This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
For many of us, romantic love—however complicated it can be—often boils down to this: You meet someone, you fall in love, and if it doesn't end in tears before you start thinking about moving in together, you eventually move in together.
Whether you decide to do it because you can't stand to spend an hour apart, because it's cheaper, or because it's just the logical next step in adulthood, the move changes a relationship. Suddenly, you find yourself constantly dealing with another human's shit (mostly metaphorically but sometimes literally) and stacks of bills you need to pay for together. That last thing especially—shared finances—can be straining on a relationship, since buying things you don't need with your own cash is one thing, but burning through your lover's savings is one of the quickest ways to end up single.
VICE editors from around Europe asked six couples who live together how they manage to share the burden of running a household and still have sex with each other regularly.
Marta, 31, Social Media Manager, and Silvia, 30, Publisher – Italy
Marta: "We've been a couple for ten years now, and we moved in together five years ago. So far we've stuck to our initial plan of splitting every bill equally. The only time we haven't, was when one of us was earning significantly less than the other.
We both have very different approaches toward managing money—Silvia saves every penny for our future, while I burn through cash going to as many gigs and restaurants as possible. That's why splitting the bills evenly is the easiest way to pay them on time and avoid arguments or long, deeply unsexy conversations about budgeting.
Silvia set us up with a joint bank account for essentials and to monitor our spending, but since the account came with two credit cards, I may have used mine a few times to buy a bunch of less essential items. I'm working on it, though. I really am."
Iva, 27, Journalist, and Dušan, 30, Graphic Designer – Serbia
Iva: "We cover most of our expenses ourselves, but we do ask our parents for help sometimes. Now and then they'll pay our phone bills, or we'll borrow money at the end of the month when we've run out of cash. When they visit, they'll bring food or cleaning supplies—and we always gracefully accept when they offer to pay for things that are a bit more expensive, like nice shampoo.
We split the bills almost evenly, but Dušan pays a little more. He owns the house, so, fortunately, we don't pay any rent. However, we do waste a lot of money on eating out and partying. We like to treat ourselves because we both work so much, but it's not a healthy habit. I also spend a lot on clothes and accessories, which Dušan hates. I sometimes hide new stuff from him, like shoes—my shoe collection already takes up an entire room in our apartment. He blows a lot of his money on records, so, in my book, that is just as bad.
Every month, we say we should save some money, but it never happens—and it's pretty normal for us to be broke in the middle of the month, which does lead to arguments, so it's not great for our relationship. I wish we were mature enough to save for, say, fixing up our apartment or traveling to nice places."
Agata, 33, Accountant, and Pawel, 33, Works for a Sports Club – Poland
Agata: "We split our bills fairly, not equally—we contribute based on what we earn. We tried splitting equally for a while, but it felt lame keeping a book on how much each of us was spending. So we decided on fairness: When I earned more, I paid a larger share of our bills, but when I took unpaid parental leave after giving birth to our second kid, Pawel was happy to cover all of our expenses.
Having kids changes the way you manage everything in your life, especially your finances. Now, we obviously spend more money on our children or restaurants, but we spend less on weekends because we don't party as much as we used to. Pawel likes to buy the kids expensive stuff, like fancy shoes and nice clothes. I'm more careful with money—I don't want a lack of it to affect our relationship. When times are hard financially, you can end up arguing a lot. When you are financially stable, you don't feel the need to criticize each other as much."
Mary, 29, Assistant Accountant, and Akis, 28, Navy Officer – Greece
Mary: "You know you've lost the innocence of youth the moment you create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of your combined expenses. Akis pays the rent, life insurance, and groceries, while I cover utilities, TV, and WiFi. Akis makes more money, but I like that we contribute equally. There have been times when I could barely pay my share of the costs, but things have gotten better.
When we first started living together, we were constantly going over our weekly budget. These days, we don't travel as much as we'd like to, mostly because we can't afford it but also because we're saving up to get a Master's degree and later start a family.
In Greece, it's very hard for young couples to get by under the current economic conditions. Fortunately, we both have jobs, and we help each other out when we can."
Aida, 23, Waitress, and Gonzalo, 24, Online Editor – Spain
Gonzalo: "We've been dating for almost four years and have been sharing a roof for about one. It was really hard to find an apartment we could afford—we're based in Barcelona, where rent has skyrocketed over the past two years. On top of that, Aida doesn't earn much working at a cafe. But we finally managed to find something relatively cheap near the city center.
Since my salary is much higher than hers, I pay most of the bills. She pays for WiFi, some occasional grocery shopping, and a small part of the rent. Since I pay for almost everything, we agreed that she would take care of most of the work around the house. Once we both earn more or less the same, we'll split the expenses and the house chores equally. It's not ideal and I know it sounds a bit old-fashioned, but it's what we came up with for now to make things feel more even. And to tell you the truth, I think it's had a positive impact on our relationship—we don't waste time arguing or complaining about money or the state of the apartment."
Daniela, 30, PR Manager, and Octavian, 34, Owns a Game Website – Romania
Daniela: "We both contribute to our joint bank account, which we use to buy things for the house. One of us is in charge of paying for the expensive household bills—rent, utilities, and food—while the other makes sure our child's nanny receives her salary on time and any unexpected day-to-day costs are covered. When either of us is a bit low on money, the other helps out. We like it that way—it feels like we're a team. Actually, money is one of the few issues we never argue about.
We rarely ask our parents for money but when we do, we ask for very small loans. I really believe that having enough money to lead a relatively comfortable life is what gives us space to concentrate on what really matters in our relationship."