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November 28, 2011

More than “a Drawer:” Living Together

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:32 am

livingtogetherAccording to the US Census Bureau, there were 500,000 couples living together in 1970; now there are more than 3.7 million. Slightly more than half of adults in their 20s and 30s have lived with a squeeze. Why such a dramatic rise? Factors may include: economic necessity, relaxation of taboos, increased desire to freak out parents.

But more important than the question of why couples love-shack is this: what happens when they do?

Two recent studies offer some concrete answers.

1. A Penn State study found that cohabiters are less enthusiastic about marriage than those who live with their parents. Now, before you say, “Duh, I’d marry The Grinch to get out of living at home!” allow me to finesse this finding. Point is: living together actually caused couples to get less psyched about getting married. Now, before you say, “Duh, ’cause they realize they’d be marrying the Grinch!”let me further finesse. They don’t get less psyched about each other; they get less psyched about marrying each other — and more psyched about keeping things the way they are.

2. Just last month, a Bowling Green (Ohio) State University study presented to the American Sociological Association found that in some cases, moving in can get you down. Of the couples studied, the measure of “life satisfaction” was highest for married couples and next-highest for couples who lived together two years or less (that is, until marriage or breakup). Whose “life satisfaction” was at rock bottom? Long-term live-ins . Huh. And notably, cohabiting women with kids were significantly more depressed than married mothers. Sociologist Susan Brown surmises that what’s behind these blues is the wear and tear of, if you will, the relationship’s permanent impermanence.

Now that I reread them, I see that putting these studies together in close quarters underscores their trivial differences. Funny, that. But anyway, what we can distill from both of them — and from pretty common credence — is this: living together does not necessarily work as a dress rehearsal for marriage. How come? Well, for one thing, you’ve said “I do” only to the landlord, not to each other; there’s always – in theory -- a relatively easy out (unless you live in Manhattan, where the only way to get a good place is to marry a landlord). It’s NOT the same.

But I’m not telling you not to live together, I’m just telling you not to do it as a dry-run. Do it because you can’t stand to go one minute in the morning without seeing each other. Do it because you’re totally committed to each other and aren’t interested in the institution of marriage. Do it because your housemates have already turned your room into a study, anyway. Okay?

Other than that, BG does not have a particular pro or con position on living together — she prefers to evaluate your lovenests on a place-to-place basis. Just a couple more things to note, though, as you load up the U-Haul of love: (1) your cohabitation will make it approximately 89% more difficult for your friends to find worthwhile wedding presents, and (2) make no mistake: even if you live in the same room, you will still email each other. Oh, and if you’re looking for someone to live with, consider attending the next social at the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. They sound rather handy.

A version of this column was originally published on September 7, 1998.

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November 18, 2010

Brady Bunch 2.0: today’s “blended” families

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.”

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July 23, 2010

In dog we trust

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:12 am

S.N.A.F.U. on April 6, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

Cindy and I lived together, off and on (due to the Military) for two and a half years. About six months ago I told her that I wanted to move out and live on my own. It wasn’t because I didn’t love her; I just felt like I was losing my own self. Well I went away for a month in October, and when I got back we finally broke up. The problem is that I still love her. She says that she loves me, but doesn’t trust me. I understand this, and I also understand how much I hurt her. But I love her with all my heart and she’s the only one for me. I try to make some excuse for either seeing her, or talking to her, every day. That’s really not hard to do, since we have a dog together, and I guess we kind of share joint custody. She seems to get really annoyed with me some times, and when I ask her if she can see us having a future together again, she says she doesn’t know. This is from someone who wanted to spend the rest of her life with me, and someday have kids. I don’t want to be with anyone else, and I feel like I’m empty with out her. But am I fooling myself? Should I just give up and go on with my life? Or is there some hope for me? I know that I’m not perfect, and have some major flaws in my personality. But if you really love someone, shouldn’t you be able to over look those flaws?

– KC

(more…)

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May 10, 2010

True Confessions: My boyfriend thinks he might be gay!

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:38 am

Classic advice from April 13, 1998

 

Dear Breakup Girl,

I’ve been in a relationship for seven years. And we’ve been through a lot — his stint in the army and subsequent time in rehab (drugs and alcohol and the army, don’t get me started), his messed-up family, and some of my stuff, too. We’ve been living together for a little over a year now, and have even discussed marriage … and then he drops a bomb: “I think I might be gay.”

(more…)

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March 8, 2010

This week at Happen: Will he ever divorce?

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 10:12 am

MSN.com, Match.com, HappenMagazine.com: they’re in a healthy and satisfying 3-way relationship. Meaning that you can find MSN/Match.com’s “Ask Lynn” columns –penned by BG’s alter ego — over at Happen now as well.

This week Lynn helps Edgy in Erie, a gal living with, and raising her kids with, a guy who has not fully extricated himself from his unhappy marriage. Namely:

  1. He hasn’t followed through with the divorce.
  2. He has cheated on me with her.
  3. He talks to her often and seems overly concerned with the goings-on of her life (beyond kid-related things).

After three years, does this guy need understanding, or a kick in the pants? Read the full letter — and Lynn’s response — at Happen, then comment below!

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March 5, 2010

Study: Living in sin not so bad after all

Filed under: News, Psychology — posted by Kristine @ 2:59 pm

Tracy Clark-Flory of Salon.com’s Broadsheet calls out the New York Times for misrepresenting statistics in the title of their article, “Living Together First Doesn’t Make Marriage Last, Study Finds.” Clark-Flory examines the statistics of said study and looks to other sources to sum up with her title “Living in sin not so bad after all”.

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.

Just don’t forget the pre-prenup!

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February 24, 2010

Moving in? Get it in writing!

Filed under: News — posted by Amy @ 9:57 am

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?

Plus: More on getting your stuff back here.


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January 19, 2010

Marriage: something old?

Filed under: Psychology, blogs, books, issues, media — posted by Paula @ 10:44 am

At the Daily Beast, Hannah Seligson, author of A Little Bit Married: How to Know When It’s Time to Walk Down the Aisle or Out the Door, blogs about the resistance to matrimony among GenX and GenY couples. Among the reasons she cites:

  • Overinflated expectations about finding “The One”
  • Fear of divorce
  • Desire for an extended adolescence
  • Increased focus on–and longer trajectories of–career development
  • It’s an interesting topic. Among my own friends–many of whom have been married and divorced at least once–the major obstacle to marriage seems to be disenchantment with the institution itself, although I’ve also noticed that even the vehement nay-sayers seem to soften around the issue when their partners want to get hitched. It seems that, even if individuals are ambivalent about making it legal, our society as a whole is still pretty fixated on the idea–or else books like Ms Seligson’s would not exist.

    I turn to you, reader: Is there a real difference between living together (or dating someone long-term without cohabitating) and getting married? If so, what do you think it is? And has that made you more, or less, interested in marriage?

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    December 8, 2009

    Shacking 101

    Filed under: News — posted by Amy @ 12:02 pm

    NY POST: Columbia sophomores and platonic pals Barry Weinberg and Nailah Robinson, both 19, plan to share a dorm room this fall under a policy likely to be implemented for all next fall.

    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.

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    August 7, 2009

    A live-in hell

    Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 8:25 am

    Cohabits die hard on February 23, 1998

    Dear Breakup Girl,

    I live with my boyfriend of three years and something happened two months ago that he totally misread and now he won’t even talk to me. He told me it is over but has made no plans to move out. He sleeps on the couch, I got the bed. He won’t have anything to do with me and I just don’t get it. I have done everything humanly possible to make him see that I love him and want this to work out for the long haul. He says it is over. I feel that if he wants it over so bad he should be the one to leave. You figure he would be sick of sleeping on the couch. I want to get on with my life. I want to date. If he does not want me I feel that I should be able to find someone who does. How so I make him see that he has got to go so that I may actually have a shot of getting over him and moving on?

    – Confused in Bethesda

    Dear Bethesda,

    Um, it’s going to be kind of hard to “date” with your ex-boyfriend on the couch. Start packing. Your stuff.

    Love,
    Breakup Girl

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