Toward the end of college, my boyfriend and I decided to move in together. As with every couple who ponders the possibility of sharing a place together, a lot of factors went into our decision including money (duh), wanting the same things out of our living environment (or so we thought), and the fact that I had been staying at his place every single night for the past six months.
Before making the couple-centric “next step,” I did what any detail-obsessed journalism/sociology major would do: I researched the hell out of cohabitation. I wanted to know why my friends seemed so uneasy about me making this move—they loved him, and so did I. And why were his parents giving us the stamp of disapproval? They liked me and they weren’t that traditional. Kind of.
So I Googled the topic for hours and read articles in men’s magazines and on community forums and in relationship journals. (I have issues.) Of course I didn’t come across any concrete checklist to ensure we were making the right decision and that put me at ease.
The takeaways I did come across were that couples who cohabitate before marriage are more likely to get a divorce—but a majority of people who don’t move in together before their wedding day are religious and are less likely to get a divorce, anyway—and that you should definitely NOT move in with your partner based solely on finances (another duh). Other than that, I was given a lot of vague advice, such as “you’ll get to know the real ‘them.’” (What does that mean?)
So while I wasn’t entirely confident in the move, I decided what the hell, he’s a great guy, I spend so much time with him anyway, let’s do this. We got a place together.
And within six months, we broke up.
The transition period where we were sharing a place and no longer a happy twosome was awful. Now, I’m that person who gives my friends the “Eh, are you sure?” look when they tell me they’re about to move in with their S.O.
Indeed every couple is different, and the insights I gained from living with my guy certainly won’t apply to all (duh times trois!). However, there are a few things I wish all those articles I pored over mentioned, or explained a little less vaguely. Here are some common themes of the things I read—and the conceptions I had before moving in with a dude I loved—and what I now know after having my semi-sad cohabitation experience:
What “they” say: Clearly communicate chores. You don’t want to fight over dishes, taking out the garbage, etc.
The reality: Once you’re bickering over who’s doing the vacuuming and who’s not doing the dusting; it’s already too late. There are other problems. I’m sure you know if the person is a total slob or insanely neat before you move in with them; you should know what you’re getting into. Plus, we’ve all compromised our anal-retentive cleaning habits or major sloppiness with other people before (assuming you’ve had roommates). A couple seriously fighting about “outside” factors, like who’s not cleaning the tub, called triangulation, means something else is going on. It sounds depressing. But just know chores are the least of your concerns.
What “they” say: You get to know the “real” them.
The reality: Every time I heard this, I wondered, “What, am I going to find out he jerks off to some weird Japanese porn?” It’s not that glamorous, though. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. Think about the shit you do alone: You pick your nose. Let out gas. Get really, really sick and hungover and want to cry while vomiting up stomach bile the morning after (I told you—issues). What it comes down to is the “real” person in everyone is a huge dork. That’s fine and great, and maybe you’re ready to live with the “whole” person, flaws and all. If you’re in heightened sexy-time mode where everything is magical and love-love, just expect that element of unsexiness to start sneaking in there once you’re spending nearly every waking (and sleeping) moment with someone. Just really. Think about that.
What “they” say: You get to know the “real” them (Part Deux).
The reality: With bodily functions out of the way, let’s revisit this mysterious point, because it’s an important one. You may say things like, “We spend every single night together!” (raising hand), but once you live together, you have suddenly started treading into family territory. You are now part of each other’s domestic clan! Does that suddenly change the game?
Will one person expect the other to call if, say, he doesn’t come home right after work? Will someone feel rejected when the other one is trying to concentrate on their writing and thus, kind of ignoring the other person who’s sitting in the room, looking like he wants to be played with like a puppy dog (also, reluctantly, raising hand)? These are the things that are hard to tell prior to making this kind of leap. Which I guess is why all those articles are so vague: It’s just one of those things you don’t really “know” about until you’re actually in it. But you can at least try to go in a bit prepared for what to expect, and not feel like a total freak when you realize living together certainly is nothing like playing house together—or having a bunch of fun, consecutive sleepovers, either.