Note: This is a repost from a previous blog. I just thought of sharing this again because of the conversation I overheard on my commute home today.
“We’re living together, Greg and I and we have a wonderful home and family” she says.
“I see. That sounds great! So where’s your ring?” I say in reply.
“Soon.” Then she looks the other way and changes the subject.
What’s wrong with living together or cohabiting before getting married? You’re going to end up with that person anyway, right? What’s the fuss about getting a license, signing contracts, and preparing for an expensive ceremony? Isn’t it more practical to live together (cohabit) first because that way you get to know the person more before tying the knot?
Like what my former college professor once said, people seem to “lose sight of the big picture” (Fr. Dacanay, SJ) in their understanding of marriage. Probably to most, marriage is a license to legally and culturally have sex with their partners. For others, it’s a last resort to save the face and name of a family. At the same time, there are others who see marriage as a part of life, an eventuality; not a deliberate choice.
These are rather shallow understandings of marriage (or matrimony to be more specific) and is probably what pushes some people to undergo a “trial marriage” in the form of cohabitation or living-in together. In their defense, most would reason out that cohabitation lessens the likelihood of divorce or annulment because that way it gives the couple the chance get to know each other beyond the simple girlfriend-boyfriend relationship before making the real and scary commitment that is marriage. However, haven’t they realized that they seem to be heading for a brick wall with that kind of thinking?
The Paper Marriage
First of all, isn’t marriage a deliberate and well-informed choice? I mean, you don’t marry because your friends are getting married already. Isn’t that you marry because you want to have a lifelong union with a person whom you swear to love and to cherish in front of other people? Is marriage simply an excuse to have sex? Isn’t it that the relationship formed in marriage should weigh more than the 15-20-minute work out in bed? Isn’t sex is an expression of a total and life-long commitment to just one body, one mind, one person?
So in the end, is marriage simply a bunch of legal documents that grant you full access to intimate activities?
Intimacies: what’s the rush?
Interestingly, in relation to the intimate activities, there are others that argue: “why wait for marriage if you’re sure you’re going to end with this person anyway?” But maybe a better question here is: “if you’re so sure about the person, why rush it?” Come on, you don’t get married to “get things over with.” Isn’t marriage a public proclamation that in sickness and in health, for richer and for poorer, you’ll only hold one hand, kiss one pair of lips, and safekeep on heart? Haven’t they realized that there is value in waiting? In fact, isn’t there greater fulfillment when you practice patience, hat in spite of the many opportunities for you to get it over and done with, you resisted, your persisted, you endured? Isn’t that a real test of character that you are able to suspend your needs for the sake of others?
The Trial Marriage
Probably the most common argument about cohabitation is what we call “the trial marriage”. This argument comes from the exaggerated portrayal of the increasing number of failed marriages happening around. Because of this, people are cautioned to choose their partners well, where others would even go as far as trying out a marriage-like relationship in “order to see and get to know their supposed-to-be spouse even more“ they would argue. “It’s when you live together that you get to see the other side of the person. And it’s during that moment when you can decide if you are willing to live with that person or not.” Others would even say, “you can’t guarantee that he/she will not hurt you. So you might as well be safe and weigh your options.”
I understand their reluctance, but doesn’t that mean you are not totally honest with each other to begin with, that from the beginning you were not willing to show your dark side, your honest form? Next, I understand that there is so much doubt getting into the lifelong relationship, of whether it’s going to work out or not. But isn’t it that the missing links are what makes marriage meaningful? That even if you don’t know you’re going to run smoothly with each other that you still take the leap and promise only one thing: that you will remain together through thick and thin? Isn’t it that marriage is a BIG leap and not just another one of the relationships where we can leave anytime it’s convenient?
Marriage is a sign of maturity. If there’s just so much doubt going through your mind, I don’t think you’re ready to get married. Marriage doesn’t have to be as clear as day. It just needs the reassurance that we are with someone who will not only love you at your best, but love you at your worst as well and you do the same.
Lastly, this is why marriage is called a commitment because whatever you have said you will set out to do, you are expected to follow through. Isn’t that harsh? What if things don’t go your way? Why, do things have to go your way all the time? Didn’t you take that into consideration before you tied the knot, that things might go for the worse? It’s a risk. If you can’t take the risk, then don’t get married.
Contrary to common belief, cohabitation actually encourages divorce because it lacks that one key very important ingredient in relationships, trust. You’re leaving an escape hatch if things go wrong in the relationship when you do trial marriage. The trial marriage only proves that you are NOT ready to marry. So don’t bother if you’re not all in. Because you’re only going to waste the other person’s time because you’re not all-in.
This is the bigger picture that most people leave out (especially the ones who I was privileged to stand next to on my way home awhile ago). And it’s such a pity that not a lot of people are made aware of their own thinking and biases. No wonder people make the same mistakes over and over. Hopefully this post provided a new perspective in trial marriage, or should I say, trial commitment.
But you don’t have to take my word for it. If you still believe differently from what I said. It’s okay. Because at the end of the day, our lives boil down into one question, “Do you still like the kind of person you’re becoming?” If the path you chose allows you to concretely answer that question, then good for you. If not, then there must be something missing in your life.
Photo is Courtesy of: http://issuesofhumandevelopment.blogspot.com/2010/07/cohabiting-adults.html