I know that “shacking up” has a somewhat negative connotation in certain cultures, particularly amongst African American women, but more young people are ignoring the stigma and moving in with their significant others nowadays. After four years of dating my then-boyfriend/now-fiancé, I “officially” became one of those people last summer.
MY “SHACKING UP” STORY
My fiancé and I started dating when we were twenty and twenty-one year olds in college. At that time, we both had our own apartments (with roommates) and we lived an hour apart from one another because we were attending universities in different cities. For most of the time that we were in college, I drove to his apartment every weekend and spent the weekends with him. So I lived at my apartment for five days out of the week and at his for two days. Different circumstances and deciding that we didn’t want roommates anymore led to him staying at my apartment for a few months and then me staying at his apartment for a few months, but we were never on a lease together and we never paid bills together until now.
We made the decision to move in together because we had been in a relationship for four years and at the time, we were both living with my parents. This past year was also the first time that we were both working steady jobs at the same time. Since we could afford it and wanted to be able to move freely in the space that we were living in (my parents had “rules”, of course), we decided to take steps towards moving in together.
WHY SHACKING UP MAKES SENSE
IT’S AFFORDABLE! When my fiancé and I first started dating, we were already living in apartments with our friends. Those were relatively inexpensive university apartments and the rent was being paid by our parents. So neither of us gave much thought to the idea of wasting money by not spending enough time at the apartment. Now that we are both making our own money, we put a lot more thought into how our money is spent. Even a one bedroom apartment could cost as much as $700-800. The idea of both of us spending $700 each month to really only be utilizing one apartment seemed ridiculous to us. That would be over $1400 a month especially once utility bills get factored into the equation. I’m willing to bet that money is the number one reason why couples make the decision to move in together.
WHY BUY THE COW…
There is this idea amongst women that if a man gets the opportunity to live with you before you are married, then he will never ask you to marry him. That is obviously not the case with every man because my fiancé proposed to me four months after we moved in together. That’s where that sexist “why buy the cow if you can get the milk for free” phrase comes into play. I took a Relational Communications class when I was in college and the research shows that people who have only lived with one significant other tend to marry that person. However, people who make a habit of living with different significant others are way less likely to marry. This sounds about right because all of the couples I know who have shacked up and later become engaged/married have only lived with the person that they got engaged/married to. I also know couples who have been together for over five years, do not live together and marriage isn’t even on their radar. So I completely understand the idea of a person not being motivated to get married because they feel like they are already receiving the benefits of marriage and I’m sure it has happened to many people, but getting engaged/married after living with your significant other has definitely happened too. Cohabitation is not a death sentence for relationships.