Thursday, March 21, 2013

Shacking Up

As a girl, I was always warned about guys, and why would they "buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?"  Fair enough, but on the other hand, wouldn't you test drive a car before buying it?  Shacking up is a great way to figure out whether in fact you are good roommates, and yet it is not a perfect indicator of success. 

I'll admit the first time around, I lived with my now ex-husband for 3 years before we married.  So what does that tell you right there?  We were able to co-exist just fine for over a decade, and yet it still didn't work out.  The second time around, with kids in the mix, there was no way I was house hunting or discussing any cohabitation arrangements without first getting engaged.  I wasn't opposed to having fun, and there was plenty of that, but without a ring, I simply was not going to get serious and explore future options.  This attitude certainly helped to clear out the commitment phobes that crossed paths with me, but of course it now leaves this big question unanswered: how will we manage living together?  With less than 3 months to go before the big wedding day, we are both taking a huge leap of faith, and all we can do is hope for the best.

The best way to summarize the difference in my attitude is to say that as a single person, my mistakes were mine alone to deal with, and since I like riding roller coasters, I knew it would all be okay.  The first time around, I let my heart lead me, and playing house together helped to calm me down and let me feel confident that we were a good fit, it just sadly didn't work out as a lifetime arrangement.  The second time around, I was not the only person to consider in the mix.  Little ones are more fragile, and some really hate roller coasters, so it simply wasn't going to be okay for me to let my heart lead me once again.  This time, I led the search for a life partner with my head, and I weighed the pros and cons of a family merger well before I ever got engaged. 

The last six months as an engaged couple have had tons of challenges, and planning the logistics of a wedding and our family merger have tried the best of us at times, but the fact that we've gotten through it all reassures me that we are a strong couple.  I also think that knowing that failure is not an option here, we are committed to working through the issues that arise-- what is the alternative?  We've both suffered enough from the tragic demise of our first marriages and never want to experience that again.  Hopefully those around us will support us in this goal, and if not, they need to step aside.

In the end, I think the choice to shack up is a very personal one, and it really depends on the situation.  I don't see much of the downside when you are single, except that the refrain is true-- why would anyone buy the cow when they can get the milk for free?  Perhaps having a time limit of how long you are willing to play house would be a wise thing to do, and always be prepared to walk away if things are horrible.  Plenty of people can be great lovers and yet terrible roommates.  If you happen to find that gem that fits both roles, then you should naturally want to move things forward in a timely manner-- however you choose to define that.  With kids, it is all a bit more complex, and there is where I really want to emphasize that you proceed with far greater caution, and try your best to do no harm.  As parents, we have this added duty to protect our young, and sometimes that means cooling your jets, not letting yourself get swept up in emotions, and playing the role of a model citizen who does what is right.

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