Living with someone offers many of the same emotional benefits of marriage. It also offers most of the same headaches. So expect the worst! Expect the best! Those are the only two attitudes you can really count on when you move in with someone.
So I guess everyone is moving in together now. They are doing it in greater numbers, and for longer than previously. Some 48% of "first unions" for women aged 15 to 44 are cohabitating unions, according to a new report from the National Center for Health Statistics, whose lead author called the whole deal a "ubiquitous phenomenon now." And on average, those unions are lasting about 22 months. Also, why-buy-the-cow spokespeople take note: Some 40% of those unions led to marriage within three years, which means people still buy the fuckin' cow all the time, even after being forced to look at the cow's face first thing in the morning every. single. day.
But whatever the purpose of you moving in with a romantic partner, its ubiquity doesn't make it any less of a big deal on the wild-ass ride-o-meter of life. It might seem like no big deal at all, but it's HUGE. The people you live with are your first exposure to "playing house," to testing compatibility in the almost-most-binding way you can: by combining all your stuff and trusting someone with your innermost thoughts, feelings, and your scrapbook from 9th grade. So please, you still need to be aware of some shit and not be so cavalier about this. For instance:
This is not a test
Regardless of whether you want to get married or not, living with someone is still actual, real commitment. It counts! It's not dress rehearsal. Think of it as an amped-up arena to try people on for size. It's not the hardest thing to extricate yourself from, but it's not a one-night stand either. Have you talked about that? About what you actually want from this, at least right now? You may not want marriage; you may only want to see if marriage is an option.
But a living-together relationship is still a huge investment of your time, your money, your energy, your life, your feelings, your STUFF. You should have some idea of the intent here. Or at least agree neither of you knows what you want and are agree to see where it goes, accepting what that risk looks like. What does it look like? Like this:
OK, it's a (real) test — for your relationship
Moving in can open up entirely new worlds of intimacy and self-awareness and good sex and personal growth. It can also push fast-forward on a perfectly amblingly pastoral scenario and turn it into a carnival fun house. The scary kind.
You had Sunday afternoon going and suddenly it's Monday morning, all the time. People reveal things at this speed that you couldn't have possibly seen with the convenient escape hatch of your own place. You risk overexposure, revealing truths, and the perils of familiarity.
Overexposure can be managed by having a life outside your lair. Revealing truths are good: they help you decide if this is a person to keep living with or not, AKA, you could find out that you're dating a drunk, or a crybaby, or someone who calls their mother five times a day, or thinks you should wash their clothes, or that you literally can't resolve any conflict with them.
And, well, familiarity doesn't always breed contempt, but it can still breed total fuckin' boredom. The person you are soooo excited to sleep with every night right now might become pretty meh after seeing them all the time in their same outfits, as nice as they may be.
Score the jackpot and you have mostly good times, solve problems, enjoy each other's company, keep the sex going, and endure all the ups and downs that happen to relationships, getting stronger every day. Bravo!
Regardless: At some point you will hear all their stories, and all their jokes, and you will be sitting there looking at them thinking, Aren't you going to go out there and get more stories/jokes? For us? For love? Hopefully the answer is YES.
You'll have to work harder to have a romantic relationship
This seems counterintuitive, but it's true. You're always together — shouldn't that make it easier to "date" and do goofy-cute things for each other that keep the fires burnin'? Sometimes, but not always. Upside: You can slip a sweet note into the lunchbox of your partner on their way to work, have a great dinner waiting when they get home, throw hilarious dance parties, do fun renovation projects, read out loud before bedtime. Downside: Lots of newbie shacker-uppers tend to think that because they live together, now everyone can just let the gut out, put their gross feet on the table and call it a day, 'cause you got this thing locked down.
The more everyday mundane exposure you have to someone you're trying to have good sex and cute times and hearty laughs with, the harder it might be to have good sex/cute times/hearty laughs with them. Not helping is that our cultural depictions of sexiness and intrigue and cute times are based almost completely around mystery and novelty, to a misleading and unfair degree.
We rarely see the notion of sexiness or attraction or cuteness growing with time and exposure to someone. Novelty and mystery are great, but it's simply one aspect of attraction. Sweet times, thoughtfulness and homey comforts are always getting short shrift.
What I'm getting at is that you're going to have to work at this tension between these two things: between the keeping of the interest, but the keeping of being able to relax, let your gut out, and be yourself. Because both of these are essential to good living together.
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This aforementioned tension is very hard to maintain. Whole relationships survive on the brilliant straddling of this tension of TMI but not TMI between partners. It's all individualized based on the couple, of course — some partnerships thrive on telling all, revealing fantasies, sharing deep, dark fears and huddling under the covers during storms. Others require only seeing each other six months out of the year.