"Hi, Hon, I just wanted to let you know I'll be home late. I'm going to hang out with the guys after work," Derek said.
As I hung up the phone, I swallowed the bitter taste of disappointment. Why doesn't he want to come home and be with me? So much for security once we moved in together.
After dating on and off for three years, Derek and I were serious about our relationship. We agreed that living together was the next step. It sounded as natural as riding a tricycle before a bicycle and as practical as packing before taking a long trip.
And, we had other reasons:
Derek and I signed a six-month lease on a two-bedroom apartment, but I didn't trust Derek's long-term commitment. I demanded separate closets and bathrooms. I didn't want my dishes, pots and pans getting mixed up, so I shoved Derek's stuff into different cabinets. Like a student practicing a fire drill, I mentally rehearsed my escape — just in case. I had one foot in the door and an eye on the exit.
All I had was six-months of security — a signed rental agreement. Even though I prepared for the day the fire alarm would sound, I constantly pushed for commitment. I wanted intimacy and a way out at the same time.
"Where's our relationship going? Are we just going to live together? Do you see a future?" I complained.
"Sure I do. I want to marry you someday. But how can we? We don't have the money," Derek said. "I don't know how else to prove to you I'm committed. I left my friends and moved in with you. I say I love you every day. I come home every night. What more do you want?"
Living together is too easy for you. How about marriage? An engagement ring would help.
The truth was, I hated the living arrangements. But it was my way of controlling something, since I couldn't control our future.
Whenever Derek and I argued, I shut down, pouted and slept in the second bedroom. I waited in the dark for him to come and make up. Instead, Derek fell asleep. He wasn't interested in knocking down my protective walls — at midnight. Great, Derek is probably getting sick of this. What's going to happen when our lease expires? Will we stay together? He's probably going to leave me.
Not only did my relationship with Derek suffer because of my fears, my relationship with my mom suffered too. I was afraid I'd hear, "I told you so," if I was honest about my insecurity. I hid behind an "everything's fine" facade. I was determined to make living together work — even if it was a mistake.
My mom's words haunted me. "You can't try it on before you buy it; it's not a dress." Although I wasn't walking with God at the time, I knew enough Scripture to feel guilty and ashamed. But I justified it because I wanted to make sure the two of us were compatible before we said "I do." After all, I knew that more than half of all marriages end in divorce. I didn't want the "D" tattoo if our relationship didn't work out.
A month into our lease, Derek and I bought an Alaskan Eskimo puppy. A way to keep Derek, I thought. But weeks later, the shy puppy we picked out was still acting skittish. He started biting. So, we gave him away.
So much for "our" dog — and my security.
Even though I wanted a commitment from Derek, my commitment was conditional and temporary. I gave my body and my resources, but withheld my heart.
I longed for intimacy and relationship, but living together didn't satisfy. It's like planning a vacation to Hawaii, envisioning sunny, white beaches and then arriving to trash-lined shores and overcast skies. One is a dream. The other is a disappointing reality.
Despite our struggles, Derek and I eloped around the time our lease expired. Fifteen years and two children later, we're still together.
Nevertheless, Derek and I still regret living together. We missed out on the honeymoon experience. We regret sharing our meals, our households, and our bodies prior to being emotionally and spiritually committed as husband and wife. We started our marriage with a past. It took me years of marriage to trust Derek's real and lifelong commitment.
Someday I plan on sharing this with our children. It won't be easy. However, I believe they deserve the truth. I hope they will understand why we regret our decision and why God's design for a man and a woman is marriage.
Derek and I believed the lie of today's culture that living together is a natural progression of a lifelong relationship. Nowhere in Scripture does it suggest a man should leave and cleave to a woman by renting an apartment. For me, living together was a farce, a halfhearted commitment with a huge "EXIT" sign looming over it. Marriage is a lifetime commitment — a covenant — not a six-month lease.
Thankfully, God is using our mistake to encourage other couples. As the opportunity arises, we share our story. We steer them away from living together and towards God's plan — marriage.