Friends, co-workers, and random people I’d just met expressed shock upon learning that my fiance and I weren’t living together. They seemed unable to believe I knew Dan well enough to commit to marriage without having first co-habitated. They would've been no less horrified had I told them our marriage was arranged.
But here’s the thing: I didn’t care what anyone else thought. Seven years and two kids later, I don’t regret our decision to wait to live together.
I was well aware of my husband’s strange habits by the time we got married. I’m not saying I liked them. I’m just saying I was prepared.
I knew what his breathing sounded like when he slept (loud), how often he cleaned his bathroom (never), and how often he vacuumed (twice, ever). I knew that he had a Rubbermaid bin full of worms in his bedroom (Google "vermicompost" – it’s a thing). And I knew that until I nudged him to purchase a dresser and a hamper, his clothes were “sorted” on his floor into two piles – dirty and clean.
Love is beautiful. Love is amazing. But eventually real life intrudes and shit gets hard. This is the reality of two people sharing one life.
Life is messy – there are conflicting schedules, in-laws, values, and desires that inevitably rub the rosy sheen off even the hottest of romances. Why add household chores, bills, home repairs, and snow removal to the Very Long List of Things That Interfere With Romance?
I can’t help but wonder if our decision to wait to live together prolonged the honeymoon phase. For the first two years of our relationship, I never once scraped snow off of my own car on a dark, freezing morning.
When my husband and I got engaged, I immediately found an apartment within walking distance of his condo. The oven was practically doll-sized. The closet doors constantly fell off their tracks. The parking lot was riddled with potholes. The neighborhood was sketchy. I wasn’t living in the lap of luxury, but I was saving money for the down-payment on our house, and I was thrilled.
I relished in the fact that this was my last single-girl apartment. I hung my vintage bicycle art exactly where I wanted. Cosmetics and lotions crammed every bathroom shelf and drawer. No matter how rarely I slept there, I knew my apartment was waiting for me, in all its shabby chic glory. Dan and I have the rest of our lives to sleep in the same place, hopefully. But we’ll never have another chance to make the choice to be together on a daily basis. I'm so happy we took the opportunity when we had it.
A couple of months before he proposed, Dan told me he didn’t know where he saw the relationship going. I was devastated. Eventually, he came to his senses and asked me to marry him but, in the meantime, it was crucial for me to have some distance from him – both emotionally and physically.
I made the decision not to give him an ultimatum, but to instead be patient. It was stressful enough, I can’t imagine how much worse that time would have been if we'd had the added stress of having to find a new apartment, or worse, either one of us feeling stuck in the relationship because we lived together. Instead, we were able to take the time and space we needed.
We’ve all heard the expressions: Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free? He needs to shit or get off the pot. Yes, they’re crude, but they exist for a reason. And I’m ok with comparing myself to a farm animal and a toilet.
I’m not ok with making myself totally available to a man, 24/7 without the promise of marriage. When my husband and I met, I was 29. I felt my proverbial clock ticking. I was tired of dating. I wanted to get married and start a family.
Dan and I were engaged a year after we met. I was equal parts ecstatic and terrified to discover I was pregnant on our first anniversary. Mostly, I feel lucky that things worked out the way they did. But it wasn’t pure luck. It might not have played out that way had we moved in together before I had a ring on my finger.
Before Dan and I moved in together, we argued about where to sleep. Accidentally packing the wrong pair of black pants in my overnight bag would drive me crazy. These days, I stress about how long I’ll sleep before one of our children is crying, needing a drink of water, or having a bad dream.
I get up extra early not because I have to grab something from my place before work, but because little people need me. My husband and I do not always get along, but we face the challenges of parenthood and marriage as a team. And way back in the days of unlimited sleep and leisurely brunches, we were building a foundation for that team, despite — or perhaps because of — our separate addresses.