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A Couch Is NOT a Promise

April 16, AD 2015 11 Comments

couch not promise

Not too long ago, my best friend moved in with her boyfriend.

It’s a big deal: this is her third long-term, serious relationship, but the first one she felt confident enough in to say, “Hey, I like you so much, I’m going to live with you.”

I have very mixed feelings about this whole thing.

First of all, I am Catholic. I am on fire for God and the Church and the idea of living with some man before marriage gives me the heebie-jeebies. (My best friend, by the way, is not Catholic—she’s not even Christian—she vacillates between agnosticism and atheism but, I am convinced, contains a healthy dose of pagan virtue.)

On the other hand, I am delighted that she cares this much about a guy—a few years ago the idea of marriage disgusted her, now she’s well-versed in diamond rings and carats and clarity and likes to drop hints about her preferences to the Boyfriend.

About a week after the big move I met up with my best friend and asked her cautiously about sharing her space so intimately with another human being for the first time. She reported a nearly seamless move: she loved getting to spend more time with Boyfriend and sharing their commute to work. She loved getting to play with his dog.

I asked her: did you get to do any redecorating? She said they bought a couch together.

A couch.

A couch is a major purchase.

Couches are expensive. Big. Room-ambiance-changing. If a relationship goes south, you cannot set the couch between both parties and whistle and call until it comes galumphing over to its favorite owner. If a relationship goes south, it really matters who gets to keep the couch (where memories have been made but—almost more importantly!—where you can continue to sit/sleep as a single person in a single’s apartment, enjoying your major financial investment in furniture).

My best friend considers the couch a promise.

A couch is not a promise.

The problem with moving in with a man before you marry him is that you have to think about things like, “is it worthwhile investing in a couch?” My husband and I just bought a couch. We had to juggle some finances to do it, but it will be in our home until it grows old and dies from our kids and pets and friends abusing it. What will happen to my best friend’s and Boyfriend’s couch? Will it live to a ripe old age? No one knows.

Couches are furniture, not promises. When I think about my relationship with my husband five, ten years from now, I do not rely on something as flimsy as a couch to tell me he will still be by my side. I have the Sacrament of Marriage to bolster me up; that’s a promise so strong that I actually cannot picture life five, ten years from now without him.

To everyone out there wondering where your current romance will take you in the future: furniture purchases are about as accurate as tea leaves. A promise to stand by one another, in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, requires stronger binding than stylish upholstery.

About the Author:

After growing up near Kennett Square, PA, the Mushroom Capitol of the World, Siobhan knew she would always live in a bustling capitol city. She earned a B.A. in Theology, History, and Classics at Mount St. Mary's University and an M.A. in Theology (specializing in Systematics) at Villanova University. Now she lives in Washington, D.C. with her wonderful husband where she is still getting used to living with a boy, right down to playing video games and watching football. When she's not hanging out with him or reading novels, she uses her spare time to earn a PhD in Moral Theology at the Catholic University of America.
  • james

    It is interesting how friends become “best”. Since it is one of the four types of love (philia) it’s almost like a spiritual match up in so far as purpose goes. I can clearly
    see the mission you might have in her life and wonder about hers in yours …

  • Chris Ricketts

    I got married at the age of 21 in the year 2001, so I’m a little rusty in the relationship/dating scene of today. That being said, I am baffled by the many changes that have occurred since I was a teenager/young adult. I’ve seen people move in together after only a week of dating. I also hear people use the term “talking to” a lot. I’ve heard girls say to me that they starting “talking to” a guy. When I ask what that means, as in, are they dating, the first response is a big no. “Talking to” a girl or guy has as many variations as there are people. It can mean simply texting, it’s meant that the guy comes over to the house and hangs out, it also means they are sleeping together. Never have I heard a variation of the digitally saturated, completely convoluted dating scene mean anything of an commitment.

    Like you said, a couch is not a commitment. So many people want to enjoy the benefits of being in a relationship, both physically and emotionally, without the responsibility and the lasting commitment. Marriage is a huge step that seems miles away from the couple that has lived together for 3 years and has a couple children together. Marriage and commitment seem to be fading into the background of our culture of immediate gratification and human objectification.

  • Loved As If

    So often, men and women play house together. But once childhood has passed, playing house doesn’t work because relationships aren’t child’s play – their either chaste, reliving wounds, or just plain adultery (a/k/a idolatry). This is one of those childish things we must put aside when we become adults.

    You remind me to pray for men and women who are playing at being married. I’ll remember your best friend as well.

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  • Elijah fan

    This 2013 article at National Catholic Register:

    http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/catholics-continue-to-have-lowest-divorce-rates/

    Says that Catholics have the lowest divorce rate…28%. That’s the self flattering that is so rampant in our Catholic media. I can’t even find a divorce rate for the Amish which I have to guess is maybe 1 or 2%.. the Hutterites and Hasidim Jewish are probably similar. Somehow NCR doesn’t recognize groups that we could learn from….just groups that could learn from us.
    But getting back to your friend. Keep in mind that she knows that Catholics not only get divorced but do so while believing that it is a mortal sin for the filer unless annullment is in the situation. So your friend might be silent as you hint about Catholicism’s wise answers…but she may be silently thinking of Catholicism’s present track record which is very different than its wise answers. The Amish? Two things….they depend on each other in every emergency, we depend on Aetna Insurance….ergo they actually have community while we see many people at big city parishes as total strangers forever…tsf. Secondly the Amish believe in wives obeying their husbands as per six NT passages and as per section 74 of Casti Connubii…the last Catholic document to uphold those six passages. Vatican II no where mentions wifely obedience nor does the catechism from the 1990’s…..the latter because John Paul II totally confused the topic in TOB and in Dignity of Women so much so that the catechism writers at the CDF office could not figure out what to write…so the topic vanished…a topic the Holy Spirit referenced 6 times in the NT.

    • Chris Ricketts

      So if we Catholics ignore the “confusing” teachings of JPII in the Theology of the Body and Mulieris Dignitatem, and instead make women really obey their husbands and imitate the Amish, we’ll be ok?

      • Elijah fan

        Do the math…Amish versus Catholic. While they get the Petrine and Eucharist passages wrong inter alia, they get some things very right….due to reading scripture zealously like Aquinas did, who also got somethings wrong. You can’t make anyone obey but if scripture is integral to your real community, you and women will know how to obey in such a gestalt….it takes a village ;).
        John Paul liked only ” be subject to one another” from Ephesians… period. He inferred that five other NT passages were not worth citing because they represented the “old” way. He did a similar editing job on the death penalty…never once citing Gen.9:5-6 or Rom.13:4 on the topic…the two gentiles death penalty passages…and denigrating the death penalties of Deuteronomy in EV section 40 as again…the old way… which see. Vatican II in no way affirmed his editing approach to scripture…read Dei Verbum…the magisterium ” is not above scripture but serves it…passing on what is handed to them”.
        Here is Pius XI in 1930….lightest connection to John Paul’s comments even when read in context…
        casti c…sect.74

        74. The same false teachers who try to dim the luster of conjugal faith and purity do not scruple to do away with the honorable and trusting obedience which the woman owes to the man.

  • Veritas

    The real question to be asked of those moving in together, and those in sexual relationship, who usually label them “committed relationships” is; “how committed?”
    The answer is generally a form of ” committed as it remains convenient and enjoyable, but not so committed that I would neglect to put my own self interest ahead of breaking your heart”

    Sex is here and now, and enjoyable, but that worry about who gets hurt, me, you or any kids that may appear, is soooo hypothetical, dude.

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  • Niamh

    Buying stuff together won’t make your relationship stronger! The communication between you is the key to a good one cohabitat.
    web site

  • Brenda from Flatbush

    Nice post. These days, even the couch seems like a stretch for the “commitment-phobic.” When we first got married, we couldn’t afford a couch; we watched TV on lawn chairs. Thirty years and 2 Ikea couches later, I thank God that our marriage was, indeed, a sacrament–a source of grace–because it ain’t easy. But it sure is worth it. May your marriage be blessed!