It seems that within the last two years, more people I know have gotten married than in the rest of my life combined. This, of course, is attributed to the fact that I'm at that age where people typically get married. We're in our twenties, we've finished college and/or found careers. We've dated enough losers to know when we've found someone worth keeping, and we find ourselves ready and willing to "settle down," buy nice furniture and a cat, and thus complete the transition into adulthood.
For those not quite ready to take the plunge, there's an alternative. Moving in together. This is the option of choice for those who aren't ready to get married, but also don't want to break up. Instead, they decide to cohabitate, "test it out" for a while, and then if it works, perhaps get married at a later date. Many object to this arrangement on moral grounds, but for a purely practical argument against the "moving in together" phenomenon, you need only look one place:
I should probably elaborate. When I worked at a major retail store (the kind where employees have to wear ugly vests) through high school and college (fun times, let me assure you), there was a television in the break room that got two channels (three on a really good day.) On one of those channels, there were inevitably episodes of Judge Judy. For those of you unfamiliar with this red-haired queen of justice, she's a judge who tries small claim cases on TV ("Her cases are real, her decisions are final.") From watching countless episodes of her show, I learned the following lessons. 1. Never lend anyone your car. They'll probably crash it and then refuse to pay you for it. 2. Don't lend large amounts of money to friends, relatives, significant others, or strangers. They will spend it on something dumb and then claim that it wasn't a loan, it was a "gift." and 3. Never move in with someone you're just dating.
At least once every other episode, there would be a couple that had moved in together, broken up, and were now suing (and often counter-suing) for various expenses and possessions. What happened was that at the most loving point in their relationship, they had decided that they wanted to spend every waking moment together without actually tying the knot. Feeling all lovey and cooperative, they'd make all sorts of offers and agreements - "don't worry, sweetie, I'll pay the entire security deposit," or, "it's ok, I'll put the big screen TV and Lazy-Boy on my credit card if you'll just pay for the next six months of groceries." Then they break up, and suddenly one of them thinks it's horribly unfair that the other gets to keep a big-screen TV and living room set, and all they're left with is some month-old salami. And ultimately, Judge Judy rules that if your boyfriend paid for the television, it's his television, even if you were paying all of the utility bills for an entire year (because unlike divorce where everything has to be split at least semi-fairly, the law provides no protection for people who end dating relationships). And then you're mad, and everyone who works at the un-named major retail store is sitting there in their little vests, laughing at you from the poorly lit break room with the fuzzy television.
Let me be clear that I'm not trying to judge or insult anyone here. I've no doubt that there are people who lived together before getting married who ended up so happily ever after that it should've been a Disney movie. But I also know people who lived together, assumed they'd be together forever, and then suddenly found themselves coping not only with the loss of a significant other but also with the loss of the cat, Christmas dishes, and Wii Fit, and with no legal recourse whatsoever. So my advice (not that anyone cares), based on my extensive Judge Judy watching experience, is that if you're not ready to marry someone, you probably aren't ready to enter into serious financial arrangements with that person. It's all of the responsibility with none of the commitment, and that's a recipe for disaster.
Now, there may be those of you who are thinking "You don't know anything! My boyfriend and I are living together, and we'll never break up or fight about who gets to keep appliances!" And I hope you're right. Because if you're not, I think it only fair to warn you that if you end up on Judge Judy arguing with your ex about who gets custody of your dog, Bobo - somewhere out there, there will be a person who has worked as a shopping cart pusher for 20 years making $7 an hour who thinks that your life is sad.