Judge Judy Sheindlin has become famous from her top rated courtroom reality show, where she doles out no-nonsense decisions from the bench. With her new book, You're Smarter Than You Look, Judge Judy brings to order the most difficult relationship problems, with her signature brand of tough love.
The following book excerpt is from the first chapter of You're Smarter Than You Look.
Living Without Benefit
(If you call this commitment, you should be committed.)
In the middle-class neighborhood where I grew up, if two people lived together without benefit of marriage, they were bums and their parents were pitied. Their lives were forever on the gossipy lips of old aunts and nosy neighbors. Times have changed, and it's no longer such a scandal to do a "test run." But don't kid yourself that living together is the same as being married. If anything, it's much more complicated. There are no rules, no court of last resort when things don't work out.
In my TV courtroom, I have presided over countless cases involving former live-ins. The issue usually revolves around money, possessions, and promises made and broken. It amazes me that people who turn faint at the thought of walking down the aisle think nothing of purchasing houses, boats, and cars with live-in lovers. When they try to get satisfaction from the court, they learn just why it's easier to keep things legal.
I don't have a problem with two adults living together. If you choose to test the waters before jumping into the marital sea, don't kid yourself that it is a commitment until death, especially when it comes to money. So many women equate a joint bank account and credit card with commitment. Most of them are just not thinking. If a child of mine ever opened a bank account with Mr. Almost-Sort-of-Committed, I'd have her committed. Think how much easier it would be if we had laws for people living together. If I were to write those laws, they would include the following stipulations:
1. No live-in arrangement shall exceed one year. If after one year there is no ring on the finger or date for the wedding, the temporary partnership shall disband.
2. Live-ins shall not purchase any of the following items jointly: house, car, boat, espresso machine, dog, or health club membership.
3. All expenses shall be divided equally, and a precise record kept.
4. The word commitment shall be used only in referring to the upcoming wedding.
If live-ins abided by these rules, they wouldn't have so much trouble. Just listen to the tales of woe!
When people are in love and have stars in their eyes, they don't like to deal with the messy business of contracts. What really gets messy is when the relationship folds and one of the partners realizes too late that she doesn't have a leg to stand on. That's what happened to Amy.
Amy: When Paul and I met, I was an accountant and he was driving a cab and going to school at night. Since we were planning a life together, we decided that he would go to school full-time and get his degree as a physical therapist. I would pay his tuition and the living expenses, and he'd help out with a part-time job. After he graduated, we'd get married and start a family, and then I would be the one to work part-time. Well, all went as planned, except he split when he graduated. I feel cheated, and I want to sue him for the money I laid out for his tuition. Isn't that fair?