Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How can we live together without being disowned by our church?

Dear ESB,

I'm pretty sure that my boyfriend of 6 years is going to propose within the next few weeks, he sucks at hiding his excitement and wants to tell me everything but that's not why I'm writing you. 

We want to start house shopping once we are engaged, and are unsure what to do about our living arrangements between buying a house and the wedding. We currently don't live together and our parents have made very clear their expectations. His parents and some of our friends don't think we should live together until we get married, due to religious beliefs. We do go to church every week and some of our friends choose to believe that we have never slept together but come on we have been dating for 6 years! 

On the other hand my mom has made it very clear that she believes anyone planning to get married should live together before making a life time commitment to anyone. I agree I want to live with my boyfriend when we are engaged but I don't want to be judged or dis-owned by our church community. 

Do you have any suggestions on how to make both families happy?

-Stuck in the Middle



And maybe consider joining a new church.

(I'm not joking.)

There's no magical fairy dust way to make everyone happy here, so you might as well focus on making yourself happy.

Photo: Yohji Yamamoto Fall/Winter 1999 by Inez & Vinoodh via I Saw A Film Today, Oh Boy


  1. I totally agree, ESB. Living together before marriage would help a LOT of people avoid divorce in my opinion. When you live together, all your true colors come out (even the ugly putrid ones). And so do his. But it's also amazing. To me, it teaches you to stick in there, even when things are messy. When you are dating and only have sleepovers (even if it's for 6 years) there's no real sense of ownership of a life together. Sure you can make plans together and do holidays with families, that sort of thing, but you really don't get into the day-to-day stuff, and that's what a relationship is on a molecular level.

    Make yourselves happy and live together already.

  2. 1. Faith and religion are diverse and individual. People migrate to those with similar beliefs to their own. But that doesn't mean that you have to share every value that your church or friends and family do. A community should help support individual's decisions and growth, so long as they are not destructive. Can anyone in your group tell you why living with your fiance would be a bad idea? And, no, "God doesn't want you to" does not count. Religion is a construct and is open to interpretation. Essentially faith is all you have - so go with your gut.

    2. If you do not feel confident asserting your own will, how are you ready to enter into something so monumental as marriage? You need to make decisions as a couple, not as a quorum.

    3. I found that living together changed a LOT. It definitely makes a huge difference in how you view your partner.

    All of that said, your only decision is for you and the future fiance to make a choice and defend it. There's no secret trick.

  3. my 91 yr old granma says she would have never married my granpa (who's deceased) had they lived together 1st... and she's totally old school catholic.

  4. fianceesarehumanstooNovember 22, 2011 at 7:21 AM

    Err, like it's been said above, you are going to make someone unhappy whatever you do so just choose your side and stick to it.

    That said, we didn't live together before we got married, and I don't think it's essential. After 6 years together you should hopefully know your partner's true colours, you should know what they are like in the small moments of life.

    And sure, living together in/out of a marriage is about dealing with the small things - who does the dishes etc but those things don't make up a marriage (even though they might cause a lot of arguments) . Better to know someone's character really really well and know that you can deal with their crap even if you don't know exactly what it is yet. Basically, don't feel like you have to live together or your marriage will fail...

    I think you need to figure out what your religious beliefs are instead of worrying about everybody else.

  5. I never had a strong opinion about the living together issue--until I actually did it myself. Now I tell everyone who will listen: FOR THE LOVE OF GOD DO IT. Not to see if your man is husband material (you should know that before you even start THINKING about cohabitation) but to work out the normal kinks. It's hard melding two lives into one. We used to fight about everything from sorting laundry properly to the DVR. I get up waaaay early for work and it took him forever to adjust to falling back asleep after my alarm--I was convinced he was going to dump me over it! To this day we still buy two kinds of milk because neither of us will budge on the skim vs 2% issue. All of these are normal things and they worked themselves out but I cannot imagine settling it all as a newlywed when you're supposed to be all blissed out.

    As for the religious thing --I think if you just tell people in a polite but matter-of-fact manner (resist the urge to justify) they'll have no arguments. It doesn't mean they'll like the idea but they'll be able to live with it becasue they'll know you took the decision very seriuosly.

  6. I agree with Hilary. Also, if you're grown up enough to get married, you are sure as hell grown up enough to make your own decisions and LIVE TOGETHER first. tell your church peeps that.

  7. I dated my now husband for more than 5 years before we moved in together. I don't feel like I learned anything revelatory by moving in together. I mean, after that long of dating, you don't hide every little bad habit anymore. Sure there's was some new household management negotiations to work out, but hopefully you already know how your boyfriend feels about that stuff. If you don't, get talking — you don't want to move in together and/or get married just to find out he expects you to do all the cooking and cleaning. If you guys are on the same wavelength and have taken your guard down around each other, I think you've been together long enough that you know what living together would be like.

    That said, the religion issue is somewhat separate. If you are in a really conservative church, it's just not going to fly. You have to decide how much you like this church and just how badly you want to move in together. If you feel like you could find a new church and community and you really want to move in together, do it. But recognize it'll be tough to loose some friends, upset family members, and get kicked out of this church. Not to say that it isn't worth it if moving in together is something you feel really strongly about. Hopefully your relationship with your boyfriend is solid and you two will be able to lean on each other when things get rough.

  8. Decide what's right for the two of you and no body else. If both of you agree then go for it, but then make sure you BOTH sing the same song if and when the negative ninnys come out.

    The same thing WILL happen when you start planning a wedding, raising children etc. There will ALWAYS be people who think you're doing it wrong. The best thing the two of you can do is whatever is right for you as a couple.

  9. I go to church almost every week. Move in together. Those opposed will get over it. If they don't, they need to reevaluate their own beliefs on forgiveness.
    The decision between you and your FH is the only opinion that matters.

  10. I'd say, start house shopping and if you find something before the wedding and you need to move in together then do it. Tell your family and church that you left the house search up to God and this house and this situation is clearly what he/she wanted for you or he/she wouldn't have led you to it at this time.

    Who are they to say what is God's will?

    I also don't think living together before marriage is mandatory if you've been dating for a long time. I do think that counseling should be, though you'd probably have a lot more to talk about with the counselor if you were living together.

  11. You've managed to avoid living together for 6 years--that's HUGE, considering most of us move in within the first few to help with the rent and because you honestly want to be together every night (that's what we did).

    Since you've gone this long AND he's about to propose, why not just wait until the wedding night to start living together??? This is coming from a non-religious person who lives with her fiance (and loves it). It seems like there could be a lot of romance in waiting....Maybe it is just me fantasizing about the other side, but it seems really special and exciting that way.

    Whether it is before the marriage or not, we all learn at some point that our guy enjoys leaving his socks wherever they may fall, but this should not make or break a marriage.

  12. Honestly? Change churches.

    When my parents met, my father was Catholic and my mother, Southern Baptist. My mother was previously divorced so the Catholic church wouldn't let her join. And the Southern Baptists wouldn't accept my daddy because he was a Catholic. So what did they do? They said, "Fuck all y'all" and became Episcopalian. Not that that is right for you, because it's clearly a very personal and hard choice. But if they can't accept facts of life, maybe it's time to reevaluate why you're there. Also, living together is a very, very good idea.

    Good luck. xo

  13. If your reason for wanting to live together before you get married is to make sure it will work/smooth out the bumps before making a "life committment," maybe you should consider not BUYING a house. I would suspect that selling a house that you and your ex-boyfriend lived in together would be as traumatic than divorce for a lot of people and probably more difficult and expensive in many places. Also, the process of buying and fixing the house up to your liking is really stressful! Rent for a while and separate the stresses and challenges of living together for the first time and home ownership, whether you do it before or after you get married.

  14. Oh hey, are you me? Or at least a near-copy of me?

    I agree with everyone else advising you to go with your gut and do what feels right for the two of you, and figuring out how to compromise from there.

    If your gut tells you that it feels right to live together during engagement, then do that. Will your house have more than one bedroom? Set one up for each of you, show his parents the separate bedrooms, have them proudly insist to your church community that you're still living in a Godly way while making smart, practical choices.

    If your guts tells you that being ousted from your religious community and being subject to scorn isn't worth it, then don't move in together. To allay your mom's fears, do extensive ore-marital counseling. Go shopping with her to buy one of those "X# Questions To Ask Before You Wed" books. Assure her you're doing everything in your power to really, deeply know each other inside and that you're talking about the harsh practicalities of living together, even if you're not living it.

  15. This is your life and your potential marriage. You need to do what you think you need in order to ensure happiness in your life, and success in your marriage. At the end of the day, you can shut the door on everyone else's opinion. Especially if you own that door.

    Living together might not seem like a very big leap after dating for 6 years, but I think it's an extremely valuable experience to have. My husband and I lived together for several years before getting married and I learned a lot through that experience. We both learned how to be better partners for the other; plus, when it came time to get married, it was lovely to already have a cozy home with good memories and lessons in it.

  16. Talk it over with your hubs to be and figure out what is best for the two of you. Forget what anyone has to say. You guys are getting ready start your own little family unit, you're going to have to get used to this kind of stuff.

    And, yeah. I would say find a new church if it disowns a couple for living together once getting engaged under these circumstances. For disowning pretty much anybody EVER. I vaguely remember that being the opposite message of the New Testament.

  17. We dated for almost 5 years and have now been married for 3. We didn't live together beforehand, mostly for religious reasons and our parents' sakes.

    We didn't have any big surprises once we were married and moved in together. We were relishing in the fact that we got to wake up and drink coffee together on the couch. There were a few small learning curves, but nothing that would have made a difference knowing beforehand.

  18. OK, so here is the most important thing I have ever learned about life and people's opinions (and by the way if you ever choose to have kids you need to remember this extra specially hard). The fact is that everyone has an opinion, but at the end of the day when you choose to take action, it is you that becomes responsible for that action.

    So if you live together and it turns out to be the wrong decision for you, it won't be your mom's fault, or esb's, it'll be yours. The same for if you don't move in and it's the wrong thing, it'll be you that has to take the flak at the end of the day. And the way I look at it, if I'm going to fuck up I want it to be MY fault. So when people give me advice I listen, and I smile, and I take it into account, then I do my own damn thing.

  19. Here's a loophole for ya: we're Catholic and shacking-up pre-wedding, and we were told by our church that it's A-OK to live together as long as neither of us has never lived with another "spouse" before (married or dating). We chose to feel good about obeying that one and just sort of gloss over the no-premarital-coitus thing. Don't let the bastards get you down.

  20. I'm not religious so I won't even weigh in on that - I really believe in each to their own so far as that goes. But I will point out that buying a house with someone is a really big commitment too.

  21. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to buy a house while in the throes of wedding planning. Sure, take two of the most financially huge, emotional, and stressful life events and do them AT THE SAME TIME.

    What's your rush? Just rent for a little longer, and separate the house from the question of living together.

  22. My husband and I chose to wait to move in and have sex until we got married due to our religious beliefs. The opposite would not have got us kicked out of church but would have gone against the beliefs we espouse as Christians.

    For us getting used to each others quirks once we moved in was easier in our state of newly wedded bliss. All those wonderful things that other posters said about getting to know their partner whilst living together we're also doing that but after we've made a public commitment to each other.

    I hope your church has an awesome pre-marital counseling course and if not I highly recommend finding a private course.

  23. I would say you wouldn't need a pre-marital course if you've already lived together for years and seen each other through the best and worst times. a course is just trying to feign a more intimate reality than hasn't yet been established. just sayin.

  24. I agree with house-hunting being a whole lot more stressful when added to wedding planning. Yikes.

    That said, being a secular Catholic myself (or "guilt without the Catholic"), there is no substitute for living with someone. Some people can manage getting married without living together first. They have to really believe in it.

    It doesn't guarantee anything, but based on my experience it's essential before you attempt a marriage.

  25. Eh. I've lived with two people, including current spouse. I'm on the fence about premarital cohabitation. I don't see anything morally wrong with it (obviously), but as some other commenters have noted - you've been together for 6 years. I think you're OK no matter what you decide. With me, if I HADN'T lived with my ex, I think I actually would have broken up with him a lot sooner than I had, and I just thank my lucky stars that I finally had the presence of mind to realize our relationship wasn't working before inertia moved us to the altar.

    How does your FH feel about cohabitation? Obviously we know how your mom and his parents feel about it, and we know you are cool with it (or you wouldn't be considering it, I HOPE?), but how does HE feel about it? This is a big thing - don't force him into something like that just because your mom or esb or anyone else things you should do it.

    I do, however, agree about the house-hunting. Though, a simpler fix (if you choose not to cohabitate, that is) is to have one of you extend your lease - preferably the one who has cheaper rent. Given the circumstances, most landlords will be flexible if you've been a good tenant and you're honest and up-front about the timeline.