Whether you've moved in together to cut costs, test-drive what it will be like to be married, or because the commute back-and-forth to your significant other's place made you feel like you were in a long-distance relationship, chances are you fall into the category of what sociologists call "tumblers." This is a prevalent subculture among cohabiters. When I interviewed Cornell University social demographer and cohabitation researcher Sharon Sassler for my book, A Little Bit Married: How to know when it's time to walk down the aisle or out the door, she said: "Couples don't prepare for moving in together. Very few have talked about it. It's surprising how little discussion of 'we-ness' factors into the moving-in conversation." So, I came up with a list of Cohabitation Commandments. (They have been called a list that should be memorized by anyone even thinking of entering a cohabitation arrangement.) Here's a peak at a few of them.
Thou shall expect the first six months to be rocky. Although no great argument can be made for the artistic quality of the MTV reality show Newlyweds, which chronicled Jessica Simpson's and Nick Lachey's train-wreck of a relationship, it highlighted a universal truth: Living together, especially at first, is hard. You're on a learning curve during. The consensus is that after four or five months, it gets much better.Thou shall know to whom the couch belongs. This might sound like a childish or primitive mark-your-territory tactic, but living together is about preparing for worst-case scenarios. Taking it a step further, consider drafting a formal "living together contract. For most couples these contracts will probably cover pretty basic things, such as belongings. In the event that you own any real estate or have children or any other living and breathing organism,creating an agreement of this kind is particularly important.
Thou shall discuss finances and come up with a budget. Ever heard the widely circulated statistic that money is the number one thing that married couples fight about? You don't need an official marriage license to make that one true.
Thou shall not move in together to save money. Journalist Sascha Rothchild says that she and five of her closest friends all found themselves in the same predicament as they edged toward thirty: divorced. It inspired her to write a piece for LA Weekly about the fifteen steps to take in order to get divorced by thirty. Step eleven is: Move in together to save money. This was her friend Aaron's approach to fasttracking divorce: "His path to getting divorced by 30 was to move in with his girlfriend way too quickly because it made financial sense. Then, once moved in, they fell into plans and a marriage."Thou shall not merge. Moving in together is not an invitation to become symbiotic creatures. Many couples said that domesticating is an easy pathway to codependence. That's understandable: Even though you might be sharing close quarters with your significant other, find some separateness in togetherness.