I was talking to a girlfriend the other day who has been living with her boyfriend for about a year, and things seem to be going swimmingly. "I must really love him," she gushed. "This is the first time I've gotten rid of my bed when moving in with a guy!"
We laughed, but that was the most efficient way to communicate her true feelings for her boyfriend. As cohabitation is essentially the norm these days, couples are left in the uncomfortable place of not wanting to step into marriage, and yet having to be completely ready to step into consolidating their stuff. And as a society, we haven't worked out all the kinks quite yet.
And if you want to blame the cohabitating sinners for being noncommittal, don't -- it's not the lack of vows that has created this hoarding of box springs. Huge divorce rates mean that there's a chance that the flatware collection on your registry today will be sadly divided up years from now. I don't mean to sound negative, but this is the truth. I've been there.
The first time I nested, I went in whole hog. I sold nearly every piece of ugly, plaid, college-y furniture I owned, I gave away dishes, and I pranced around our shared basement apartment in little heart shapes, eager to have his stuff be my stuff, and for new IKEA stuff to be our stuff. Keeping any of my own furniture seemed both ludicrous and pessimistic. I took on his two cats and loved them with all my heart, and eventually, we got married.
Years later, when we amicably divorced, I found myself with literally nothing but the childhood bedroom furniture that had been in our guest room, and completely catless. I went into an enormous amount of debt repopulating my new tiny apartment, stumbling through Target bleary-eyed and overwhelmed with a credit card in hand, only to find out months later that he didn't want "our stuff" either.
So there it sat, in storage, until I sold it to a friend. It was all in perfectly good shape, but I had no room for it, and our lives had bled all over that stuff anyway. No amount of upholstery cleaner could remove that.
When I fell in love again and we decided to move in together, I looked around my tiny, hard-fought apartment full of treasures warily: Was I ready to give this up again? Not the stuff itself, as it was still IKEA crap, but the idea of being a turtle, with everything I need to live with me at all times? I wondered if it was possible to keep your independence while giving away your heart.
Luckily, my guy didn't have any furniture, so the stuff stayed with me, and so did he. After a few months of living together, I was willing to give away our second Xbox, and I marked that as a huge step. Over the last five years, I've let my stuff get entangled with his stuff, emotionally and practically, and slowly, it stopped scaring me -- but I understand that the fear is real.
Keeping your own furniture around "just in case" is the modern, non-famous, non-married form of a pre-nup.
I know it sounds cynical -- what part of love means having an escape kit ready in case things go south? But it's not about love or about trust, but rather love and trust's steadfast older brother, self-preservation. You already have that futon, and your new love nest is going to need a couch, so why not keep it? You may forget who it even belongs to over the happy, cozy years, but you also won't ever feel forced to stay in a relationship because you'd be completely screwed if you left.
This may not sound romantic to you, but for me, the romance comes from looking something full in the face, knowing it could fail, and going for it anyway ... with your futon there to catch you if you fall.