Life’s a series of rooms. We move through them with varying speed: in some rooms we spend a short time, in others a long time, and sometimes we don’t move on at all.

Once we reach adulthood, we close the doors to the childish rooms forever, which is not to say we can’t be child-like from time to time. Being innocent and fun – if only in a stylized way – is a sweet element in many of our lives. But as self-control, motives, understanding and responsibility change in our teens and twenties, we close successive doors behind us as we walk into new rooms. No-one really adequately explains this at the time, but we use code words like “growing up” or “maturing” as shorthand.

I was struck yesterday when a colleague explained that he was spending the afternoon with his girlfriend’s parents. Now this guy is in his thirties, an upright citizen (as far as I know) and a hard-worker, but it turns out the woman I thought was his wife is not so: she’s just a shack-up honey.

The problem with a couple opening the door to the shack-up room is that it has one big entrance door, and only a tiny mouse-door out. That mouse-door is the only one that takes both of them forward in life, but it’s difficult to squeeze through. In most cases, both of these people will move backwards out of the door through which they came into the room, returning to the point at which they decided to co-habit a residence.

Yes, people do go on to succeed long-term in shack-ups, but couples so-based are mostly a kind of silent killer. With a limited time on this planet making a decision that stops the normal progression of life is both wasteful and destructive. Yes, justifying the decision to shack-up is relatively simple, an exercise in which I have indulged myself, but the reasons are oftentimes shallow, reflecting a deficit of some kind in the individuals or the relationship itself.

Why would we deliberately walk into a room that will simultaneously decrease our chances of seeing the fullness of life as an individual and reduce the likelihood of the relationship fulfilling its possibility?

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