Sitting on a stone couch on the terrace of my soon-to-be home, I grew wings and soared high in the horizon. I enjoyed the sunset as the scent of orange blossoms filled my heart with joy and birds sang their prayers to a new dusk. A sense of achievement flowed through my veins and a happy tear twinkled in my eyes as I embraced my future. My mobile rang. She was a friend. I answered. After a stream of courteous greetings, my friend asked about my whereabouts, and I informed her that I was checking the paint colors at my new apartment. I embarked on an infinite rant about the beauty of everything I laid my eyes on until she caught me off guard with a question: Will your boyfriend move in with you? I met her question with silence followed by a need to go do a thing!
I was not offended by her question; I was just baffled – needless to say clueless. First, I was not sure which boyfriend she was referring to. Who has she seen me with? Who have I told her about? Who has been in my life long enough to be a boyfriend? Who does she think I love enough to share a home with? I honestly could not pin a face to her question. The second and main source of my confusion is the fact that I have never given that particular issue any thought. It is true that I have been living alone for the past five years but I have never considered it “home”. It was as though I borrowed someone’s car; I have to keep it clean, keep it safe, treat it with respect, and return it on time in perfect shape.
Now I own a home and one day I will have a boyfriend who will make it past the first month. What if he makes it past the first six months? It is one thing to come and visit and it is a totally different thing to move in with me. Bearing in mind that I am a very territorial person – territorial enough to pee allover my desk so no one would dare sit on it – and bearing in mind that I value space and privacy beyond any man I have ever known. Will I be willing to share? Will I welcome his clothes in my wardrobe? Will I be able to see his toothbrush next to mine in the bathroom? Will he have a key? Will he really move in with me?
Other than my space issues, there is a lot of social baggage that comes with such a situation. Like virginity, abortion, homosexuality, extramarital affairs, cohabitation is another taboo in our society; for a couple to live together they have to be married. They get to really know and understand one another after they are legally bound to one another - another instance of burying our heads in the sand and sweeping our dust under the carpet. I believe that this is a major factor that is ruining all my marriage and commitment attempts. Between cultural variations, personal differences, and individual perks, I find the idea of cohabitation rather appealing and logical.
When two people come together, they are not just who they are today; they represent their respective homes, schools, friends, peers, and groups with their attitudes, habits, beliefs, and needs. This is a lot of ironing to do in a relationship. How a person eats, talks, or walks is just the tip of the iceberg. The way one communicates with, reacts to, and feels about things and people is a wide enough gap to bridge. Hence, many love stories crash after marriage because he was not who she thought he was or because she was not the girl she said she was.
The idea of sharing is in itself frightening; who is to do what? Assigning roles and responsibilities and trying to fulfill them over a long period of time is like the prologue to a marriage. Is he responsible? Is she reliable? Is he stingy? Is she a control freak? Is he too organized? Is she beyond sloppy? There is no other way to find out. Living with someone is not just about the sexual part of the relationship; it brings out the mental and emotional dimensions to the foreground and the day to day dealings are the real test of the success or the failure of the relationship.
Moving in together does not mean that one partner is hosting the other at his home – responsibility free. I am walking the whole nine yards here; electricity, water, gas, maintenance, food, and the rest of the bills. I am speaking about chores, tasks, duties, compromises, and adapting. How hard would it be for a man to move into my house and be reminded every second that this is “my house” and he is not entitled to anything? How hard would be for a woman – who is not me – to live with a man who treats her as a guest? How hard will it be to discuss the money issues and the other “embarrassing” issues? – I assure you it is much harder to talk about those things for the first time after the deal is sealed and signed.
I am also not claiming that jumping that hurdle is a guarantee that the relationship will last forever. People change and people grow in different directions; a couple could live together happily and get married, then after a year or two they could grow apart. Keeping a marriage intact is another story and it takes a lot of work on a different level; fighting redundancy and boredom that creep into the marriage requires two people who want to stay married and are willing to work to reap what they once sowed. In a way, it is much easier to reach the highest top than to stay on top.
I am not advocating brothels and turning one’s home into a full board motel; I am talking about a relationship that has grown and has developed into something solid and is worth investing in. At the same time, I am not promoting the notion of test driving the man; I am pushing the idea of test driving the marriage concept to that man. Having thought about it now, the “living together” phase is all good; if it works, then you will have a solid marriage with no nasty surprises because of how she looks when she wakes up or how he sounds when he goes to sleep. If it does not work, then you have saved yourself a rough marriage or an inevitable divorce.