Two-thirds of people in the U.S. approve of cohabitation or living with someone outside of marriage. Approximately 70 percent of women’s first marriages are preceded by a period of cohabitation.
All in all, around 18 million adult Americans cohabitate. However, moving in with the person you are involved with is a major life-changing decision for both of you. It can either strengthen or weaken the relationship, depending on a variety of factors such as your individual goals and how each of you approaches cohabitation.
To make sure you are compatible enough to share a residence, sit down beforehand for one or more serious conversations. There are certain things you should find out about each other before making the big move. For example, is one of you moving in with the other or are both of you be moving out of your current places and getting a new place together? If it is the latter, where and what criteria do you use to pick a place? If you can get through essential conversations like these and still both want to live together, you can feel more confident moving forward into your happy shared home.
Why are you moving in together rather than getting married or just continuing to date? Are you doing it to save money on rent or test your compatibility for marriage? Many people who cohabitate never marry, or at least not each other. In fact, less than half of couples who cohabitate are engaged or intend to marry.
Whatever your reasons, what is most important is that you are both are doing it for the same reasons. If you and your partner’s reasons for cohabitating differ from the outset, you start out on unequal footing, each of you operating from different motivations and intentions.
Is there a desired outcome to this cohabitation experiment? Are you considering one day marrying this person? If one of you wants marriage while the other does not, or one of you is more “into” the other person than he or she is into you, moving in together may be an unsatisfactory compromise leading to disappointment.
While you both do not need to share all the same values, you at least need to know what each other’s values are. If your values differ on key issues like family, finances, work ethic, politics, religion, raising children and life in general, are they at least compatible? Moreover, whether compatible or not, can you at least respect and support each other’s differing values while remaining true to your own? Conflicts over values can become a flash point when you move in together and have to make joint decisions on household affairs.
When you live by yourself, you are master of your own schedule. The alarm goes off when you need it and the shower is available when you are ready for it. When you live with another person, certain practical elements of your lifestyle may be forced to change.
Are your waking and sleeping schedules compatible? What about your use of the shower and bathroom to get ready for work each day? Are you able to share or take turns and still get your daily hygienic needs met and get to work on time? How can you coordinate your schedules together so each of your daily needs are met? It is important to consider whether your lifestyles will allow you to live together comfortably, or if there are obvious causes for concern.
In addition to assessing your own and each other’s values, you must do the same about your living habits, including your idiosyncrasies and peeves. For instance:
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If you can be honest with yourself and the other person about what drives you crazy in a living situation and how you might drive another person crazy in that setting, you can empower each other to make responsible choices. Those choices may be to hold off living with you just yet or to prepare to handle the other person’s idiosyncrasies or your peeves in a healthy, loving and proactive manner.
When you are dating and living separately, you can retreat to your home and decompress alone. However, when you live with your partner, you must always share a space with him or her.
You also need to know the logistical elements of living together so you do not have to figure it out on the fly. Who takes on each of the various responsibilities in the home, or do you both split each one? Responsibilities to consider include:
How do you divide the financial responsibilities for the home? Do you split every bill 50/50 or does each of you take on certain payments? Are there billable products or services one of you might want which the other does not, such as cable television, and how can you deal with the discrepancy as far as paying the bill?
Can you maintain a single account for the household into which you each make deposits, or can you make all your payments from your own respective personal accounts? Finances can often make or break relationships. If you are living together, even if you do not merge your bank accounts, you must be on the same page about how to handle financial responsibilities on a monthly basis.
For many couples planning on moving in together, the question of pregnancy is best brought up ahead of time. Even when you take precautions, accidents can happen, and it is best if both of you are on the same page from the outset as to what would happen should pregnancy occur. Alternatively, might pregnancy be a goal for the two of you?
If one or both of you have children from previous relationships, you must also consider their needs and preferences. Are those children going to be living with you too, and, if so, full-time or part-time? If both of you have children living with you at least part of the time, have they met? Do they get along? What do they think of the proposed arrangement? How can you deal with resistance? Consider all these questions prior to moving in with your partner to assess and prepare for the best.
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