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A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

Thinking About Living Together? Don’t Sign a Lease Before You Read This

The decision to move a relationship from the dating stage to the living together stage is usually a pretty weighty one. Whether it's your first time taking the plunge or your third, here are a few questions to consider.

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Is this a move to fill your piggie banks?

No matter where in the country you live, rent is usually your biggest monthly expense. When you and your partner are spending the majority of the week snuggling up in one bed or the other, the lure of saving a whole rent check is mighty appealing. Yet, if financial considerations rank toward the top of your motivation for living together, you might want to pause and think about the risk of losing your own space as well as financial independence. This is especially true for women. “I can’t stress enough how honest and open communication about finances and space need to be part of your ongoing communication together,” says Sibel Golden, a psychotherapist and expressive arts therapist in Seattle. “Everyone needs to feel like they have space and autonomy, so make a plan together about when and where you’ll get time alone at home, or your own desk or room. You’re living together, not becoming one person, so avoid the all too typical arguments about finances by being honest. What expenses would you like to merge, and what would you like to keep separate? It could be a great opportunity to understand your partner more!” Here’s how to stop arguing about financial problems in your relationship.

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Are you playing house?

Right after college, I moved in with my boyfriend. For some, this works out great and I know many happily married couples who started their journey at a young age. For me, it was a disaster. Having grown up in a comfortable suburban home with happily married parents, domestic life was appealing to my post college “what shall I do with my life?” mind-set. But the reality was I needed to find out what to do with my life before I could learn to share it with someone else.

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Will Fido and Winkie play nice?

Pets are picky! It took my cat about three years not to hide under the bed when my boyfriend came over. Think about how your furry friends will be impacted by your decision and how far you would be willing to go to make cohabitation work. Would you crate your pup? Consider getting allergy shots to live with his cat? Here are the signs your dog trusts you—and him.

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Are you an Oscar or a Felix?

The famous TV show from the 1970s comically portrayed two polar opposites—a big slob and a neat freak living together as roommates. Do you and your partner share standards of cleanliness? How will you negotiate your differences?

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Do you want a partner to help hang the curtain rods or do other odd jobs around the house?

Life is really hard sometimes, right? There is just a lot to do to keep the enterprise of ourselves functioning. As a formerly married woman now living alone and raising a child, I could use a hand sometimes! Yes, life can be easier—and more fun—with a partner to carry the load, but take time to consider how much of a factor this need is to your decision to cohabitate.

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Are you using cohabitation as an experiment to test your compatibility?

While it sound logical, this can leave one feeling vulnerable, and no one wants to be “tested” in his or her own home. “It’s a good opportunity to talk about taking the test run out of the equation,” says Golden. “Let the co-habitation unfold naturally, without the goal of finding out if it’s going to work or not. This helps take the pressure off, as well as making it less of an experiment and more of an experience.” Find out the telltale signs that your relationship is solid as a rock.

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What will this do to our nightly nookie?

One of the biggest lures for many couples is consistent intimacy. But we all know what happens when we get to eat all the candy in the candy store! Big. Belly. Ache. “Nesting can be the most powerful, loving act that a couple can do, but that doesn’t mean every couple needs to live together,” says Rebecca Weiner, MA, therapist and educator based in Berkeley, California. “I have seen many couples that lose their sizzle after a while and it is easy to slide into roommate mode.” Here are seven ways to rekindle the fire in your relationship.

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Is your primary motivation to show off to friends and family?

Social media makes it feel like everyone is in a perpetual state of romantic bliss, so why aren’t you? Check in with your ego and see how strongly it’s driving your motivation.

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Can your relationship thrive and deepen if you chose to live separately?

A subversive idea no doubt, but certainly one to consider if living together might be fraught with peril. My grandparents were happily “not married” for over 60 years. He lived on the west side and she on the east side of Manhattan. They were madly in love, with similar interests and passions, but when they needed some space, they each had it.