am a strong woman of faith and I always have been. I pray about my choices, I pray when I am sad or happy, thankful or bitter. I talk to God in some way every single day of my life. It is a large part of who I am, and it is also a very important part of Mr. Orchard’s life. We have been on the hunt for a home church that makes both of us feel happy and spiritually fulfilled for almost as long as we have been dating. We’ve tried some, but nothing has clicked for us yet. In the meantime, we do our best to serve our faith and show reverence in other ways. Mr. O tithes into the community around him. Our charity focuses will actually be a part of our wedding. I put a great sum of my percentage into my classroom, school, and into providing my students with anything and everything they could need. It’s important to us that we do this. When Mr. O and I got engaged we wanted desperately to attend premarital counseling through a church that I have attended several times and really like. I called to register us for class and was greeted with great enthusiasm. That was until I told the woman speaking that Mr. O and I lived together. Her response was this: “Well, I suppose you are welcome to attend class, but I’m not sure what we can offer you.” That was it. End of story. I got off the phone embarrassed and ashamed. Needless to say, we did not attend the class.
I am the child of a very young marriage and of ugly divorce. My mother had me when she was a day over 17. She married my father when I was a baby, and they stayed married until I was in high school. I grew up in a family that was a shining example of what happens when you make hasty decisions out of expectation and requirements. All my adult life, my mother has stressed the importance of really getting to know someone before marrying them, and in her book (and mine), that means experiencing living with that person before saying “I do.” Now, my mother would NEVER have been OK with me shacking up with some guy I wasn’t serious about or that I didn’t envision a future with, but she has always encouraged me to live with anyone I would consider marrying if the relationship got that serious. And after watching my parents, it just seemed practical. It wasn’t something I thought about in a manner of right versus wrong; it just made sense in my mind.
Smart gal / Illustration by The_EZ via Deviant Art
Mr. Orchard was raised in a more traditional, Cleaver-esque manner with the belief that he should wait until he was married to live with his significant other. Even now, when we visit Mr. O’s parents, we sleep in separate rooms, which honestly is kinda nice sometimes (ah, room to stretch!)! Despite him being in a few serious relationships before meeting me, I am the first girl he has ever lived with. When we moved in together “unofficially,” I made sure to stay with one of my parents when his parents came into town overnight so as not to cause them any worries. I don’t know who we thought we were fooling because it wasn’t too long after we moved into our house together that Mr. O’s mom informed him that she didn’t want me to feel like I had to leave the house when they were in town because they basically already knew we were cohabiting. She said that we were both adults and it was our house and we were allowed to make our own rules in it and that she respected that. It was actually a really cute moment that I still blush about when I think about it too much.
When I mentioned writing this post, I asked Mr. O what was different about this time (if he had wanted to wait until we were married to live together I would have—when you know, you know), and he explained that a lot of it was that he was an adult who was simply ready and wanted to make a future together. Men, they keep it so simple.
I really do think that living together before has made Mr. O and me a stronger unit. We’ve already been forced to have the finance conversation. We split bills. The only difference after marriage will be that those bills will be paid from one joint account (a conversation for another day!). We have a chore schedule (of sorts). I know his annoying habits and he knows I don’t have any at all (yeah right!). I have had my best friend and biggest supporter as a roomie for the last year and it has been a blast. We both entered into sharing an address with the complete and total knowledge that we would be getting married in the near future. Living with Mr. O doesn’t make me feel any less excited to become his wife nor does it affect my personal relationship with God, though it has made me sad about the state of some church denominations. (What happened to judge not, lest ye be judged?) Instead of going through an official counseling group, Mr. O and I have been working through a devotional together leading up to the wedding. It’s been a really great thing so far.
I know my (our) beliefs aren’t for everyone, and I know that there is some evidence to support that living together before marriage is actually bad for marriages, and I read those articles and blog posts with an open mind and heart. I look to them as cautionary tales of sorts—what I need to know or watch out for. Everyone is different and every relationship is different and I totally get that too.
Did you live with your SO before getting married? Why or why not?