Cohabitation: Is There a Right Way To Do It?

In your twenties, you will be faced with a myriad of potentially life-changing choices. You’ll choose a job, a car, a diet, whether to go back for a second degree or to travel for a while. You’ll find a new place to live and choose a roommate.

What if that roommate is your significant other?

Cohabitation is a common trend among twenty-somethings. According to a 2013 report from the Center for Disease Control (CDC), young women are more likely to cohabit as a first union, as opposed to marriage as the first union. Similarly, over 60 percent of women ages 25-29 said they had lived with a romantic partner by the time they were 25. Young couples are moving in together before marriage, or even before getting engaged, more and more often.

My boyfriend currently lives in a city eight hours from where I live and go to school. In our year-and-almost-three-months relationship, we haven’t lived together. Recently I’ve been exploring job opportunities closer to him. When I told a friend at school that I’m looking at jobs in his area, she asked me if we would move in together, should I find employment out there? At that time, I hadn’t given it any thought, and was honestly surprised she even asked. Naturally, I started thinking about it.

Living with your significant other is a huge decision—or it’s always seemed like one to me. Each couple has different reasons for moving in together. Maybe the decision is financial, that living together would be better, smarter than driving back and forth between apartments. Maybe one person has nowhere else to go. Maybe they’re ready for that next step in their relationship. I have friends who live with their partners and do well, and I’ve seen relationships crumble after living together. All of these things cross my mind when I think about the possibility of living with a significant other. Anything can happen.

Choosing to cohabit is a personal choice. My personal choice is that it’s not time to make that leap quite yet.

I know there are a ton of upsides of cohabitation. You learn to live with someone you love, someone who’s not just another roommate. From my observations, it’s completely different from living with a roommate or friend, and it takes adjusting. You learn how to “fight right,” as they call it, and when to give the other person his space.

Couples learn how to manage money together, not just as individuals. Purchases that once seemed easy—like a new coffee maker, perhaps—suddenly become deep discussion points. Some couples even look at cohabitation as a “trial period” before the next steps, whatever those may be. All of these are important aspects of learning to live with a partner, especially when thinking about the future.

Despite those reasons, and even if distance wasn’t an issue, I still don’t think I’m ready.

I’d be lying if I said the thought of living together before engagement or marriage doesn’t terrify me to no end. What if it doesn’t work? What if it ruins the relationship? Even though statistics are moving away from this idea, it’s hard to forget that premarital cohabitation can lead to a greater risk for divorce. And lastly, this is someone I could be with forever…or not forever. Does moving in with a loved one put pressure on a couple? How long is the “trial period” supposed to last? How does a couple know when it’s over?

More immediately, though, I’m just not financially or emotionally ready to share a living space with a romantic partner. I went straight to graduate school from college, and I don’t have a job right now. When I move in with someone, I want to be able to contribute financially as soon as possible. I know I will need time to get on my own feet with my first job and living on my own after school before thinking about cohabitation.

Living on your own during college and grad school is different from living solo with a job and trying to adjust to post-grad life. That’s what I’ve been told, at least, and I believe it. I live by myself at school and it’s hard, especially after having roommates for four years. Maybe I’ll need a “trial period” of my own before making my significant other my next roommate.

Eventually, a time will come when I have to push my fears, anxieties and apprehensions to the side, and go for it. Cohabitation is part of life, regardless of when it comes. I just want to be able to make the best decision when that time comes for me, and be ready for it.

How do you make the decision to cohabit and live with your significant other?

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