The economy continues to impact our personal lives, and for many couples, moving in together looks more and more attractive. Before you start packing, here’s our guide to living together with the good, bad and ugly from real couples and our expert, Elena Donovan Mauer, coauthor of “The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin” (Adams Media).
When deciding to move in, remember that just because you aren’t legally bound, doesn’t mean your finances can’t be impacted by the other person’s decisions.
Jay L. from Greensboro, North Carolina, shares her story:
“My boyfriend and I were together five years and planning to get married. So we purchased a home together, instead of us both paying rent. When our relationship began to unravel and I decided to move out of the house, I quickly realized what a mistake I made. Shortly after I left he stopped paying the mortgage and the home went into foreclosure. I’m still trying to clean up my credit from the mess I got into from living with that man!”
“Put all your money issues out on the table! Money will dictate a lot: from where you choose to live to how you split up the bills to how you shop for food and other items, etc. Often, one partner has a very different financial situation than the other. It’s important to go in with a plan for how you’ll deal with money, but it can evolve over time. Always keep the dialogue going,” Mauer says.
If you do decide to move in with your beau, it doesn’t mean date nights must cease.
Ashley W. of Houston, Texas, is enjoying the perks of living with her guy: “My boyfriend and I have been living together for two months. It’s cheaper than staying apart and we are always together anyways. It’s cool because we love the attention and it’s great having someone with you every night. And another great thing is that I only pay $215 for rent.”
“Many people still follow certain religious practices and are against moving in together, or they’ve always visualized themselves married before sharing a dwelling, and their beliefs shouldn’t be taken lightly. Cohabitation is only for people who really believe this is the right living situation for them. Always do what’s right for you, not what other people tell you should be “obligatory,” shares Mauer.
“I recommend finding a new place together, but often couples decide it’s best for one person to move into the other’s place. Be sure you’re both happy with the residence you’ve chosen to reside in together. It should feel like home to both of you,” warns Mauer.
“Every couple should sit down and discuss what they expect from cohabitation before moving in together. If you both agree that you’re just trying it out to see where it could go, that’s okay too. As long as it’s a mutual expectation,” explains Mauer.
“If you both agree that you’re just trying it out to see where it could go, that’s okay too. As long as it’s a mutual expectation,” she adds.
“These days, many people worry about losing their jobs. It’s wise to discuss the “what ifs” with your boyfriend. Can you—and are you willing to—support him financially if he becomes unemployed? And vice versa? Could either of you move in with your parents (or have some other Plan B) if you can’t make rent? Definitely take a second look at those legal matters. For example, having both your names on the lease makes you both responsible for rent—so if one of you can’t make the payments and tries to “dump” it on the other, the other has the right to take legal action against you,” says Mauer.
Living with someone is completely different than just spending time together, which many couples learn the hard way.
Elna J. of Henry County, Georgia, hopes her story inspires women to contemplate such a serious decision: “My boyfriend and I relocated from Pennsylvania to Georgia and decided to move in together after dating for two months. Oh boy, was that a mistake! We argued about everything. Those 17 months were simply a living hell on earth. Ladies, please do not move in with your boo unless you are absolutely certain that is what you want to do.”
In the age of the independent woman, the traditional role of who pays the bills is up for grabs. It is important to have a system and communicate who pays what when moving in.
Working woman Maria M. in Suitland, Maryland, shares her story: “My guy travels extensively for work, so we felt it was more economical for him to move in. His work pays solely on commission, so he doesn’t get a regular check and I pay the monthly bills. I don’t mind because he’s helped me financially with the down payment on my first home. When we go on vacation or out to eat, he always picks up the tab. So there’s a balance. But when we move into our new place, we’ll split the mortgage 50/50.”
“Living with a mate definitely tells you so much more than dating does. The women we interviewed for “The Good Girl’s Guide to Living in Sin” said that they learned much, much more about their boyfriend through cohabitation—even if they were staying over a lot before the big move. But I don’t think it should be obligatory before marriage," says Mauer.
For many couples, the allure of erasing barriers that keep them apart comes into play when deciding to move in together.
Homemaker Georganna W. of Modesto, California, shares the best part of moving in with her boyfriend and father of her child:
“My boyfriend and I have been together for two years. The distance we lived apart was a major factor in him moving in with me. It was one of the best decisions we have made together, it is definitely the sweetest taboo. The best thing about it is that we go to bed together and wake up together planning our day, together.”
“Once you realize that living together is harmful to the relationship, come up with a plan to move out. A relationship can continue after cohabitation if you both want that. But remember that you might be able to improve things if you change whatever it is about the cohabitation situation that’s being harmful. Maybe you two are spending too much time together and it’s causing tension. Make a plan to spend more time out separately with your respective friends. Take up a new hobby, make an effort to nurture your own life and identity—then you can bring more to your relationship when you two are together,” Mauer explains.
“It’s too soon to move in with one another if the two of you aren’t on the same page about what moving in means for your relationship or if you differ in your idea of where the relationship is headed. For example, one person thinks you’ll only be “living together” for a year and then definitely getting married, and the other isn’t sure marriage is on the horizon at all," Mauer reveals.