Testing the Waters: The Importance of Premarital Cohabitation
It swings both ways, really.
I’ll see your hat on the table and I’ll feel such longing for you, even if you’re only in the other room [...] But then I’ll walk into the bathroom and find you’ve forgotten to put the cap back on the toothpaste again, and it will be the splinter that I just keep stepping on.
- David Levithan, The Lover’s Dictionary
“One day I woke up knowing that he’s not the one I want to share a home with.”
Imagine that quote coming from someone who has moved in with her boyfriend for some time, and then just realized that things don’t click. What happens in the aftermath? They break up, they go their separate ways, their hearts are broken, but no real lasting damage is done.
Now, imagine that quote coming from a new married couple who have just spent their first month living together. Chemistry quickly drains from the relationship. The couple will exchange hostilities after the wife finds a pair of socks on the coffee table, and they end up sleeping in two different rooms. So, there you get another Kim Kardashian story, except that the couple can’t really file a divorce because their conservative Indonesian parents won’t ever allow it. Imagine that you are trapped in a sadomasochistic relationship with no way out.
Indonesians in general are heavily opposed to the idea of premarital cohabitation (or premarital anything, really, but that’s another story). They feel that it encourages premarital sex, it “violates the sanctity of married cohabitation,” and it is generally just the worst thing of all time.
But then, think about it. If you went to university outside your home town and rented a room, chances are that you had to put up living with non-family members: fellow students, other non-related renters, and perhaps even the landlord. In this situation, you were probably not emotionally invested in your housemates. Even so, you likely found things about them that drove you completely bananas. With a relationship, it’s like that, but much, much worse.
Here’s the problem. The dynamics of your relationship completely change once you start living together. You see parts of your partner that he or she has never shown before, or has tried to suppress when you were not seeing each other full time. Now you have to deal with the daily mood swings that you never saw during dates. You have to come to terms with the fact that your partner’s attention level will fluctuate throughout the week, or even the day. Your partner stops being constantly “nice” or attentive to you as opposed to when he or she purposefully make the point to do so during date nights.
Although some couples are able to settle such “conflicts” peacefully, a lot of people do end up feeling deserted, thinking that their partners stop being romantic, don’t care as much, or start being plain boring. The thing is that, without trial, you never know how well your partner will respond to a compromise.
That is probably why my Indonesian friends who have tried living independently (typically abroad) are always on the same page with me about the importance of moving in with our “serious” partners.
“Darling, even when you’re getting yourself a car, you always have to test-drive it. Now you’re telling me I can’t test-drive a husband candidate?” said a friend bluntly.
As if the earlier is not difficult enough to manage, you also have to deal with the notion of personal space and personal time, something that is never an issue for couples who don’t live together. Couples who date can find refuge in the privacy of their own homes and their own rooms; couples who cohabitate no longer have that option. It does take a while for someone to relax his or her personal space, or to adjust his or her daily routines to maintain this space.
I do agree that this concept is not for everyone. However, I still believe that everyone should keep an open mind about it. A number of people had tried to assure me that love will somehow conquer even the biggest differences. As much as I want to believe it, real life cases do speak louder.
Believe me, you don’t want to get married to someone and eventually fall out of love because you can’t work out your OCD with his nasty habits.
Anahita helps decipher the intricacy of relationships by keeping it real.