According to clinical psychologist Meg Jay in the New York Times: Cohabitation in the United States has increased by more than 1,500 percent in the past half century. In 1960, about 450,000 unmarried couples lived together. Now the number is more than 7.5 million. The majority of young adults in their 20s will live with a romantic partner at least once, and more than half of all marriages will be preceded by cohabitation. This shift has been attributed to the sexual revolution and the availability of birth control, and in our current economy, sharing the bills makes cohabiting appealing.
As a nation, we’ve mastered the art of what my mama and yours calls shacking up. And whether due to a move across country to be closer, wanting more intimacy and sex, financial benefits, or a desire to take things to the next level, there are many conversations that need to be had before a couple decides to combine households—like thousands of them. These conversations are a huge deal, because without them we’re making serious life choices while being dangerously uninformed, and we wouldn’t do such a thing in any other area of our lives.
Asking direct questions about future plans, finances and more might make you and your partner uncomfortable, but that discomfort will pale in comparison to the misery you might experience if you don’t know those answers going in.
Here are four questions you should ask your SO before the big move in.
1. Why are we doing this? Hopefully you aren’t moving in with your partner with hopes that cohabitation will “fix” your broken relationship. Removing that bad decision from the conversation, why is living together important now? Maybe the two of you have been in a long-distance relationship and want to be closer. Maybe it simply makes sense financially to move in together and cut expenses. If the ultimate goal of your move-in is marriage and family, be very specific about that from the start. Create a timeline of your goals so both parties can be clear about, and agree with, what will come next.
2. How will our relationship change once we live together? Because it will, in ways you can’t even imagine, and that’s okay if you’re prepared. Moving in together means an absence of the stage view. You get to see all of the behind the scenes stuff your partner is surely hiding from you—his outrageously large digital porn collection and pictures of his ex, your weird grooming rituals, sugar binges and monster PMS. It ain’t pretty.
Will the two of you continue a dating schedule or pattern? How will you keep the romance (and sex) fires burning? Does your partner still expect the same amount of alone time or time with friends as when the two of you lived separately, or will you do more things together now? How will the two of you resolve disagreements when you can’t run off to your individual residences? Discussing these things up front sets expectations and helps avoid unnecessary arguments.
3. How will we handle money? Create and share your monthly budgets before moving in together. By doing so, you’ll have an idea of how much each person earns and spends in a month—and include those quirky expenditures that can affect a household’s money flow. Your boyfriend may have no idea how much it costs to maintain a weave, or that women with natural hair can still spend a grip at the salon. Also, waxing and other spa services may seem hella expensive to someone who doesn’t partake.
Fellas, those weekly haircuts, that sneaker budget, and those season ticket purchases need to be discussed as well. Will you split the bills straight down the middle or divide expenses according to income? Are there individual savings plans for vacations, weddings, the purchase of a home? What major debt does each of you have—student loans, car loans, judgments, credit cards, child support payments? When debt surfaces after partners become financially obligated to one another, one may feel used or lied to, which could negatively impact or end a relationship. Be up front.
4. How will we run the household from day to day? Will there be a schedule for cooking and cleaning? Does your partner believe that you should assume certain roles in the house traditionally attributed to a certain gender? If there are children involved, what expectations will the parent have of the non-parent? If both parties are workaholics, is there a budget for outside help with housework and repairs? Who’s doing the grocery shopping? Will certain nights during the week be reserved for just the two of you? Figure all of that out before it becomes a point of contention and ugly things are said about somebody’s mama.
Thank me later.
Chime in! What questions should be asked before a couple moves in together?
Josie Pickens is an educator, cultural critic and solider of love. Follow her musings on Twitter @jonubian.