I love intimate relationships; I love studying relationships, learning about relationships, and, most of all, I love my relationship. So it makes sense that I would like to talk about the “next step” in my own (and maybe your?) intimate relationship. But first, I’m going to let you in on a personal story and theory that I’ve fully believed in and carried on with since I was a child. I’d like to start our relationship out on a good step, dear reader, and to do that, I think that telling you something very near and dear to me is the way to do it.
When I was in 5th grade I had the biggest crush on a boy, who, unfortunately, my best friend also had a crush on. Filled with a very limited amount of excuses of ‘why he should like me more than her’, I was constantly looking for more until, one day, I scrawled our names together in my notebook and lined them up perfectly on top of one another and realized that our names had the same amount of letters in them. The Nineteen Letter Fate Mate Theory was born. “It was meant to be!,” I thought, “We will be together forever!”
I do not need to tell you that we were not together forever. I was in 5th grade and obviously did not know anything about anything, but the Nineteen Letter Fate Mate Theory stuck. I used and abused this theory on all the crushes that have followed – taking out a letter from their middle name, adding in a space – anything that would make their name match my Nineteen Letter long one. I met my best friend in college this way, and, shortly after, started dating my true Nineteen Letter Fate Mate who I have happily been with for four years.
And here we are now.
Four years into a long-term, long-distance, serious relationship about to make our next really big move, literally and figuratively, and I’m still trying to figure that out. By that, I simply mean that I am trying to understand and learn what this means for us and how to make it a successful and happy transition for the long-term.
In college, I took an amazing class with an amazing instructor about intimate relationships. In this class, I wrote an extensive research essay about cohabitation and came to the conclusion that cohabitation was not for me. I told all my friends and my mom that I would never cohabit before marriage, that it was an awful idea, and that the relationship would be Doomed. While there are many studies that confirm this personal conclusion, there are also more recent studies that strongly negate it. (SPOILER: My mind has since changed. Mom, let me say this publicly now: I was wrong; you were right.)
I’m a planner. I always have been. It drives Nick crazy because I will plan every detail that I can on any trips we take or days we spend together. When we first started talking about moving in together, I began planning and researching everything I knew that would support this decision, as well as preventative measures on issues that others have had in their experiences of cohabiting, and that, my dear reader, is what I would like to share with you today. If you are like me and you are at this step, or will eventually be at this step in the near or far future, I hope that some of what I have found is as helpful in your decisions as it has been to me.
About half of all couples entering their first marriage today live together before marriage, and there are at least 10 times as many couples living together today than there were 30 years ago (Bumpass & Lu, 200; Smock, 200). Is there something inherently bad about living together before marriage? Probably not. The relationship instability that goes along with cohabitation seems rooted instead in the characteristics of the people who opt to cohabit and in the relationships they form.
If you plan to move in with your partner, marriage should be discussed (if marriage is for you). Studies show that couples who marry first before living together are more successful in staying faithful because of their ‘vow of permanence’, more sexually active/satisfied, and may be more likely to share finances, therefore avoiding some arguments with financial roots. Moving in with someone without strong and stable plans on marriage means that anyone can leave at anytime, which may breed mutual disrespect rather than mutual respect. It is important that the couple share goals for their future with the same timeline and that the discussion continue after moving in!
From this first point alone, we also learn that communication is a huge key in success. It is proven that happy couples talk more! People in the most successful marriages and relationships spend five or more hours a week being together and talking. It is extremely important that partners cultivate positive interactions every single day by giving one another compliments, reliving a fun memory, showing your appreciation, or simply by doing something nice for them. Similarly, when it comes to strengthening your relationship, studies show that the most crucial factor is how you celebrate your partner’s good news. This is as simple as showing enthusiasm, asking questions, congratulating them, or livening up and living the experience with them.
Having an honest and open conversation about splitting finances is essential in the success of cohabitation. Ideally, splitting everything 50/50 would work 100% of the time, but sometimes (surprise!) it doesn’t. Talking about it can really only help. It is also worth discussing who is purchasing what furniture/appliances/groceries/etc. so an equal contribution is made to household items. Obviously there are exceptions to this; for example, Nick does not drink coffee, so I wouldn’t expect him to go in on K-cups with me to fuel my caffeine habit. Integrating two different lifestyles into one household will absolutely yield independent maintenance toward certain things.
Finally, you must vow to continue dating. Living together doesn’t mean you should become too comfortable – shutting yourself in on the weekends to watch Netflix will become very old, very fast. Continue to do things you did before you moved in together, pick up a new hobby or activity you can both participate in, or surprise your significant other with plans at a new place in the town/city to keep things exciting! If finances are an issue, Pinterest has some a m a z i n g ideas for free to little cost date ideas at home or in the community.
Many experts say the experience of cohabitation is necessary to allow a couple to grow and sort out their differences before making a life-long commitment to each other. These differences can be as simple as the cleanliness around the house (i.e. splitting chores) or who cooks what/when. It is also an opportunity in allowing a relationship to naturally progress.
I agree with these experts, and I feel that I have been preparing very well for this upcoming experience. No matter who you are, cohabitation is a decision that a couple needs to make together and discuss at great length. On a more personal note, I am extremely enthusiastic for this next step in my relationship with Nick, and I am very optimistic and confident that we will have a very long, happy and successful future with one another. If cohabitation is in your near or far future, I wish you luck on this exciting adventure!
Thank you for reading!
First, let me say congratulations! What a big and exciting step to be taking in your life! Second, I should admit that I’m not the most knowledgeable in this area since the idea of commitment in a relationship sends me running for the hills unless it’s with Leonardo DiCaprio.
However, I think your points are very well stated and topics that every person should make when moving in with his or her significant other. I may be biased as a journalism student, but I think communication is the key to any relationship, whether it is a romantic or platonic relationship. Clearly when moving in with a significant other, it is important to talk and to continue to talk. Make sure the two of you are on the same page. It’s amazing how easy it is for one person to take his or her partner’s words out of context.
I loved your point about finances. Money is the big scary part of life, whether it is budgeting your own or having the discussion with another person. I believe a couple should sit down and discuss monetary issues before moving in together. Money can easily cause a rift between two people, which means it is important to have guidelines.
While I’m on the issue of money and budgeting, I should say that I have another point to make supporting the idea of cohabitation. Though it may sound cold and unnecessary in conversation about a relationship, I would argue moving in with your significant other (if you two are ready for this step) is a great way to save money. As a person who is moving to a big city come August, I cannot imagine paying rent alone. That being said, I would strongly suggest a couple does not move in together simply to save money. I’m merely pointing out a great benefit of the decision.
Lastly, I loved your idea about continuing to date! It is way to easy for a couple to fall in to a routine and forget why they fell in love in the first place. I’m not saying a relationship will be the same in your twenties as it is in your fifties. In fact, I think it’s wonderful that a relationship grows and changes over time. However, I think it’s completely possible to keep the “spark alive” for lack of better phrasing. I would also argue that this is when a person should start making time for himself or herself. If a couple moves in together they may fall into the trap of becoming one person. If a person is thinking of moving in with a significant other, he or she should make time to pursue a hobby, spend time with friends or travel solo. You’ll appreciate your partner even more when you have your much needed alone time.
Moving in together is a big step. You will learn things about your partner that you would never know without this experience. It’s a good test for your relationship and a necessary step. I think with open communication, monetary guidelines and much needed alone time, moving in together can be a rewarding experience!