By TAMAR CASPI
My boyfriend and I have moved in together. This is my first time living with a boyfriend, if I don't count - and I prefer not to - my college boyfriend who spent the night and didn't leave for a few months.
Moving in together, officially, is a big deal. The relationship not only gets taken to the next level, but you begin combining your items and putting both your names on bills, connecting each other's credit scores for all eternity. Moving in together is also a controversial subject for different generations and different denominations. Each has their own view on the topic, which are not necessarily right or wrong.
Jewish law does not support living together before marriage. Halacha says that it shows a lack of commitment, but I believe moving in together is a major step in making the ultimate commitment in an educated manner. Imagine taking your vows under the huppa one day, only to move in together the next day and find you can't stand each other! What are you going to do, plead kidushei ta'ut (errors in the creation of a marriage based on information not having been revealed)?
People are able to put their best selves forward when they have separate residences, but when you live together, you can't hide anything. You see the worst the other person has to offer - their moods, their habits, their messes - and you get to make an informed decision about whether that's someone with whom you want to spend the rest of your life.
My boyfriend is the consummate bachelor - meaning he didn't have much in the way of "stuff" (furniture, clothing or cookware) - and I sold most of my stuff when I moved in with my parents and the rest when I moved to Israel to be with him, so we've basically had to start over from scratch as a couple. It may be a financial burden for a few months, but it's a good thing. Fresh sheets + fresh towels = fresh start. A new relationship deserves new linens.
For women, moving in with a guy means taking his masculinity into account. My boyfriend doesn't want to sleep in a pastel-colored, frilly, flowery, pillow-covered bed. Instead I bought a comforter and other items that matched a keepsake given to him by his Savta, who had recently passed away. It was the least I could do, since I had relegated his minuscule wardrobe to one side of the hallway closet. Even though I picked out the items, it made him feel like he was involved in the decision.
Divvying up the responsibilities that go into taking care of a home is a great and important lesson for a new couple. My boyfriend actually volunteered to sponja (wash the floors), take out the trash and clean the toilets, three of my least favorite things to do - and yes, I know how lucky I am. I happily take care of everything else, including all the cooking, making the bed each morning, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, dusting, vacuuming and keeping our home relatively neat on a day-to-day basis.
The best part about it is that I don't have to nag him. And when he volunteers to cook a meal or do the dishes, it makes up for the fact that he hasn't brought me flowers in a few months.
Now that we know we can stand each other 24 hours a day, seven days a week, we've started talking about taking the next step. My boyfriend and I have discovered who gets testy when they're hungry, who gets pissy when they're tired and who leaves their dirty clothes everywhere. We've also discovered that none of these things bothers us. These are not deal-breakers to any extent, but they are things you should know about someone before you smash the glass. If dating is hard, marriage is even more difficult. The least you can do is go into it knowing what you are getting yourself into.
I know not everyone will agree with me. My friend Alexandra waited until marriage to move in with her husband (or any man for that matter) and found that every new step they took together was special. Since neither of them had lived with anyone before, they didn't have any lessons learned or mistakes made to bring to the table. Instead they discovered things together and created a strong foundation as they solved any problems.
I don't think there is a right or wrong answer. Simply stick to whatever it is you believe in and don't compromise your values. For Alexandra, it meant dating a man for three years before getting married and moving in. For me, it was the opposite, but only you and your partner can decide if cohabiting before marriage is the right move.
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