Should you move in with your boyfriend? Not if you want to marry him.
Many women will dispute that statement. They’ll insist co-habitation is a way to test the waters. They’ll insist the decision is as much theirs as their boyfriend’s. They’ll claim the commitment is so strong that they don’t need a piece of paper to affirm it. Finally, they’ll say that ultimatums are a bad way to get a man to commit.
If you want to live with a guy because YOU don’t want a formal commitment, go for it. You’re already in a position of strength because you don’t secretly yearn for something he won’t give you. On the other hand, if you hope living together will convince him to marry you, forget it. Sure, it happens sometimes, but, by then, the excitement of a new level in the relationship — marriage — has been eroded by domestic bickering and at least some disillusionment.
I’m no scientist, and I’m not going to throw statistics at you to support my argument — we’ve all heard that pre-marital co-habitants have higher divorce rates. Instead, I’ll ask you to honestly reflect on your own experiences. Do you know someone who for years lived with a guy “who just wasn’t ready”, only to watch them break up, then the guy marry someone new after a few months? Do you know a woman riddled with anxiety and resentment because her live-in boyfriend hasn’t popped the question? Every holiday she hopes for a ring, only to receive gift cards, earrings or necklaces?
Here’s where the ultimatum comes in. It’s not for him — it’s for you. If a reasonable time has passed, and you’re ready for marriage, you owe it to yourself to find out if he’s thinking the same. If not, you’re wasting your precious time. You think ultimatums are bad? It used to be society that issued ultimatums. A woman’s father would insist on knowing a young man’s “intentions” toward his daughter. Now, many of us don’t have fathers in the picture and, even if we do, we want to take of ourselves. Problem is, we often don’t take care of ourselves.
The other day, I was working out with my female trainer. She’s thirty-ish, never married, and grappling with her boyfriend’s request that she move in with him. She’s dated him on and off for years, and is ready to marry him. He’s around her age and never married, though he’s fathered a child (not with her). I advised her not to move in. I said it was ultimatum time. A young man working out near us agreed. “I’m all about the ultimatum,” he said, “and I’m getting married in a couple of months. Couldn’t be happier.”
Here’s how the ultimatum works: you decide at what point you need an engagement. You resolve to sever ties if you don’t get it. You don’t do this to punish him. You do it because you want a relationship in which you are loved as much as you love. Everyone deserves a relationship in which love is equally shared. You have to have the guts to walk away from the guy. For good. He may come after you; he may not, but it’s best to know where you stand.
Okay, so what does this have to do with living together? When you live apart, you retain some mystique, some detachment. You retain allure if he doesn’t know every detail of your beauty, diet, and bathroom regimen. You ARE apart and so you are in a stronger position — within your own psyche — to BE apart if he proves less committed than you. Marriages go through ups and downs, and that legal commitment can cause people to weather the rough times, and often grow stronger as a result. When you live together, you experience all the humdrum aspects of marriage without the mutual obligation. How many live-in couples do you know who are already bored with each other? Maybe it’s because they’re not facing in the same direction as they consider the future. Shared aspirations, interests and goals — a commitment to a shared future — keep a marriage strong.
An ultimatum forces the man to turn off the autopilot and focus — really focus — on your relationship. Is it what he wants? Yes? So now he knows. Does he think something better might be around the corner? Yes? So now YOU know.
If you’re reading this and making excuses for him, go back and watch the movie HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU. Because he’s not.
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