Frequently Asked Questions About Cohabitation
Even couples in the healthiest relationships get a little nervous about the concept of living together. Merging two residences into one is a significant lifestyle change – from the logistical to the emotional to what friends and family will think – there are many components of cohabitation to consider.
Living together is a transition that always holds some level of challenge and conflict, but here are some common questions about cohabitation and some advice and tips to help make your process run smoother.
Should we move in together or is it better to wait until after marriage?
It seems there is an endless stream of studies, expert opinions and moral beliefs about living together. At The Institute, we believe strongly that many of the stereotypes and traditions around partnering, cohabiting and marriage need to be “undefined” because, too often, couples are making decisions and moving forward on what they “think” they ought to be doing in context to social norms instead of taking time to create a lifestyle that meets their individual needs and allows them to function as a healthy, balanced couple.
When broaching the subject of cobhabition, you and your partner should have honest and open communication on the reasons for that choice, your mutual expectaions and/or reservations, and your plans for how the step of living together will tranistion into other partnership changes (marriage, children, etc.) down the road. While we always want to please our friends and family, work with your partner to make decisions about what makes sense for your partnership. Then work together to communicate this to family and friends.
How do I know if we’re ready to live together?
If you are approaching a wedding, hopefully you are confident that the time is right. But many couples today are moving in together before engagement or marriage. Each couple must communicate and decide what timing works best for them. You should always be careful to evaluate the motives behind moving in together – is it because you are truly ready to merge your lives and have had experiences together that are urging you to take that next step? Or is it a matter of convenience, economy or what you feel is “expected?” If it is any of the later, you should proceed carefully. Cohabiting should only happen when both parties are confident and comfortable that they are ready to commit to a long-term partnership, know their lifestyles are compatible and can make the transition without significant reservations or a feeling of being “compromised.”
Where should we move?
Obviously, there are economic factors that can help dictate what your options are for a joint residence. However, there are pros and cons to moving into a space that one partner has previously occupied. It may be easier, more convenient and require less work. Then again, it may make the party “moving in” feel less like a partner in the household and more like an extended guest. Here are some points to ponder:
- Do you feel like your or your partner’s space can be transitioned into equal ground where both party’s opinions and desired are reflected in the way you live?
- Are you (or whichever partner currently lives in the space to be shared) willing to “let go” a little and let my significant other have a say in recreating the space for two?
How can we make the cohabitation transition easier?
Whether you have been dating for one or ten years, it is a major shift to go from separate residencies to living under one roof. As with any transition in a relationship, the key is not to “play it by ear” and assume your love and friendship will make the transition smooth and instead take time to communicate and plan together. Before the rush of actually moving starts, plan a weekend day or an evening together to think about some key things that deal with both emotional and logical issues:
- How will we consolidate our separate items to one household? What should we get rid of? What should we store?
- How will living together change our routine (i.e, getting ready in the morning, downtime after work) and how can we work together to make sure that each of us has the time and space to maintain our routine in the context of our new household?
- How will we handle finances and funding and maintaining the “financial machine” that keeps our household running?
- Speaking honestly, what are our biggest individual concerns about moving in together and how can we plan or compromise to make sure these aren’t a problem and enter the cohabiting situation with no reservations?
As with any relationship transition, it is most important to communicate openly about your wants, needs and concerns and then work together as a team to build the lifestyle and partnership that meets both your needs.