According to the Pew Research Center, "the transition from courtship to marriage more often than not includes a spell of cohabitation. More than half (58 percent) of women aged 19 to 44 who marry for the first time had lived with their husbands before the wedding." Millennials in particular are more likely to live with their partners before marriage than any previous generation.
It's easy to see why couples move in together. Cohabitation means you get to spend more time together, and splitting rent and bills is a savvy way to save dough. But sharing a mailing address also raises the stakes of a relationship. Problems can arise when couples aren't on the same page about the meaning of the move-in. Is it motivated by mere convenience or is it a step towards marriage? Who pays the bills? And, goddamnit, why don't you ever do the dishes!? They're mostly your dishes! It's imperative couples understand the financial, legal, and emotional risk they're taking on when they shack up. So we asked love, sex, and money experts to see what people should keep in mind before merging their book and record collections. The answers have been edited for length and clarity.
How to Handle Money
"Start doing things together like paying bills, get a joint checking account just to take care of household expenses. Budget for groceries, meal service, joint gym memberships or even a trip together. This is a great way to experience handling money together. Pay attention to any red flags. Realize you are still dating. You are not married. While living together, think about how this would be if you two were married. Does this work or not? Do you need to tweak some things or are there major issues that need to be discussed? You have to see a person's habits, good days, bad days, disappointments, even how they react to being sick. The divorce rate is over 50 percent now. I would not get married without living together first." —Jennifer Streaks, Financial Journalist and Author of Thrive!... Affordably: Your month-to-month guide to living your BEST life without breaking the bank
How to Handle Fighting
"The biggest mistake people make is believing that a struggling relationship will improve once you move in. Many couples think the strength of their love and attraction is enough to overcome all obstacles or difficulties they might encounter. Keeping the emotional connection active is necessary to achieve contentment. Most couples need to learn how to fight more effectively. When someone is more interested in being right, intimacy diminishes. Prior to moving in, it is imperative to seriously consider how your morals and values match up." —Lisa Brateman, Psychotherapist and Relationship Specialist
How to Handle Fighting (About Money)
"You're going to get into fights. You're going to unearth obnoxious quirks about your partner you didn't know existed before. Those aren't always things for which you can plan. But you can be careful not to make assumptions and instead have transparent conversations. For example, how is rent being paid? One of you might think it's 50/50 while the other assumes it would be prorated based on income. Are you creating a joint bank account, or is one person primarily in charge of paying bills? Will you be having monthly meetings to discuss household expenses? Are you splitting everything completely evenly regardless of income or debt burdens? These are all questions you want answered before signing a lease." —Erin Lowry, author of Broke Millennial: Stop Scraping By and Get Your Financial Life Together
How to Give Each Other Space
"Moving in together doesn't mean you're handcuffed together. You're both going to need space and time on your own. That might be literal space –– separate nights out with your friends –– or metaphorical space so you can do your own thing without interruption. Taking time apart to maintain your individual lives and interests is going to be key not just to feeling like you have a life outside of being part of a couple, but also to not become exhausted and frustrated in dealing with your partner's bullshit." —Harris O'Malley aka Dr. NerdLove, Dating Expert
How to Give Each Other Sex
"The key to retaining passion in long-term relationships, regardless of whether you live together, get married, have kids, etcetera: Prioritize each other and the relationship as a separate, third entity into which you're both invested. Schedule date times, make the kind of effort to flirt with each other like you did at the beginning. Take nothing for granted. Be comfortable in your skin, but remember this person is your partner, not your parent or an extension of yourself." —Timaree Schmit, PhD, Sexuality Educator
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