"I have some news,"
my son, Michael*, announced as we finished eating. Michael's girlfriend, Libby, was working, and my husband, Ed, was out of town, so we'd decided to meet for lunch, a rare treat now that Michael was grown and on his own.
I could see he was nervous, and that made me nervous. "So tell me," I prompted.
"You know I've been looking for a different apartment. Mine's just too far from work, and well," he paused for a moment, then finished the sentence in a rush, "Mom, Libby and I are moving in together."
His words slammed into my stomach like a huge fist. I swallowed back a rush of emotion, desperate to stay calm so I could talk to him about his decision.
Michael had been dating Libby for almost a year, and I'd liked her from the minute we were introduced. They were such a good match, balancing each other's strengths and weaknesses and sharing similar backgrounds, values, and beliefs. Most importantly, Libby was a Christian, as was her family.
Until he started dating her, Michael had been drifting in his commitment to God, and his church attendance had become sporadic. Libby, however, had him back in church regularly, and I was thrilled. But now he was telling me they were moving in together. It was the last thing in the world I'd expected him to say.
Taking a deep breath, I asked, "May I tell you why I wish you would reconsider?"
"Yes," he said, "I want you to."
"Aside from the fact God makes it very clear sex outside of marriage is wrong," I told him, "what distresses me most is that you're setting yourself up for almost certain failure. The statistics about failed marriages are grim enough, but they are much worse for couples who've lived together first. If you love Libby as much as you say you do, why would you not want to commit to her by marrying her?"
He responded with all the typical comebacks. "But Mom," he said, "there's no way I can afford to be married right now."
"Michael, it's not going to cost you any more to live together married than it is to live together and stay single," I reasoned.
"But what if we get married and find out we're completely incompatible?"
"You will find out you're incompatible—in a hundred different ways. Every married couple does. But a successful marriage isn't based so much on compatibility as on a commitment to work through the incompatibilities. You don't need that level of commitment just to live together, so your relationship is missing a vital element right from the beginning."