Living with someone before marriage makes sense to me. There’s only so much you can know about someone when you aren’t forced to share the same space.
Many of the questions cohabitation answers are practical ones, like, “Who will make sure we have milk?” “Will I have time to myself?” “Can we agree on a toothpaste?” Turns out my boyfriend and I can’t agree on a toothpaste and so we each have our own. These questions fall under what I call ‘The 3 Cs of Cohabitation’: Communication, Consideration, and Compromise.
Communication is the basis of all relationships. The most important and respectful thing you can do with your partner is talk it out. I always find those articles in women’s magazines about “How Do I Know He Likes Me?” and “What to Do When Your Guy Gets All ‘Quiet’” so ridiculous. You talk. That’s what you do.
Want to know if your significant other likes it when you _______(fill in the blank with literally anything)? Ask them. Realize you are too stressed out to make dinner? Ask for help. Think you need a career change but aren’t sure how to go about it? By creating an open dialogue, you don’t have to guess what your significant other is thinking, and you can be honest about where you are.
Cohabiting allows us to apply our ability to communicate in both mundane and extraordinary circumstances, by forcing us to deal with day-to-day life as well as the big picture.
Consideration is a little less cut-and-dried, and it requires communication to work. It’s a form of practical empathy and forethought.
If your partner texts you from work and tells you they’ve had a headache all day, allow them the space to rest when they get home. If you use the last of the ketchup, let your significant other know you added it to the shopping list.
One has to ask for consideration when needed as well. Let him/her know you hope to finish your book today, or want to spend the weekend visiting your brother so you two can catch up. Allowing your partner and yourself the space to pursue individual happinesses lets you come back together with more to share.
Compromise is the heart of cohabitation. It lives in the smallest and largest decisions you will have to make as a couple. Sometimes it’s pretty easy, like deciding you each have your own toothpaste. Financial decisions, by contrast, may require great compromise.
Let’s say you both want to live near work but you work at opposite ends of town. How do you decide? Will you help each other financially if one of you gets behind—and how will you divide the bills to begin with?
Another important factor in compromise is making sure you give-and-take without losing who you are. If you love playing video games but your person won’t allow you the space and time for your hobby, you are not compromising by always putting the game away. Yes, communicating will help you compromise, but what you are willing to give versus what you need is something you have to decide for yourself.
Here is where cohabitation can teach you something that living apart may not. How are we willing to bend, and can we survive the bending without breaking? This is the area I want to work on before marriage. I want a sense of that bend before I say, ‘I do’. I do not think you can get an understanding of this while keeping your living situations separated. Can you and your partner communicate when you are both angry and tired? Can you compromise in times of stress? Will you both be considerate of each other’s time and feelings? I think only by allowing these situations to happen organically can you find out how you each react—and the only way to do that is by throwing in together and seeing what you can (and are willing) to do.
This post reflects the views of the author, and is intended to start a conversation. Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
Or, if you’d like to hear some overall thoughts on cohabitation from Christians at THRED, you can find those over here.