The new, non-binding marriage agreement |

The new, non-binding marriage agreement

Open Space
Derek Franz
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

So this is it – soon I will be “living in sin.” I’ve never done that before. Parents are probably cringing as they read this but hey, we live in a different age – an age of cohabitation, boys and girls living together as equals. Apparently, my girlfriend and I are products of the times.

Certainly, big changes are ahead, and I find myself very concerned about the impending significance of the toilet seat in our relationship. Actually, we’ll have our own bathrooms, so that shouldn’t be much of an issue, but it holds a value as a metaphor in my mind: Soon, my dearest and I will discover all the ugly, smelly, annoying things about each other we’d only guessed at before, or had to endure for such short durations that we’d ignored them without noticing. These discoveries are inevitable, that’s the scary thought.

Neither she nor I are naive enough to believe in perfect mates who meld into our lives as easily as Play-Doh. No living person is a Ken or Barbie, who can’t have ugly, smelly things about them because they don’t have genitalia. Fact is, life stinks, literally. In living together, my girlfriend and I will be adding each other’s stink on top of our own. I guess that means the true test will be whether we can handle the smell. It might help that we have a puppy, which could be a helpful scapegoat as to whose smell is whose.

I have some theories about why our culture is changing when it comes to a couple living together before marriage. For starters, the average lifespan is way past 45 and arranged marriages aren’t as popular as they used to be. Now that we have the freedom of choice, we want to do some careful shopping before we sign on the dotted line of the marriage certificate. We are a consumer culture, after all.

Second, my generation watched seemingly all of our parents divorce. As a child, I realized early on that marriage can be quite a whopping mistake. Did you know that every person has the ability to make life hell for someone else, especially when there is an extensive amount of costs, legal undoing and general Ps in the A to get away from said person and start over? I would’ve had no idea (insert sarcasm here).

Enter the neo-tradition of cohabitation, which is sort of like a rent-to-own program, where you not only get to test drive the car, but take it home and park it in your garage until you’re ready to commit. It can be a smart plan. Perhaps you discover the car has a severe oil leak and is rather expensive to keep gas in the tank – aren’t you glad you didn’t go in debt to outfit it with diamonds?!

On the other hand, some shoppers are so picky and indecisive they never get out of the store, if you know what I mean. Such a person thinks he or she has finally decided on a china set that adequately identifies with his or her personality. Then, on the way to the check-out counter, the shopper notices a similar set that might be a better deal because of the warranty. Plus, the original china set seems just a little boring now that it’s been in the shopper’s hands for a while. Uh-oh – now the shopper is in yet another dilemma and might only commit to a decision once the store starts to close.

Indeed, there are positives and negatives to the rent-to-own, try-it-as-it-flies life philosophy known as cohabitation. So there still is no easy formula to finding a life mate, if you can believe that. Dang.

However, I maintain my belief that getting married before a first-kiss, if you know what I mean (wink wink), is like buying a $2,000 vacuum from a TV infomercial at 2 a.m. as you wake up on the sofa and realize you don’t want to clean your pig-sty apartment. The commercial promises a vacuum that will complete your life so perfectly you won’t have to change your lifestyle to have a cleaner apartment. Then the vacuum arrives in the mail and you realize you have no idea how to turn it on. … Then you realize you don’t even have the right kind of power source to turn it on even if you knew where the switch was in the first place. Now your credit card is maxed out, your apartment is still dirty and your life sucks while the vacuum doesn’t. That’s why I’m not a proponent of marriage-roulette.

The traditionalist churchies are probably shaking their heads at this point: “It’s a sin to live with a mate before marriage, blah, blah.” If a person told me that, I might not say it, but I would certainly think, “I’ll bet you have enough sins of your own to worry about before tackling mine through state and federal legislation.”

Fact is, I wouldn’t be moving in with my girlfriend if I didn’t see a road leading to a good marriage. I might be living in sin but at least I won’t be living in hell. Love is my religion anyway. Good luck to the rest of you.

Derek Franz can be reached at

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