We’ve all seen the statistics that show marriage rates are dropping rapidly. Many Millennials and Gen Zers can’t imagine getting married any time in their early 20s (or late 20s, for that matter), believing marriage to be an outdated institution or choosing to focus on their career instead.
But this isn’t stopping young couples from moving in together and showing their continued commitment to the relationship in the form of an apartment lease, shared pet, or divvied up bills. And for some couples, this dynamic can work well — marriage certainly isn’t everyone’s end goal. But if it is, this particular setup can lead to some uncomfortable and difficult territory down the line.
Blurring the Lines between Boyfriend and Husband
Moving in with your boyfriend feels romantic and exciting. It signifies a deeper commitment, means there are countless wonderful memories waiting to be made, and points to the hope of a bright future with the person we love. It’s our human nature to want to build and share a life with the person we love, and this is just one step closer to that.
We're thrust into the reality of living with another person, with all its claims on our time and emotions.
And soon enough, we find ourselves thrust into the reality of living with another person: perhaps cooking for them, running errands, cleaning up after them, offering consistent friendship and emotional support, giving up some of our personal freedom, and sharing more than just the fun moments of life. We find ourselves, for all intents and purposes, being a wife to our boyfriend.
Being a Wife to a Boyfriend Won’t Work for Long
We’re all very familiar with the he-doesn’t-want-marriage-but-she-does relationship trope — and unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for some women to use moving in with their boyfriend as a way of getting closer to what they actually want: marriage. This leads us to give our boyfriend what should be husband privileges: complete and total commitment and companionship, unlimited access to our time and energy, creating and sharing traditions, trust with our finances, and a number one spot on our list of priorities.
And if our boyfriend doesn’t pop the question after everything we’ve given and done, it’s easy to begin to resent him, nitpick, become bitter and jealous of our engaged and married friends, and wonder what’s so wrong with us that he just won’t commit the way we have.
For a relationship to be successful, both parties need to be equally committed.
While that’s understandably frustrating, this is entirely avoidable by knowing the difference between a boyfriend’s “rights” and that of a husband’s, and limiting how much of ourselves we invest in a relationship that’s not yet on a “til death do us part” level of commitment. This allows us to let the relationship take its natural course, our boyfriend to make the decision to commit further without pressure from us, and to protect ourselves from unnecessary hurt.
How To Get What You Really Want
Like most of our issues in life, this is solved with open, honest communication about our expectations, desires, goals, and deal-breakers — and ideally, we’d know our own and our partner’s before we merge lives. And if getting engaged and married is a goal of ours, moving in with him in order to achieve that goal isn’t foolproof, considering that studies show that couples who move in together without first discussing marriage and expectations are more likely to have lower relationship quality, issues with communication, and higher rates of infidelity.
This is solved with open, honest communication about our expectations, desires, goals, and deal-breakers.
It’s our job to let our partner know what exactly our expectations are when entering every phase of a romantic relationship — which is why treating a boyfriend like a husband isn’t just harmful to us, it’s confusing to him. If all he sees is our willingness to move forward without any further commitment needed on his end, it’ll be more difficult for him to understand why we’re upset that he hasn’t matched our level of commitment. It’s all about communication, ladies.
It’s easy to want to give a boyfriend some husband privileges. After all, many of us hope that our boyfriend will one day be a husband to us. But this will unfortunately hurt not only the relationship, but also our boyfriend and us in the long run. We ultimately can’t be a wife to a boyfriend because for a relationship to be successful, both parties need to be equally committed.