Moving in together. It's when a couple solidifies their relationship. It's the moment they affirm their commitment to one another and proclaim to the world that they are A Thing – the essential bridge between messy nights out and nights in on the sofa together watching 24 Hours in A&E and shopping online for hand soap.
But what does shared domesticity do to a couple's sex life? Is all sexual tension lost amid arguments about emptying the dishwasher and the mundanity of choosing what colour to paint the skirting board? Can humans really mate in captivity?
To find out, we asked some humans.
"THERE WAS MORE 'DUTY SEX'"
It was actually pretty weird. It wasn't better or worse – just very different. There was probably less frequency, but the "quality" was better – like a "we are making love in our nest" type of difference. Also, no more flatmates meant that we could do it whenever, wherever, without fearing someone bursting in. The fact that we lived together also meant that we didn't have to have sex every time we slept in the same bed, so we became more comfortable with the "not having sex" stage of the relationship. It also meant we started to experiment more.
On the other hand, difficult times were more clearly illustrated through lack of sex. And there also was more "duty sex" – the "sex just to make the numbers" type of sex. Which was pretty shit.
"FOR THE PAST YEAR WE'VE BEEN IN AN OPEN RELATIONSHIP, AND THAT'S BEEN ROCKY"
I guess we did the whole thing in reverse, because we were cohabiting before we were even dating. I'd just moved to a new city. I'd planned to crash on his couch, but then we hooked up and I ended up moving straight into his bedroom. At the very beginning I was young and immature, so we both had to be wasted out of our minds – but once we got over that, it was like this non-stop love and intimacy fest.
That was two-and-a-half years ago. We both have crazy schedules so we rarely saw each other, and that built resentment. You feel the absence, but because you're living together you never feel like you have to make a plan. When you live together, because you're sleeping in the same bed every night, sex can end up feeling like an obligation. Our sex life is better now that we've moved out – when we're sleeping together it's by choice, not by necessity.
Also, for the past year we've been in an open relationship, and that's been rocky. He's Southern European and super-romantic, and he had a hard time with that. So we needed to re-evaluate with a little bit of distance, and since we moved out I feel way closer to him. That was actually just two weeks ago – but it's chill, or at least medium-chill, to talk about it.
To have him moving in from the beginning was great because we could have as much sex as we wanted, and it really intensified the experience of feeling like a couple. I mean, I hear new couples talk about how they do it seven times a day or whatever – that wasn't quite us, but to me the amount was perfect.
We were both always away a lot, so when we were together it was special. Now things have evolved in a way that we need more space, and I'd say moving out has really helped the way we relate to each other physically and emotionally. It's brought more romance to the idea of getting together – it's made our relationship stronger.
We've had ups and downs, but we work on things and have good communication. I don't think we've ever had a bad sex life – I mean, he's a contortionist and I'm a yoga teacher; how bad is sex ever really going to be?
Paulo, 24READ ON MOTHERBOARD: Eagerly We Await the Coming of the Sex Robots
"SHE MADE ME FUCK HER WHILE SHE STARTED INTENTLY AT BOTH ME AND HERSELF IN THE MIRROR"
We'd had a messy, on-off relationship for years, but the shit hit the fan when my landlord decided not to renew my tenancy after three years. Reality hit hard. There was simply nothing in London even close to the £450 I'd been paying. That was when I had my bright idea – we should do a couples' house. Three rooms, three couples. I'm a genius, right?
Over the year she and I lived together we just got more and more resentful. Right from day one, cohabitation reinforced how much we wished the other person would change, to be more like who we wanted them to be. Sex became more and more infrequent, and eventually I started weaponising my slightly lower sex drive – to deny her sex at crucial moments, as my way of expressing how angry I was for other reasons. It was fucking horrible, really.
It became increasingly clear to her that I was just waiting for our contract to run out. This became a real emotional drain. She dragged us on a fucking mini-break to Amsterdam to relight the flame. I hated that she was making me spend money I didn't have on a trip I'd rather do with people I actually liked. We didn't have sex that weekend.
Things came to a head after a particularly nasty night where I drank too much, had a line or three and threw a bottle of wine through a window. I moved on to the sofa for the final few months of our contract.
We always had good sex (when we were having sex), but it was really the post-relationship encounters I remember. That's when something else came out: the dirty talk, the seedy, exhibitionist sex with something to prove – half trying to pleasure, half trying to intimidate. The final time was the best. She took me back to her new flat – it was much nicer than my new place, with a full-length mirror against the wall. She made me fuck her while she stared intently at both me and herself (mostly herself). I pulled out and she arched her back a little further and whispered, "Don't hurt me too much" – the invite to have her in the ass as well.
Despite the fact that our co-habitation was a total misery for us both, my lingering memory of her will always be her reflection in that mirror – all the resentment, power-play and helplessness washed away.
Jamie, 26READ ON BROADLY: Why Loud Sex Is Good for Your Health
"NOW WE HAVE OUR OWN PLACE WE CAN EXPERIMENT"
I think our sex life changed drastically because the space became both of ours, so it was happening in different places, rather than just the bedroom: the kitchen, the living room, the shower, the couch. I hated his old apartment, and I had flatmates, so now that we have our own place there's a level of comfort that allows for way more experimentation.
Also, because we both travel a lot, when we're in the apartment together it becomes this place of extreme intimacy. When we get home it all becomes extra heightened and special – like, OK, now this is connection time.
"YOU TOUCH THIS, I TOUCH THAT, THEN WE COME"
I was with Giuliana for five years. Six months was a long-distance relationship, then a year-and-a-half in a small room in a shared apartment, then really living together.
I think every relationship starts off with a lot of sex, then it tails off whether you are living together or not. But this was my first time living with a girl, and it was interesting to observe the rhythm that developed, where during the week not much would happen, then Saturday morning was, like, sex time. That was just when we had time together without being tired – but it can become a bit regular.
The sex itself was always quite good, but a bit of routine crept in – like, you touch this, then I touch that, then we come. But we found ways of making it new, like exploring tantric practices together, which was really exciting. You have to be creative and make sure not to take each other for granted.
Then she moved away, and the problem was we saw each other rarely, and there was pressure to have a really great time in the days we had together. So, really, that was what caused the problems.
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