What to Know Before You Shack Up

I was having dinner with my cousin and his wife the other


when the topic of “shacking up” was broached somewhere between how to deal with a gluten allergy and what’s considered flirting. Just one look from them (a shared ”oh god, it was a horrible phase, wasn’t it?” glance) pretty much summed it up for me: moving in with your significant other is not to be taken lightly.

“Moving together is a big step,” said my cousin.

“A huge step!” Echoed his wife (almost a little too emphatically).

Co-habituating is as close as saying “I do” without saying it. You may not have put a ring on it, but you’ll still have to sort through who cleans the ring around the bathtub drain, and that shit ain’t easy. But, on the other hand, moving in together can offer a nice—if not, helpful—glimpse into your future as a couple.

With help from Toronto psychotherapist and TV personality, Nicole McCance, here’s your definitive checklist on what you need to know before taking the habitational plunge.

1. Are you actually ready to move in together?

A tell-tale sign that you’re ready to live together?

“When [the couple is] ready to fully commit and share their lives in a more intimate day-to-day way,” says McCance. “I usually suggest people date for a year before making the big move. This way a couple goes through all the seasons together.”

Meaning, you better have already decided just what the hell you’re doing with each other, had a good fight, met her parents, and, you know, generally like her. And, this is a pretty obvious point, but don’t move in with her if you’re low on cash and trying to save money on rent. As McCance points out, “I see couples in my practice moving in for the wrong reasons, to save money or for convenience. When you move in for these reasons, you, as a couple, may not yet be at the move-in stage. This could have two people rush into a serious relationship when they are not ready which could possibly ruin a good thing.”

2. Like it or not, your relationship (and sex life) is going to change

Moving in with your girlfriend means you’ll be seeing her face (and bod) every day. Everyday! Maybe right now that doesn’t bother you. You’re all snuggled up together on the couch watching The Americans and you think that a 24/7 life with your boo is gonna be like Perfect Strangers but with lots of sex, right? Wrong.

“Typically, the honeymoon phase ends here,” says McCance (I can hear your collective groans). “Once you start sharing your intimate environment with someone twenty-four hours a day with no separate home to escape to, you stop missing each other like you used to. Things are more mundane and less romantic. Your conversations change from ‘Do you feel like a sushi or Italian restaurant tonight?’ to ‘Did you pay the internet bill’ and ‘Can you get home before me to let the dog out?’” If that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, then, by all means, check out Craigslist for your new shared abode. But, if you still want the romance, then you should keep your separate postal codes.

3. You’re going to have to get your hands dirty

Roll up those sleeves, gentlemen, because your life is just gonna get more tedious and dirty. Yes, that’s right: divvying up the house chores is probably one of the first things you will have to discuss with your partner, as well as figuring out your finances, and other practical stuff like that.

“Another pitfall [of moving in together] is not sharing your expectations of each other,” says McCance. “You may have very different views of what your new life together is going to be like. Will you share the common expenses 50/50? Who does the cleaning? The cooking? Do you go pay off your credit cards at the end of the month?” And don’t forget that we all have our little quirks and habits that even our SO doesn’t know about.

So, what’s a couple to do?

“Communicate!” McCance says. “For example, let her know that you need your space when you get home from work. You may like to unwind in front of the TV or your computer before you want to share your day. If you let her know this she will take it less personally later.”

4. You’re not walking down the aisle—yet

When you move in with your partner, there’s little room for subtext. You might not in the midst of booking a chapel, but, let’s face it—that’s where things are probably headed. I mean, why else are you agreeing to throw pillows and decorative candles that no one uses, right? McCance agrees.

“It is important to live with someone for one year before deciding to marry them,” she says. “If you can’t live with someone, you’ll know that you definitely can’t marry them. It’s good to know this first! The divorce rate is high so do a trial run and move in first.”

5. You’re Learning and Loving Together

Bitching about who last replaced the toilet paper roll or who’s laziest when it comes to recycling is small potatoes when it comes to the fact that you’re sharing a life with an awesome person. When you live with your girlfriend, “you now get to share your life with someone,” says McCance. “You always will have a companion when you get home. Someone who cares for you. You will likely save money and time now that you share the same home. No more commuting and packing your bags back and forth for visits. It’s time to create lasting memories.”

So, what do you say, fellas? Are you ready to shack up?

Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine.  You can follow her on Twitter  @briannehogan.

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