Sex & Relationships

The Case For Premarital Cohabitation, By Someone Who's Been There

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“Come on, guys. It’s 2017.”

These were the words of a visibly-irked Nadine Lustre, as she was asked by a reporter about her rumored “live-in” arrangements with boyfriend (and surprisingly decent recording artist) James Reid. Something about this—the question, how it was asked, and how she responded—seemed to really strike a chord with people, because within a few hours, social media was ablaze with it. The implication, from the tone of the reporter and from online commentators, was that it was wrong for an unmarried couple to live together. Granted, Nadine’s argument—that there are even younger couples living together—might not have been the best defense of premarital cohabitation, but it does beg the question: Why does living with a partner before marriage still seem to be such a big deal for our country in the 21st century?

I’d argue that cohabitation isn’t a bad thing, and in fact, could even be beneficial to an unmarried couple.

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The first argument is that it’s cheaper and more practical. In a situation where you and your partner both live away from your families, deciding to share a place together immediately seems better than the alternatives: renting separately, which is more expensive; or boarding with other people with whom you may or may not get along. I personally prefer living alone to living in a boarding house, but based on my experience of cohabitation with my girlfriend, I must say that it’s even better. I can be comfortable and be myself at home, because we know exactly how to treat each other. There’s none of the awkwardness that typically arises when living with other people. Also, having someone in the house other than myself ensures that I always make a conscious effort on my end to keep the space habitable for her. We saved money on rent, on utilities, and even on transportation (I can no longer count how many early morning commutes I used to take just to get back to my place and after spending the night at hers). When we did grocery shopping together, it never felt like a chore, and it was certainly cheaper in terms of portions. We didn’t have to worry about spending enough time together, and instead of going on dates outside, we would take the cheaper route of having a home-cooked meal together while binge-watching something on Netflix.

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The second argument is that living together enables you to get to know your partner in different ways. In an age when it’s so easy to connect with others, there’s something special about seeing who a person is in their smaller moments—just before bed, or when they wake up in the morning. Of course, issues will arise: He snores louder than a construction site; she leaves her stuff all around the house. He keeps forgetting to flush the toilet; she hogs the covers. But these issues can be resolved, and can even make you better together and closer to each other—regardless of whether or not you’re married.

But then there are also deal breakers: issues that neither of you could deal with, and that would bring you to the decision that it’s better to part. What if your partner is unjustifiably mean to the household help all the time? What if he or she refuses to pull their weight around the house? Imagine finding out about these issues after marriage. If counseling won’t cut it, you’ll be left with the lengthy and expensive annulment proceedings, as divorce isn’t an option here in the Philippines. Isn’t it better to get know your partner as much as you can, so that you can be sure before deciding to marry and spend the rest of your lives with each other?

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So if cohabitation has these benefits, why are so many people against it? Perhaps it’s because from an early age, we’re taught that it’s wrong for two people who aren’t married to be living under the same roof. Frankly, I believe this to be outdated and backwards. Sadly, though, a lot of us go through life accepting it.

Some of us have it in our minds that a couple’s decision to live together primarily comes from sexual desire. I’m not saying it’s not a factor to consider, but for couples who are serious about living together, it’s so much more than that. Based on my own experience, sex was definitely not among our top priorities when my girlfriend and I were considering moving in together. Living with a partner is essentially not that different from having a roommate—it just so happens that your roommate is also the person you’re in a relationship with. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. If we could only have this mindset, or as Nadine put it, be more “open-minded” about the issue, I think we can get rid of the stigma attached to cohabitation. If two consenting, responsible adults are in a relationship, and they decide that they want to live together, there should be no reason to think that it’s wrong. As someone who has been happily living together with his fiancée, I think that at this point, it shouldn’t even be an issue anymore.

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The Unpopular Opinion is Esquire’s space to provide additional insight and introduce new perspectives to issues that we may think have foregone conclusions. These articles don't always reflect our editorial stance, but we publish them here to continue the discourse.

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Lando Cusi
Architect based in Japan
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