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Sunday, November 4, 2007

Move in or Move on

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.

24 comments:

Fantasia said...

Wow wow wow, Marwa. What a girl you are! You got real guts, dear. That is like stepping over a landmine. Ummm.. I really wish you don't receive any dirty comments on that one, cause this is an idea which is worthy of discussion.
Something is going wrong with our marriages. It is as clear as the sun. Successful marriages are not only few, they are RARE. And by success I don't mean those who didn't end up in divorce. I mean those who continue their marriage out of pure free will.. each one desiring to spend the rest of his life with the other.
What you are suggesting should be seriously considered. Nobody is forced to do this, but at least let's think about ways to reduce the surprise element after marriage.
Couples who live together don't have to share the same room. Even in the US or Europe, many couples choose to have seperate bedrooms. It's all about experiencing what it is like to share your life with someone else.
The main obstacle, however, which will face those who are willing to take this to the test, is that they can easily find the poilce breaking at any moment. You won't expect neighbours to be understanding or mind their own business. And our law doesn't know the difference between sharing a place and illegal sex.
I believe that we should work around the concept, and find a way by which couples can have a clear idea about what their married life would be like. My mind is completely blank at the moment. Honestly, I myself refuse the idea of living with a stranger. On the other hand, I can't go ahead and marry a stranger. That's a tough one.. a riddle.

NileGirl said...

What an interesting bunch of thoughts. I've thought about the advantage of living together prior to marriage a lot myself. Mainly because had I lived with my husband before getting married I never EVER would have married him and would have saved myself 6 yrs of unhappiness and a divorce. No matter how close two people are and how many long years they've known each other, you still only get to know a very small percentage of the person. When you move in with someone it's like getting to know them all over again from scratch. Plus it really tests how much you love/care about a person.

Oh and from my experience don't move in with him! You're better off with your cats... :)

He & She said...

Tab3an great as usual. Your core thinking and looking at life matters is so real and pratical. However, the deeply rooted cultural barriers ( virginity, he will get bored of me, he takes what he wants, I lost my newness to him...etc) stop the girl from going to the marriage lab and see if the chemistry match. Marwa, I believe it is not about the decision of living a premarital shared life, nor what each one will be assigned to do, nor putting an agreement together. It is all about You and Me. Each's attitude. Each's personality traits. Some couple clicks without a need for any arrangement and other couples fail despite staying a month exploring the challenges and putting aggreement and compromises. If I were to live with a girl friend a premarital phase I won't discuss with her or put with her a set of rules and regulations. I would just observe her,If in many things she does I say to myself" If I were here I would do the same" and in many things she says I say to myself" Ya, That is exactly what I would say if I were in her situation" Then and only then Me and her are potential cadidates for shared life without legal commitment. At least I am sure that I won't need to make many compromises. There are many wonderful girls that I met and when I put them under observation I said " Oh no. No way. You can't be the person that I stay with the rest of my life. You will make my life miserable"

Mo'men said...

That's a bold view you're expressing here, Test driving "The" concept is very messy in terms that the other partner will never cope with the idea that he/she is a lab rat, a sample under a microscope... If you laugh out loud during a TV commercial, you're silly, if you fart unexpectedly, you're disgusting, If you leave wet towels on the bathroom floor, that's it... thanks you for participating, better luck next time.

It's like the job interview, I'm deeply offended by the notion that an interviewer will gut me inside out and judge my potentials over some clich� and unrepresentative questions. I feel Marwa (you being a � Pee over my stuff � territorial person) that you will have more than financial, household and social responsibilities checklist to mark, another one exists; having titles like "uses a costar" and "doesn't make a sound when he/she sips tea" .. Etc, which is equivalently decisive in his/her recruitment as a potential partner.

Grrr .. look at me... You got me talking like a recruiter

Marwa Rakha said...

Hello Fantasia ... the same riddle that is confusing you is confusing me ... I still have no solution. I do not care much for society or neighbors but I still do not think that there is someone worthy of such a big step.

Marwa Rakha said...

LOL Nile Girl .... yeah nothing can go wrong with my cats:)

Again living with someone is no guarantee that you will live happily ever after ... but at least you get to really know who you are signing your life off to.

Marwa Rakha said...

HE&SHE ... LOL @putting the girl under observation:)

It is more of what they bring out of you and what you bring out of them:)

Marwa Rakha said...

Yes I am picky ya Mo'men:) very picky but when I am in love I am more tolerant and sort of human:)

As I wrote in the post ... I am not test driving the partner ... I am test driving the experience of living with this partner:)

Plus I am not an exact angel ... I would safely assume that living with ME can be quite stressful:)

He & She said...

Well, we observe and check others out all the time. When you get into a bus don't you look and the passengers before you choose your seat?. When you go into a restaurent don't you check people on other tables before you chose a table to sit. I said OBSERVE because I am choosing a partner not a passenger in a bus

Marwa Rakha said...

I wonder how Mo'men will feel about your analogy:) He thought I was picky and harsh:)

Pink Unicorn said...

Well reading the comments I see that mine will be the only protesting opinion.
I understand your worries of the consequences of marrying someone .. we’re all there.
Any rational person who is about to make such a life-determining decision will naturally use tons of pain killer bills to shut the ghosts screaming in their heads up.

But I definitely don’t agree with you on living together as a solution. You expressed the PROs very well so let me remind you of the CONs :
On top of all you will be committing a great sin, so I guess I wouldn’t look down at our society for refusing people to do it. Actually this is one of the rare points where I don’t see social traditions stupid.
And away from that, it was also a proven fact that those sayings old people repeat such as : “ he will get bored and leave you “ and “ why would he buy the cow when he can get the milk for free “ – I don’t mean that women are in anyway cows of course -
But those sayings do really express the male mentality, as I’m sure you know … we must’ve heard a million stories on the topic.

Plus, if you look at foreign countries where moving in together is a normal premarital step, you’ll find that in most cases it doesn’t lead to marriage .. they normally breakup. And in most cases the girl is eager to take the relationship to the next level and make it permanent , have babies and make a family and the guy is simply not willing to … I think such a risk wouldn’t be welcomed by any girl, to end up feeling used and dumped.

In my opinion; marriage shouldn’t in anyway be taken lightly, be very careful when you choose .. get a reasonably long engagement period for as long as it takes for you to be sure you made the right choice, then if everything seemed to be fine get married .. sure the chance of failing and divorce still stands but when did it ever not threat every step we take and every decision we make in our lives.

Couples do discover some annoying facts about each other when they start the actual 24/7 living together but I believe being cautious, perceptive, and smart – as I’m sure you are – in the pre-deciding and premarital periods will minimize the risk of getting “ shocked “ by the other person after marriage. And the little margin of disappointment that you may still encounter can be easily bypassed by love and understanding and the ever-blessed Compromise.

Wow .. that was a really long comment .. hope I wasn’t boring.

Marwa Rakha said...

Welcome to my blog Pink Unicorn:) I am glad that your first comment is as long and as rich ...

If you choose religion as a way of life, then yes ... the whole idea of living with someone is entirely out of the question.

I guess you do not like me now:)

Anyway ... I have not decided on anything yet ... I am not stuck on the whether it is a sin or not .. I am now stuck on whether I, as a person, can do it or not.

As for the traditional sayings and stories, I would not want to get married to a man because I danggled a carrot in front of him ... I want to love sharing life with him and I want him to need to share every moment with me ... only then I might give up my single vows.

He & She said...

Marwa. Women do not need to think of my analogy. It is a unilateral observation and she won't feel it. It was me who started to think of her. She might not even notice that I am there yet.
Pink Unicorn. If we get paranoid about our religion we won't be able to cope with the stresses of our changing reality. Unfortunately the religion does not change to teach us how to deal with that developing reality. You mentioned a long engagement. I agree but again we will face the same issue. drinking the milk before buying the cow, or maybe just paying a little deposit.

I just wonder why everytime Arab people talk about sex they talk only about the man's satisfaction but for the woman it is a sacrifice. That is not the case in the west. They fairly admit that they both enjoy it, maybe women are more after the emotional satisfaction not the mere physical part like the man, however she gets it

Ravine85 said...

Hey Marwa, interesting post as usual!
I never understood the idea of living together as a preparation for marriage. The only difference between the two is the lack of legal paperwork. The only advantage which the break-up of a live-in couple has over a divorce of a married couple is the lack of all the legal mumbo-jumbo. The heartbreak and the disappointment are there either way. But of course the first choice will spare you the consequence of being called a divorcee in a society which is not a very big fan of them.
Religion aside, I don't get the whole "test-drive" theory. If you could test-drive all your serious decisions in life, life would be a piece of cake.

FidoDido said...

nice post ya marwa and about society look i think this look will never change but do u really need someone with you i think this is the question because i think u face society in many cases . so my question do u need some one to be with u every min ?if yes i think that all your fears will disappear.
p.s sorry for late of commenting on your post but i'm traveling now and can not access to internet regularly :(

R. Elgayar said...

Marwa,
I would definately do a test drive. If 2 people are religious, then this wont be for them, and I can respect that. But for the rest of us, why not? The religious people have to respect other adults decisions also. I would want to make sure this guy is compatible to live with and the sex is good and no weird habits. I would want to know we had a good fit so to speak:) Both the man and the woman deserve to know this and avoid potential legal problems. This is just my whacky far out opinion. Now whether this can happen in Egypt????? I wish it could without giving everyone a heart attack. I see way more pressing issues over there to be worrying about besides two adults cohabitating together.

Marwa Rakha said...

Hey Ravine:) I have missed you:)

Yep you are right; "The only difference between the two is the lack of legal paperwork. The only advantage which the break-up of a live-in couple has over a divorce of a married couple is the lack of all the legal mumbo-jumbo. The heartbreak and the disappointment are there either way."

The test drive theory is based on the the testing the water before you jump theory. A lot of failed marriages could have been stopped had the couple "tested the water"

I know at least 5 people who wanted a divorce after the fist 2 months and I know about 4 people who got a divorce after a year. And I know many people who are married now with kids and who wish they never jumped.

I test drive, when and wherever possible:)

Marwa Rakha said...

It's ok Fido Dido .. have fun and enjoy your trip:)

The way society looks at things will change when people begin to change. It took time for people to accept women working and 15 years ago a girl who lost her virginity was doomed. It is a matter of time and there are always leaders and followers:)

I am not sure I have an answer yet to this question:)

Marwa Rakha said...

Hey R:)

Yours is th emost honest and down to earth opinion:)

"I would want to make sure this guy is compatible to live with and the sex is good and no weird habits. I would want to know we had a good fit so to speak:)"

It is already happening in Egypt but it is kept in the closet. Some people do it and lie to the neighbors. Others do it once they are living outside Egypt.

Anonymous said...

a7la 7aga ennek shelty soortek men elblog beta3tek... de kanet 3amlah zay ommena el3'oola.... kanet bet7'odena kol mabned7'ol 3ala elblog....

R. Elgayar said...

Yes Marwa, I am a very down to earth type of girl:) My daughter is moving to Cairo in Jan. to live with her legal by the USA, spouse "F" I'll call him. They will be married here in Dec in USA court. Now being the good Coptic man my future son-inlaw is,he assured me when they are in his apt. in Cairo they will live like "brother and sister" until we have the church ceremony around Feb. I told "F" I know he is stepping out on a limb here in Misr to live with my daughter before the official coptic ceremony, but I told him "habibi to me you are married and I hope behind closed doors you wont treat her like your sister, coz that wouldnt be any fun for my daughter". But it is so funny to see my husband's family scramble to hurry up and get this ceremony schdeuled as soon as possible so my daughter and "F"'s reputations wont be on the line living so wildly together. And "F" tells me "R, I would never find a mother-inlaw like you in all of misr" hahahaha. I said "shurkan gazelan F. You and my daughter enjoy life and each other and stop worrying about everyone's hangups. If you constantly try to please everyone is this society you will have missed out on so many good times together in order just to look "decent" to a bunch of hypocrites."

Marwa Rakha said...

yes anonymous .. ana 2olt keda bardo

Marwa Rakha said...

You know what R, I hope F is not the typical Egyptian guy or your daughter will really suffer. I hope he finds the balance between the Egyptian social pretences and what he really enjoys at heart.

Miss Egyptiana "Trapped Soul" said...

i agree that the concept of marriage has been ruined, and turned from living happily ever after into a nightmare

why is that!!
-lack of communication
-unrealistic expectations
-and sometimes bad intentions from one side (looking at marriage as a target not a mean to be with the one)

how to make it successful?
u said it all dear marwa: the two has to work on it side by side

marriage is all about share, acceptance, and compromise... if you cant gladly do that, so he is not the one ...

testing him before marriage is kinda odd idea, mostly it will end up with total failure!!! cause deep in your heart you will lose the natural feeling.. and start to observe every move, and criticize it... and end up by hunting for negative things, instead of positive one

u know dear what is the secret of success in anything in life ? magnify positive and strength points ... and contract negative and weak points

only then life will go on :)

my warmest regards in those cold days, and wish you peace ... congratulations for your lovely appt. ya rab tetem 3ala 7'er, we yefara7ek beha dayman :)