Filed under: News, issues — posted by Breakup Girl @ 11:01 am
Today’s New York Times featured a lengthy article about how today’s mix-and-rematch post-divorce parents with kids make it work: not by marrying and moving everyone, and Ann B. Davis as Alice, into the same ranch house at 1164 Morning Glory Circle, but…close. As a means of preserving their own semi-independence, and sparing the kids an extra intrusion, they’re moving — well, into different ranches on the same circle, say. Or even: same house; different floors, different doors.
In the articles first example, the triple-hyphenate Curtis-Hetfield-Petrini household (two divorced parents, now each others’ partners; three kids among them), for instance, lucked into a two-family town house in Brooklyn. My initial crabby thought: “Well, of course it works great for them. They have a ’sleek bamboo kitchen.’”
But (a) no fair, as we all know that when it comes to discord, creature comforts are more often cause than antidote, and (b) the article goes on to describe many types of blendy families in many shapes, forms, places, and real estates. And the broadest points are well-taken. First, the economic reality of a post-Carol world:
…What’s really driving the practice of committed couples with children living in separate abodes, [said Susan Stewart, a sociologist at Iowa State University who studies how families form and change over time], “is that middle- and upper-income women have their own money and independence. They are working, and can live on their own.”
And — most important — this, also from Stewart:
“The complexity of families is the real story. Family life is not what it was. The divorce rate” — roughly half of all first marriages still end in divorce — “has been high and stable since the 1980s. The majority of these people go on to marry or cohabit. Then there’s the change in custody patterns, with more and more fathers desiring more time with their children, if not full or shared custody. The traditional family — the married-couple-biological-children family — is in the minority.”
Now, a little something from revelations…for those living in sin, marriage isn’t always the end goal. Whoa. SHOCKER. How do I know this? Live in an overpriced metropolis where rent-controlled apartments are as hard to come by as the Holy Grail or the Ark of the Covenant and you find a lot of people shacking up for reasons other than a trial run for a walk down the aisle. Some of these reasons include freedom from rooommates, convenience, mobility, economics, and well, just plain old lust. So, what’s important in moving from “living in sin” to making an “honest man/woman/etc. out of someone/yourself”?
Having co-habitated a time or two, experience has taught me that what makes or breaks your relationship isn’t decided from the day to day stuff of living in each other’s space. It’s about sharing basic values and goals as a couple. It’s also about knowing why you moved in together and realizing that can change for both people. The day to day stuff just exacerbates an eventually doomed union. Really, even if someone keeps a clean house and finds your keys, it’s not going to fix your fear of commitment or the fact that you hate their work ethic. However, if a relationship is already working on the inner levels, leaving the cap off the toothpaste or drinking out of the orange juice carton isn’t such a big deal. Whether or not a couple lives together isn’t going to break them so much as reinforce what they already know - good and bad. As Clark-Flory notes “you’re better off following your own heart than any supposed make-or-break marital rules.”
The couples who do end up married after first living together most likely would have gotten married anyways - whether they both saw marriage as a possible end goal or they were the type to ignore doubt and just push forward. I am actually curious to know how many couples move in together and break up before the point of marriage. If living in sin is bad for anyone, it’s most likely divorce lawyers.
Everyone except Tiger Woods knows marriage is a commitment. But moving in together? That’s just supposed to be funzy, right? Well sure, in the beginning — but if things go south, things can get nasty. Specifically, things. She didn’t realize she was supposed to pay half the rent; he thought sharing a space meant he now owns her antique rugs. So we like this Salon article about the mini-boom, at least in New York, where real estate is crazytown, of pre-prenups. Unromantic, maybe, but hey, so is sharing a bathroom. It’s not so crazy to demystify the process and go into a shacking-up sitch with a clear idea of what you both want out of it — both short- and long-term. Maybe you won’t opt for a legal agreement, but guides and workbooks abound. It’s nothing but smart to take advantage.
Update/addendum: Can you think of a time when you wished you had a pre-pre-nup? Like, even an imaginary one, so you could have worked out beforehand who gets the DVDs vs. who “gets” the bagel place?
The New York Post reports that Columbia University will, likely this fall, implement a new “gender-neutral” housing policy, meaning that sophomores, juniors, and seniors may select roommates from either gender. Not hallmates or floormates, roommates. Reactions — decidedly mixed — range from “Yay, singles won’t have to put up with their roommates’ sex lives” to “Wait, boys and girls are sharing BATHROOMS?” (Where have these people been?)
From my own four years on that very campus, I can tell you for sure: this is a tempest in an electric tea-kettle. For one thing, there’s no “walk of shame” associated with sleeping in your boyfriend’s dorm room. I mean, I shacked up with Andy C. on the first floor of Ruggles Hall for most of my senior year. I just moved my crap into his place and voila, cozy dorm coupling. My room was used for storage.
In retrospect, that was a hideous idea. I had a great room, Andy was totes codependent, and I ended up pledging a co-ed frat just to get some non-couple time. But whose college experience is a study in good decision-making?
The other truth that’s being ignored here? After freshman year at Columbia, nobody — but nobody — has a roommate to begin with. So the story here isn’t “Yikes! Free love on campus!” It’s pretty much “Gay students don’t have to live with weirded-out homophobes.” (Though maybe also “What happens if you break up by Thanksgiving?”) In any case, it’s nice to see my alma mater tossing passé Puritanism out the ivory tower window.
Via VeryShortList: A group of geneticists at Penn State have found that male mice that are made to cohabitate with female mice exhibit “manlier” physiological traits — such as higher testosterone levels and longer periods of fertility — than mice made to fly solo.
The study’s abstract states that the findings “have significant implications for the maintenance of male fertility in wildlife, livestock and human populations.”
The concept of “living in sin” could be dying a not-so-slow death. According to USA Today, a new study by the National Marriage Project has found that among Americans and our friends across the pond, cohabitation is growing more and more popular as an alternative to marriage. (From 1995-2005, the marriage rate in the U.S. declined nearly 20%.) Quoth one half of a cohabitating couple, “It’s what’s happening in the world of dating, and it’s not necessarily a path anywhere.”
For some couples, that works out just fine. They’re not interested in marriage, so the only path they need is the one toward their shared mailbox. But some experts — and, you know, people interested in a certain rose-strewn path toward a certain officiant — still wonder if living together is the most advisable next step. So, in certain cases, do certain superheroes.
What are your thoughts/experiences? Have you been shacked up — and back? Share!
Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:45 am
Here, your weekly installment of Ask Lynn, BG’s alter ego’s column at MSN.com (powered by Match.com). This week, we meet Marie, who had a great relationship … until they started leafing through apartment listings. First he wants to shack up — now he wants to break up! Coincidence, or commitment issue? Read the rest of the letter, along with Lynn’s response, and come back here to comment!