Things to Think About Before You Cohabitate
Table of Contents
The Statistics 3
Living Together Can Be a Good Idea 4
When Not to Live Together 5
When Your Relationship Goals Differ 6
Don’t Live Together Because You’re Afraid of Marriage 7
Rules for Living Together 7
Comparing Relationship Goals 9
The lease on Janine’s apartment is up. She’s spending more time at Steve’s place than her own. So, the question has arisen: should she move in?
Cohabitating is a big step in a relationship. There’s no place to retreat to when you are living together. Home, for both of you, is together. You can’t escape each other.
But moving in can be a good thing. You can move your relationship along by taking that step. It is a sign of commitment and joy.
Here are Some Questions to Ask Yourself:
- Have you had your own bedroom all of your life? Many people these days have never shared close quarters with another person. If that is the case, you should ask yourself how you will adjust to one-bedroom life.
- Did you have trouble getting along with the members of your family as a child? What about now? Are you comfortable with intimate relationships with your family and friends? Remember, you are going to be living with someone day and nights so you want to be ready to get along and go along.
- How do you get along with people at work? These are people you only spend 8 hours a day with. But, companies report that their biggest problem is helping employees get along together. Keep in mind that it takes a lot of energy and effort to get along with someone 24/7.
Making the move in means that you are going to be living with someone through ups, downs, sickness, health, fatigue, hunger and stress. This can be a real challenge – even when you love someone dearly. It’s enough to break a couple up. But it doesn’t have to. This report will help you avoid these problems ahead of time.
So, if you think you might be ready to cohabitate, I urge you to read every word in this report. It will give you a good idea of when to – and when not to – make the step of living together.
There is a lot of misinformation about “living together.” Proponents and opponents use the statistics to “prove” their point about whether cohabitation is a good thing or not. Here is some raw data and I’ll let you draw your own conclusions.
- 54 percent of people cohabitate before they get married
- 50 percent of cohabitating couples get married
- Couples who cohabitate tend to get divorced more than non-cohabitating couples early in their marriage. However, if the marriage lasts 7 years or more, the divorce rate becomes equal.
- In some countries (France and Germany) couples who cohabitate actually have a lower rate of divorce.
Living Together Can Be a Good Idea
Living together is a lot different from dating. When you are dating, you are generally on your best behavior. You tend to make an effort to look good, feel good, and be good whenever you see the other person. But this isn’t a facade you can keep up 24/7. When you live together, you are going to see the good AND the bad. You will see the sick, tired, hungry, grouchy, smelly, no make up, stinky breath etc. side of the other.
Still, millions of Americans choose to dive in and live with their lover. So, someone must think it’s a good idea!
When you have dated enough but are not yet ready to get married, generally the next step is cohabitation. This will give you the chance to discover how your boyfriend or girlfriend perceives your behavior and how you need to grow.
You will start to practice the empathy and patience that are needed in a long term relationship. There will be problems, and the way you deal with them when there’s no long term commitment, may signal whether the full scale commitment of marriage is a good idea.
Another scenario where living together makes sense is when you have recently been hurt for divorce. You may be emotionally mature enough to marry but you are not ready because you are currently healing from a previous relationship. If you have been with your current partner for a while, you might decide to live together before you take the marriage plunge again.
This doesn’t mean that you should plunge right into living together before the divorce papers are signed. You probably are better off getting your feet wet in the dating market before you strike up a living arrangement.
This tends to work best when neither of you have children. Introducing children to revolving live in mates can be damaging to them.
Some people have been burned by marriage in the past and don’t want to get married again ever. But they find someone who they want to spend their days and nights with, cohabitation seems like the best solution. As long as both parties see cohabitation as the end result and not the beginning of something, you’ll get along fine.
Further, you may find that you enter into a cohabitating relationship and like it just fine. You may decide that marriage is not for you, but you continue the relationship as is.
If you are entering in a temporary but long term stressful situation together, it may be a good thing to live together.
For instance, if you are starting graduate school, living together can be a great idea. You probably won’t have a lot of time to date. Living with an emotionally supportive partner can help you get through the intense academic stress.
Further, money is usually tight when you’re in school and two people can live more cheaply together than apart. Also, you will be less likely to need to spend money on dates when you can eat breakfast together every morning.
Another cohabitation triggering event is graduation. When students loose the structure of school, they often find themselves turning to their romantic relationships to fill the gap. Sometimes it’s good to experience living together first before taking the plunge into marriage, especially if the parties are young.
Many jobs and career paths require a person to move from place to place as they move up the ladder. If your partner is unlikely to want to be uprooted on a frequent basis, living together for the time being makes a lot of sense. Then, when you feel you are in a place where you can settle down or with a person who doesn’t mind moving with you, you can consider marriage.
Another reason living together can make sense is when you want to stay financially independent. For instance, if someone is receiving alimony or spousal support, the financial assistance will go away when they remarry.
If you have a lot of money, you may want to stay single rather than subjecting your assets to division in the case of divorce. If this is the case, a prenuptial agreement might be the solution, but you should consult an attorney about the financial implecations of marriage before taking the plunge.
If debt is an issue, you may want to stay single so that creditors cannot attach the community income or assets to pay off one party’s bills.
There are some scenarios where it would be a bad idea to secure a divorce but the parties are ready to move on. For instance, if one spouse is suffering from a serious illness and needs the other person’s insurance, it is cruel to divorce. But that doesn’t mean that the parties have to stay together. One or both can move on and live with other people without cutting off the health insurance benefits. This is particularly true when the sick person is unable to secure health insurance on his or her own.
If you are living on social security, you may be getting aid for your dead spouse. If you remarry, you lose that extra assistance. Many older Americans are deciding to live together, which is something they never would have considered in their youth, as a result of these governmental pension programs.
Older partners sometimes find that there is no need to take the plunge again. New children are not an issue and the interests of adult children, particularly in terms of inheritance, need to be protected. This is a situation where living together makes a lot of sense.
When Not to Live Together
Okay, I’ve laid out a number of scenarios where cohabitation makes sense. But there are a number of situations that people get into where they are deluding themselves that living together is a good idea. This can permanantly harm their chances of marrying the other person and can be emotionally destructive as well.
Don’t look at cohabitation as a “trial marriage.” Living together in order to figure out if you are compatible enough to marry may seem logical, but it doesn’t work out that way. If it did, people who cohabitated before they got married would have more successful marriages. As it turns out, people who live toghether bfore marriage tend to go on to marry other people not each other. Also, cohabitation success doesn’t guarantee a happy or successful marriage. Couples who live together before marriage get divorced at a slightly higher rate than couples who don’t.
Living together lacks many of the advantages of being married, but it has many of the disadvantages.
Marriage conveys a certain status on you. Your family will have to accept the other person.
There is still some stigma about living together in some sectors of the society. There is a sexist perspective that if the man really loved the woman he would marry her. Other women may think that if a man isn’t married, he’s still on the market.
Another, more practical, consideration is that when you are married, you have community property and assets. When you are living together, buying things can be more difficult. You may have more trouble buying a house or car together because creditors will see you as a risk because if you break up, the bill will be left dangling.
If your goal is marriage, keep in mind that your partner will see you at your worst (and vice versa). This may not be the best way to entice someone to go to the alter with you.
Finally, many partners start to take each other for granted when they begin to live together. You can have sex anytime, so why do it tonight? You can drift apart emotionally and sexually while living under one roof.
When Your Relationship Goals Differ
If one partner actually wants to get married rather than just living together, he or she usually becomes frustarated and resentful at the situation over time. This usually leads to the relationship’s demise. If you want to get married and have children, but your partner is not of the same mind, then living together only delays the inevitable break up. Your partner is unlikely to change is or her mind in the near future and you are passing up other potential partners who do want to get married.
Keep in mind that women have a “biological clock.” They can only have children until a certain time in their lives and are generally recommended to have them before they turn 35. A woman in her early 30s may be pushing for marriage. Her cohabitating boyfriend may not understand her need to settle down and nest.
A woman over the age of 30 who wants to have children in the context of a marriage should not cohabitate without a firm wedding date. And a man who wants to have children should not continue a relationship indefinately with a woman who is reaching her biological time clock.
Don’t Live Together Because You’re Afraid of Marriage
Are you afraid to get married? Does the idea of a lifelong commitment shake you to your boots? The cohabitation is NOT for you.
You may not want to get married for any number of reasons. For instance, someone who feels he was “taken to the cleaners” in a previous divorce may not be emotionally ready for a cohabitating relationship.
Another scenario is when a woman thought she was being a good wife and then her husband divorced her. She never wants to go through that again so she’s determined to never be a wife again.
There’s a thin line between not being ready to get remarried and not wanting to experience marriage ever again.
In this case, it’s not that marriage to YOU bothers your partner, marriage to anyone bothers them. The irrational fears about marriage will spill over into all parts of your relationship.
When you live with a marriage phobic partner, he or she will never marry you. You are giving them what they want and may not be getting something sufficient in return. Don’t think you can change their mind about marriage. You’re stuck in a cohabitating relationship until you decide to move on.
Rules for Living Together
Before moving in, you need to discuss the practical issues and potential problems that cohabitating brings. It is better to work out problems in advance when your motivation is still high and you have other options. If you can’t compromise successfully, you can opt out of moving in while you still have other living arrangements.
After you move in together, there is less incentive for your partner to compromise. You also have more of an opportunity to take your partner for granted.
It is fairly easy to come down with a list of the things you need to discuss before moving in because most couples fight about the same core issues. These include money, sex, kids, family, friends, spare time, chores, and the direction of the relationship.
You need to discuss how you are going to handle the finances. Is all of the money you make going to be put into a community pot with one checking account between the two of you? Another arrangement is to keep separate checking accounts but opening up a third joint one for joint bills. You may want to make equal payments on the lifestyle if you have relatively equal incomes or you may opt for a proportional scheme if you have substantially different salary levels.
Discuss what the budget is going to look like. This is more than who pays for what and enters the zone of what is going to be paid for. For instance, does her make up come out of the community budget? If so, does he know how much she’s spending on it? Is she going to subsidize his expensive golf habit? These are things to get out of the way.
You should sit down and make a comprehensive budget before moving in together. Discuss what community funds will cover and what will be separate obligations. Also determine what each person will put into the pot.
Making time for sex is another issue that you’ll have to face early on. Most people expect that their sex life will improve when they live together. According to relationship counselors, it often gets worse. When sex is difficult and complicated, people appreciate it more. They are willing to work for it. When couples live together, many people begin putting other activities ahead of sex. It boils down to under appreciating the things that come easily.
So, nip this problem in the bud before it jeopardizes your emotional closeness.
If you have children, how you raise them will be an issue in your relationship. One of the biggest stressors on a cohabitating relationship is how to handle discipline of the other person’s kids. If you want your partner to have a hand in raising the children, you need to find ways to incorporate his or her role with the children. If you don’t want them interfering, you need to be prepared to face criticism on your technique.
You want your partner to accept your children and vice versa. But the “step” thing (even, or especially, when you’re not married) can be complicated. If children are involved, you need to clarify a parenting plan before you move in.
Another issue is fitting family and friends into your new lives. Will everyone know you are living together or are you shielding some people from this knowledge? If there is a particular person who is going to have a problem with your new relationship, discuss how you are going to handle them.
Will you spend your time with people as a couple, or will you largely see some people such as your families alone? How are holidays going to be handled?
If you get an invitation to a wedding or social event, will you expect both names to be on the invitation (ie. John Doe and Mary Smith) or will it be acceptable for only one to be invited? (ie. John Smith and Guest).
Another thing to negotiate is how you will spend your spare time. You may not have a clear idea about how much time you want to spend together ahead of time, but you can set up some general perameters.
For instance, how much time are you going to spend with the “girls” or “guys”? Are there regular commitments that you have that you plan to continue alone (anything from the weekly poker game to tutoring a child after school)?
You should also discuss how much time you plan to spend “hanging out” at home and how much time you want to spend out and about.
When you move in with someone, you face a whole new set of issues – who takes care of the house? If you have vastly different sets of expectations about what “clean” means, one person is going to probably do a lot more of the house work – and resent it.
Many different kinds of domestic arrangements can work, but you have to discuss your expectations in advance. Don’t assume that things will “just work out.”
There are many different scenarios that can work when one of you is cleaner than the other. For instance, you can hire a maid, designate one room as the other’s mess room (with the door shut), or learn to live in a less clean environment.
Another issue is whether one person is a perpetual cleaner. Some people are “fussers.” They are constantly moving – fixing, cleaning, or doing something. This can get on the nerves of a “sitter” and are perfectly happy sitting around watching TV even if there is a mess right there.
One way is not better than the other, but it is something to discuss.
Discuss what you’re going to discuss – with others. Is it okay for her to gossip about your flaws to her friends? What if he complains to his mother that you aren’t living up to his expectations in one regard or another?
Remember that any gossip said in the heat of the moment will be remembered even after you’ve calmed down and made up.
The best policy is to make your partner your friend and trusted ally. Keep confidences and secrets. Your shared experiences are what makes your bond strong. Don’t dilute that bond by gossiping aout your sweetie.
Comparing Relationship Goals
Before you move in, you need to talk about what the end game in the relationship is. Do you expect to live together for a set period of time before you get married? Are you in an open ended relationship? Make sure you are on the same page so there is no confusion later.
If you are going to “sign on the dotted line” (ie. Lease an apartment or buy a house together), what will happen if you break things off? Discuss how you will handle these joint obligations if one person bails.
If long term financial arrangements are at issue, you should write down any agreements and compromises. It will make it easier to notice anything that is overlooked, you’ll remember the agreement better, you’ll notice disagreements sooner, and you’ll be more likely to respect and honor your agreements if you’ve written them down.
Think of this document as a pre-pre-nuptial agreement!
Things change when you move in with your partner. Even if you are spending most of your nights together before the move in day, you will find your life to be completely altered by the 24/7 nature of your new relationship.
If you have dated for a long time before you decide to cohabitate, you may think that you already know everything about your partner. However, you will be surprised – sometimes good but mostly bad – about some things about your partner.
If you haven’t dated for long, you may find that the stress of moving in actually breaks you up.
Instead of having romantic dates followed making passionate love, you’re more likely to hang around the house and have perfunctuary sex.
Living together is not “playing house,” it’s the real thing. Yet, you have none of the advantages of formal marriage.
That’s not to say that it is a bad idea to move in with the person you love. In many cases – as I’ve outlined in this report – it makes a lot of sense. But ratcheting up your relationship to this level brings a number of new complications.
If you are going to move in together, I suggest you use the advice in this report to discuss the important issues ahead of time.
Good luck with your decision!