Shacking Up: It’s Not So Bad

Featured, Love & Relationships

The idea of  ”shacking” – which means to live together before getting married – was on the same level as cursing out one’s mama in my household. It was not the thing to do. My parents’ reasoning? The old adage, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”  But in this day and age shacking has its place in modern society, but not without guidelines.

Once upon a time a relationship timeline looked like this:  Courting—>Engagement—>Marriage—>Cohabitation, and sex didn’t happen prior to the exchange of wedding vows. In those days a woman’s ability to withhold sex from a man not only was an illustration of her chastity, but worked like an extended foreplay that aroused the man to the point of proposal. Marriage at that time also held a higher position in society – women did not marry by choice typically, they simply were not chosen to be someone’s wife. In our current society, marriage is seen more as an option as couples make the decision to commit without the rings and paperwork, and sex can happen as soon as a man and woman meet. Also, with our society becoming desensitized to sex, neither men nor women care to wait as long as they once did.

However, these new changes in modern couples’ thinking has both its pros and cons. Divorce and infidelity rates in relationships have skyrocketed and the amount of singles still hoping to attract a mate over the age of 35 has grown tremendously. With that said, one wonders where would shacking have its place in the midst of all this?

If arranged appropriately, the new millennium relationship timeline could look like this: Courting—>Engagement—>Cohabitation—>Marriage, with sex occurring when the couple decides they’re ready. Why does this arrangement work? Because couples can’t know everything about one another without living together, and shacking is a great way to see what you’re signing up for. During a courtship, both parties are on their best behavior, and are not always showcasing who they really are. Let’s face it: if you’re having company over to your place, you are going to show everything at its very best. But what happens when you’re in a bad or lazy mood? Also, you can’t know what expectations your mate will have of you until you’ve established a living routine with them. For example, your man might want a hot meal every night but you only cook occasionally. You might like to walk around the house naked most of the time. One of you could be an insomniac that doesn’t go to bed until the middle of the night. You all won’t discover these idiosyncrasies until after you’ve moved in with one another.

Shacking is a good way for a couple to gauge whether or not they can live together long-term, but not without setting some guidelines. Couples need to know where the relationship is going, and not use living together as an opportunity to “see” where things are going in the relationship. The latter can create a situation of mutual dependancy, but no progression within the relationship. Years will pass and the couple is still in the same place they were when they moved in together. Best case scenario? Move in together after the engagement and wedding plans are brewing. Get some time in living together before you make any deposits on wedding-related items. Know what you’re signing up for just in case you need to graciously pull out.

On the flip, many couples dive right into marriage and two years later are signing divorce papers. Had they given themselves a chance to see if they could live together prior to marriage, they could have saved a lot of time, money, and hurt feelings. Now shacking does NOT guarantee a perfect relationship or a perfect marriage because the unexpected happens – but for a couple with a solid foundation and a clear understanding of their committment, shacking up could be one step that leads in the direction of longevity in love.

2 Comments on "Shacking Up: It’s Not So Bad"

  1. John Curtis Nov 27, 2010 · 1:36 pm

    Marriage Increases Divorce Risk!

    Regardless of one’s position on living together, perhaps, before or instead of marriage, the fact is the America has become a cohabitation nation. Years of condemnation and negative research studies have had no effect on slowly the rate of cohabitation since most couples reject the guilt-laden, fear-mongering attempts to discourage their living arrangement.

    Instead, most cohabiters fear a failed marriage even more than the criticism, so opt to live together despite the odds. Now over 60% of all couples who marry will cohabit first and while the rate of marriage continues to decline, the rate of cohabitation will skyrocket since 75% of high school students believe living together is worthwhile and harmless.

    Additionally, many of the latest blogs and newspaper stories critical of cohabiting are either using old research, in some cases going back years or the researchers are being quoted, out of context, to substantiate the reporter’s personal bias. Regardless of the results from the studies on cohabitation, please show me one couple who falls in love, decides to cohabit but as a result of a study on the downside of cohabiting, cancel their plans. Furthermore, if you consider the decades long trend… did you know that getting married increases the possibility of getting divorced to nearly 50%. However, when was the latest time you talked to someone who was planning a wedding but called it off due to the often-quoted, well known 50% failure rate of marriage?

    Like it or not, for many, Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie are the new family role model and cohabitation has become a viable institution for over 12 million Americans. Furthermore, if you base your anti-cohabitation opinion on concerns about children and family stability… here’s an interesting little known fact. A child born to a cohabiting couple in Sweden is more likely to grow to adulthood in the same stable home with the same unmarried parents than a child born to a married couple in America.

    Cohabitation does not destabilize marriages or families… people who do not understand commitment do. The goal needs to be teaching the meaning of commitment and walking down the aisle does NOT mean commitment. Another recent study found that among newlyweds… the ones who DID walk down the aisle, 1 in 4 men and 1 in 5 women had an affair within two years of the wedding. Obviously, for millions of newlyweds, the wedding did not increase their commitment.

    The point here is that while many promote marriage as the “gold standard” for what ails American families, keep in mind that ANYONE of legal age can marry. On the other hand, I think we need to be putting more of an emphasis on building COMMITTED relationships which is something that requires lots of hard work and emotional maturity and can happen WITHOUT marriage, as evidenced by the Swedes.

    Yes, let’s keep pushing for changes that range from city initiatives by the clergy to educate couples before marrying, to changes in tax laws or to elimination of no-fault divorce. At the same time, let’s work to develop a productive response to the millions of cohabiting couples who are far too often judged, condemned and ignored by society.

    I think we must “re-invent” and raise our expectations of cohabitation, and our attitudes toward those who decide to live together. There is a commonly held myth that marriage means you will “live happily ever-after.” However, there is no similar assumption of cohabitation other than “it won’t last” which helps create a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    It’s time to take a serious and non-judgmental look at cohabitating couples of all ages and help them strengthen and sustain their relationship whether they ever plan to marry. Let’s consider finding a new approach to this reality.

  2. MrObinna Dec 16, 2010 · 12:01 pm

    John, I agree with you. I can speak from experience that cohabiting before marriage doesn’t necessarily make for a doomed marriage. My wife and I have been together since ’98 and I can honestly say that it has been a smooth road, but we got through EVERYTHING life through our way. We moved in together shortly after we found out she was pregnant with our first child. We didn’t get married until 6 years later.

    The divorce rate is scary and it’s disappointing that most don’t value marriage like they once did. For most it’s a status thing that they want to flaunt for friends and family, others do it because they feel “We’ve been together this long, we might as well”.

    I was talking to my teenage brother in-law a couple of moths ago and told him my parents have been married for 34 years and his response was “Damn! How could your Dad stay with one woman for that long”. Commitment and monogamy is almost a thing of the past these days. The numbers tossed around above are staggering, and believe it or not I thought it was worse.

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