In New York City, cohabitation with your S.O. is almost as much a rite of passage as getting
lost on the subway or the inevitable regret after buying a $15 cocktail. But, for
a long time — at least, before I moved here — I was convinced that I would never move in with a significant other before he put a ring on it. However, when my boyfriend and I moved here and
his job demanded that he be out of town four days a week, we realized that
living separately wouldn’t just be a questionable romantic decision, it would
be a terrible financial one. We moved in together in late 2013, and have loved
the experience thus far.
As it turns out, cohabitation is not the death
knell for marriage that previous generations thought it would be. Yes, there
are downsides to the
choice — and potential for total catastrophe — but the truth is, marriage, in
general, is losing its grip as
the end-all, be-all of romantic life choices.
But, is it possible to prepare for cohabitation? Love may be anything but one-size-fits-all, yet in a city where the idea of moving in together is so ubiquitous, there are things we can all learn (and prepare for). Ahead, 13 New York women share tidbits of advice they wish they
had before shacking up with their significant other in the concrete jungle.
"I wish that I had known
more about the basics of keeping your space and your belongings yours. I
really assumed that [my boyfriend and I] would just share everything, so we got rid of a lot of
the stuff that we had doubles of. But, there is something really important about
having your own mug, your own chair, your own blankets...and if you don’t have things that feel 'yours,' you can start to resent the other person a little bit. We still live together now, but I have my own set of things again. He's not
allowed to use my mug."
"Don't ever move in with
someone while still living at your/their parents' house. Don't ever do it."
"Having a clear budget is so, so important. My boyfriend and I share a bank account, and we are very strict about
accounting. We Venmo each other like ten times a week, even
for really little things. At first, I thought, 'That's so unromantic, I
don't want to have to keep a tally of everything we owe each other' (I kept
having flashes of that really terrible couple in The Joy Luck Club, where the husband counted everything 50/50), but
he was totally right to make us do it. Not having a clear budget, and not
knowing who is spending what, is the source of so many relationship
fights. We can still treat each other; it just has to be explicitly counted. That way, there are
never any questions."
– Gabi, 31
"You need to have
designated 'areas' in the house that are yours, especially if you live in a
small apartment, like my boyfriend and I do. We were living in our place for
nearly a year before I set up my little desk area, and now things are a hundred
times better. I have my spot, I don't bother him in the other room all the
time, and it feels a little more personal. When you're always on top of
each other's nooks and crannies, you sometimes start to feel like you're suffocating."
"I really regret the time
I lived with someone, because I think it prematurely ended our
Basically, I was a lot
younger than him (I was 25, he was 36), and it was my first 'really serious
relationship,' where I was actually moving in with someone and thinking about
marrying them. He, however, had already been in about three of those, so everything
that seemed like a big deal to me, he saw as a sign of my immaturity. And, honestly, looking back, it was. Things like, ‘He stays out late sometimes,' or 'He wants to be
alone to play video games,’ made me so angry and started so many fights. And, he just got sick of it. So, we broke up. To this day, I still get mad
at myself when I look back."
"Three things are really
important to me about living with someone, but I didn’t know any of them before
I moved in with my now-husband:
"Don't feel like
you need to be with them all the time. In fact, it’s probably a lot more
important that you have your own shit to do when you’re living with someone,
because seeing someone every single night and feeling like you don’t have the
space to just be totally yourself/alone gets really annoying. And, ask the same
thing of them. My husband and I each have nights where we go out and do our own
things with friends, and the other person gets the apartment to themselves.
Both are really important.
cleaner than you would be if you were on your own, because you will hate it
when the person you love is not clean for you. It feels like disrespect.
"Make an effort
to cook and eat relatively healthy, because it's really easy to get into a 'let's just watch TV and get takeout again' rut when you have someone enabling
"I wish I knew that it
was okay to have friends over. It sounds stupid, but you kind of start feeling
like, ‘Okay, I’m an adult now, no more friend time at the adult house.’ Now, sometimes, I’ll tell my boyfriend, ‘Thursday night, I’m having a few girls over, so
find something to do and don’t come home until 11 or whatever.' And, he’ll do the
same thing to me. It’s important that you still feel like it is your
home where you can do things just for you, too.”
"Don't leave your dishes
in the sink. Don't let little frustrations bottle up and fester. Don't wear
your shoes in the house and track mud everywhere. Don't bother them while
they're watching their favorite show. Don't criticize what they're eating. And,
don't let them do any of that stuff to you."
"I moved in with my first
boyfriend when I was 20, which, looking back, is a ridiculously young age to make
any major life decision, let alone live with someone you're dating. But, we were in love (and broke) and really wanted to make it work, so it made sense for us to
live together in a house off campus.
"We were in one of those
situations where it was us in one room, another couple in another room, and
then three single roommates in the other rooms, all in one big house. It was a
terrible living situation, mostly because seven people
should not all live together like that, but my boyfriend and I took it out on each other a lot. There were
always arguments and tension, because we really didn’t have any control over our
living space and never felt at home or happy when we were there.
We broke up after a year,
and while I think it would have probably ended anyway, because we were in such a crazy
living situation, we had no real way of telling which problems were our problems and which problems were house problems. You should never move in
with someone for the first time with a bunch of other people."
"Know yourself financially
in and out before you agree to live with someone. You have to be in total
control of your finances, be aware of your budget, and be able to support yourself if
it doesn’t work out. Just because you’re saving on rent doesn’t mean that you
aren’t going to have to budget and work hard, and if you have to split up for
whatever reason, the last thing you want is to realize you don’t know how to
handle money because you were depending on them. Be independent."
"No one told me that
guys are gross. Like, they fart, and eat out of the refrigerator, and don't
care about messes, and will put dishes in the sink for days on end. I would
have made him pay for a cleaning lady up front if I knew I was going to be
cleaning up after him."
"I think there is an
awkwardness in living together when you out-earn your partner, and I wish I
had known that. I earn a little over $100,000 a year, while my boyfriend is a
struggling comedian who has shows off and on, and probably totals about $25,000 at
the end of everything.
"Honestly, this doesn't bother me at all. I love
him and think he is hilarious and perfect and totally the person I need in my
life, but I can tell that it makes him feel really uncomfortable. He makes a lot of
little comments now that we're living together about how I spent a lot on this,
or went out a lot that week, and you can just tell that it bugs him to not be
able to do the same, or not be able to 'provide' for me. I hate that gender dynamics are
still in play (because he's really liberal and smart about most things), but I
think guys can't help it. It hurts their pride, and sometimes, I feel kind of
jealous of my girlfriends who earn the same or less than their partners."
"Don't let your parents (or theirs) get in
your ear. They probably mean well, but they don’t know you
or your situation. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t let them force you
into anything, and don’t let them micro-manage your life. I broke up with a
boyfriend that I was in love with because his mother would not stop involving
herself in our life and home together. It’s four years later, and I honestly
still feel resentful towards them."