Whether you've been dating for years or months, a major relationship question may be lurking in the back of your mind: should we live together? You've corralled your girlfriends together for an advice-session or two, you've made the pro and con list(s), and you've (secretly) glanced at a few places on ViewIt.ca -- you think you might be ready.
Marriage, family and sex therapist, Marion Goertz says couples face a huge number of challenges regarding differing values around money, time, family, friends, having children, getting married, division of labour, religion and cultural differences. Each of these topics needs to be discussed well-before signing lease and here she lists her top tips on what to consider before you make the move.
Can we talk?
You can't talk enough when you're first tossing around the idea of living together -- nothing is too private or should be left to "we'll see what happens". After all, you're about to let another person into your single-gal-world where you're not pretty all the time, so be honest with yourself and your partner.
Pick a place with space
When you begin your apartment quest, go for the extra bedroom if you can. You'll need a place to escape when you feel like pulling your hair out, and if you've saved money to live in a bachelor apartment that pretty much limits you to the bathroom or jumping off the balcony.
Don't rush into splitting everything right away
Sit down and have a talk about who would take what if it ends. For instance, instead of splitting the cost of a new bed, consider one person buying the bed and the other buying the dining room set.
Try to have a living together test-run before making the big move
If at all possible, for a month or so live together in one of your places to check out each other's habits and quirks to make sure you're compatible roommates.
Communicating in close quarters
The relationship will naturally change once living arrangements do, mostly for the better but tension is bound to pop up and how you handle it as a couple could use a little re-working.
Goertz recommends paying attention to your own "hot button" or triggers that get you riled-up, since speaking without taking a moment can lead to an overly escalated situation.
"Recognize your own vulnerabilities and take steps to "stop, look and listen" to your partner, “ she says. “Listen more than you speak; watch your body language and tone for dismissive, critical movements."
Ensure the health of your relationship by cultivating quality time together. Whether it's getting up early in the morning to jog together, or decompressing with a glass of wine after a long day of work. Goertz suggests following the 4 T's: touch, talk, time and trust.
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Goertz warns that sex usually decreases once a couple starts living together -- but sometimes not for the person you would expect. “I am seeing more and more men ages 25 to 45 who are struggling with low sexual desire,” says Goertiz. “They are encouraged to examine the pressures in their life, including their satisfaction or lack of it in their job, financial situation etc. to see what's really going on."
She says a lower sex drive can be attributed to the lack of anticipation distance creates both physically and emotionally, so couples usually find other ways to connect with each other. If issues persist, she recommends talking about sex in a relaxed, non-blaming environment to come to a compromise of sexual frequency and technique.; "sex, after all, is a team sport," says Goertz.
Does this mean we're common-law married?
Without diving into the legal speak, simple answer: no.
In Ontario you must live together for 3 years or have a child together before you're considered common-law married, and even then, neither of you is entitled to half the other person's stuff. However, you might be eligible for financial support.
Consider drafting a cohabitation agreement to hash out how property would be divided and if any financial support will be provided for one of the partners. These agreements are not to be taken lightly; if it hasn't been drawn up properly it won't hold up in court.
For more detailed information check out this website: www.familylawtoronto.ca
Or to find out what the common law laws are in every province, check out CommonLawSeparationCanada.com
Maintaining your individuality
Before your vocabulary changes from "I" to "we", take precautions to maintain your own identity in the relationship. Goertz says women have a tendency to give themselves up to the relationship, which is unnecessary and leads to anger when the other person disappoints or betrays us. Be selfish! Don't feel bad for wanting time to yourself, if your relationship and partner are healthy they will understand and want their own alone-time.
"Take a quiet day once a month or a couple of times a year to go away with a notebook and some inspirational reading to ask yourself the questions 'how am I doing...emotionally, physically, sexually, psychologically etc.' Be candid, be humble and be human," Goertz suggests.
So, in the midst of nesting make sure you're getting enough me-time and follow Goertz's advice to indulge in these five things just for you: sleep, nutrition, exercise, social time, and whatever spiritually nurtures you and your relationship will flourish.
Do you have moving in together tips? Share them with other ELLE Canada readers in our forums!