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Home without marriage

Chris Coduto/Arizona Summer Wildcat
Take one tidy person, add a messy significant other, stick them in the same home and what do you get? A living situation that could prove to be quite chaotic.
By Laura Wilson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, July 13, 2005
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Last weekend, my life changed forever. As the sun beat down and the sweat poured from my body, I watched the boxes containing my life move from one location to another. This wasn’t my typical late-summer move, coinciding with the yearly cycle of “For Rent” signs popping up around central Tucson. As my belongings were stacked right next to his, it hit me: “I’m really moving in with my boyfriend.”

Call me old-fashioned, but I always thought that marriage should come first and I was raised to believe that good girls don’t cohabitate. You know, all that “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free” stuff? It was right up there with the Golden Rule.

Over the years, I’ve formed my own opinions about how I want to live my life, much to the simultaneous pleasure and dismay of my parents.

I’m not the only one who thinks that moving in with a significant other before (or without) marriage is necessary, and as rates of cohabitation increase, more and more people wonder, “How can we live together without breaking up?”

It would be lying to say that if you love each other enough, everything will be sunshine and lollipops and every day will be full of rainbows and roses. But there are certain things that can be done to ensure that both parties have as calm a transition into the world of un-wedded bliss as possible.

The first step

So, how do you know that you’re ready to move in together? The first step – a no-brainer, of course – is talking about it.

If you don’t feel comfortable asking your partner to move in with you, it’s probably not the right time to take your relationship to that level. That doesn’t mean that you’re not absolutely in magical, forever-and-ever love. It just means that for whatever reason (and there are hundreds of them) you each need to retain your individual habitats.

He said, “Yes.” Now what?

The conversation about moving in together shouldn’t be limited to when and where. A home is more than just a building and a relationship is more than just making sure your decorating styles are similar.

If you’re a vegetarian that can’t stand the sight of meat in your refrigerator, and your soon-to-be roommate likens himself to the Hamburglar, you need to talk about it. Sure, it’s just a little thing, easily compromised upon, but little things have a funny way of turning into big things. Big things have a way of turning into broken leases.

For me, learning how to let things go is still a challenge. As I unpack box after box of “mine” and “his,” everything becomes “ours.” This shift of emphasis is important. This is our home, where we live. We still have our own lives, but we now have one place to live them.

As cool as this is, it’s an incredibly difficult adjustment. After living alone for five years, I’m used to doing things my way. When I put my dishes away, I place the glasses upside-down. When my boyfriend puts the dishes away, the glasses are right side-up. Instead of being excited that he actually unloaded the dishwasher, I had the urge (for a split-second) to nag him about it.

No matter how calm you are, there will be things that your partner does that make you want to run screaming out of the house.

If you’re anal-retentively clean, but your partner has no problem leaving Pop-Tart wrappers in-between the couch cushions, you’re going to have to take it upon yourself to make sure everything is polished.

It’s your Windex fetish, not his.

Not everything is going to please both of you, but if you take it upon yourself to compromise, no one is going to want to leave.

The folks

When breaking it to your parents, avoid the phrase, “We’re practically living together already.” Parents aren’t stupid. They know what is going on. However, that doesn’t mean you need to rub their noses in it. Talk to your parents about it without your significant other around. This way, your parents can be honest with you and not offend the one you love.

The ties that bind

If the idea of locking yourself into a year-long relationship is the scariest thing you can think of, signing a lease with your significant other is not a step you should be taking.

It’s pretty obvious that nobody wants to move in with the one they love only to be left alone with twice the rent, but how can you avoid this all-too-common occurrence?

If you see cohabitation as a step towards marriage, but your boyfriend just wants a place where you can have sex without waking your roommates, someone is going to wind up with a broken heart.

There are no easy answers when it comes to love, but there are some helpful hints. Talk about the big stuff. What do you want out of the relationship?

If one of you is graduating in December and is uncertain as to how the rent will get paid if no job is found, be sure to bring this up before signing your name on the dotted line.

Be upfront about your financial situation. If you’re going to be living with someone, shouldn’t they be privy to the fact that student loans are hanging over your head? It’s not just your house and they aren’t just your utilities that will be shut off if payments can’t be made on time.

Change of heart

A friend of mine decided to move in with her boyfriend last year, which seemed like the right thing to do, as they had been together for five years and had freely discussed moving in together for a while. They found a nice apartment commute-distance from both of their jobs, and started a life together. A few months later, she got an e-mail from him while at work telling her “things just weren’t working out.” When she got home, all of his stuff was gone.

This might seem like the easiest way to get out of the situation, but unless you want all of your girlfriend’s friends threatening to break your legs if they ever see you again, it’s really not the way to handle things.

It’s normal for people to change their minds. However, when it comes to hurting someone you love (or just used to love), honesty is the best policy and communicating, preferably face-to-face, is the most respectful way to express your sincerity. Explain why you want out of the relationship, and pay at least the next month’s rent. After all, you would give an ordinary roommate at least 30 days notice.

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