Moving in with your partner is a big step in a relationship. The need to cohabit is motivated by various reasons.
Couples commonly cohabit as a precursor to the walk down the aisle. Then there are those who choose to move in together as a cost cutting measure or for purposes of convenience.
With the soaring rates of divorce, others abandon the idea of marriage altogether and settle for living together as a permanent alternative to tying the knot.
Before you pack your bags and pick out two sets of keys, it is important to find out whether both of you are on the same page regarding the status of your relationship.
Even more important is to consider whether you are moving in together for the same reasons.
“It will save both of you hurt and disappointment in the future,” says Milka Ndanu. Milka made this mistake when she moved in with her boyfriend three years ago.
Then a 21-year-old college student and living in a hostel room which she shared with three other girls, a lifetime commitment was the last thing on her mind.
She thought of his apartment as a more comfortable place where she could live before she graduated and got a place of her own.
He, on the other hand, was looking for a wife. “We ended up having an ugly break-up and he still feels that he was taken advantage of,” she says.
Know each other
Deciding to move in with your love interest during the initial honeymoon phase of a relationship is unwise.
This is because people tend to show only their best side at this time.
The fact that he loves you as much as you love him doesn’t guarantee that living together will be smooth sailing.
You need to know your partner fairly well before taking the plunge.
You may be spending a lot of time with your love interest but this isn’t the same as living together.
By moving in with your significant other, you will be sharing your life with him, not just the living space, so you should be well aware of his character traits, his annoying habits, his fighting style and how he reacts when he gets angry.
This information is essential in deciding whether you can live with him or not.
While making this decision, keep in mind that you aren’t perfect either and you have unpleasant traits which he will also put up with.
This means that you must be prepared to compromise.
Talk about money
Talking about money with a love interest may sound unromantic and unnecessary.
But finances are an integral part of our lives and if talk about them is overlooked before cohabiting, money issues are bound to surface later.
When 29-year-old Fiona Imunde and her boyfriend decided to move in together, their relationship had reached what she describes as a point of no return and they were ready to take the next step.
“I spent most days in his house and paying rent for two houses wasn’t making sense,” she recalls.
He was earning more than twice her salary and she thus assumed that he would pay the rent and foot most of the bills.
However, he had different financial goals from hers and was saving most of his earnings.
He thus expected her to contribute an equal amount towards the expenses, a fact that had her spending beyond her means and with little to fall back on when their relationship failed.
A couple has the option of either merging their finances or managing their money separately after moving in together.
Merging all your finances with someone you aren’t legally married to is however risky since you will have no legal protection should the relationship break down.
“Despite the fact that I was contributing equally to the household, he still acted territorial and he had a problem with sharing space,” Fiona says.
When they settled on moving in together, she was the one that packed up, sold most of her furniture and moved into his house.
She thought this was the most sensible thing to do, considering the fact that his house was much bigger and that he was the man in the relationship.
But whenever they had an argument, he would remind her that she was in his house and when their relationship began to crumble, he would occasionally kick her out.
“It is safer to look for a new place that is neutral to move in together to avoid this tug of war,” she advises.
Finding a new place also gives both of you the benefit of making joint decisions regarding furniture and décor.
This way, each of you is able to add a personal touch to your home.
Whichever reason you choose to move in together, it is important to have an honest and open discussion about the future.
Be clear about whether or not marriage is on the cards for the two of you in the foreseeable or unforeseeable future.
If you are moving in together with the aim of eventually getting married, agree on a time line for this so that both of you will have clear expectations.
What the experts think
A lot of couples who choose to cohabit do so with the hope of strengthening their relationship.
Ezekiel Ngobia a counseling psychologist with the Kenya Institute of Professional Counseling, is however of the view that simply living under the same roof with a love interest isn’t sufficient to strengthen a relationship.
“A couple needs to make a continuous conscious effort towards this even after moving in together,” he says.
A couple that decides to cohabit as a prelude to marriage risks getting comfortable with this arrangement and delaying marriage or doing away with the idea of getting married altogether.
On the flip side, a couple might cohabit with no direct intention of getting married but end up marrying majorly because they already live together and have acquired joint possessions, which is an unhealthy foundation for marriage.
According to Ngobia, a marriage vow of permanence is quite different from the commitment of living together.
While cohabiting basically tests compatibility and the possibility of marriage, marriage builds on this compatibility.
“Marriage puts across to your love interest that you will be there for them all the time while cohabiting communicates that you will be there as long as the relationship works for you,” he adds.
Cohabiting may communicate that you are not confident in the success of your relationship and it lacks a clear sense of commitment thus raising the risks of breaking up or unfaithfulness. Instead of advancing a relationship, it ends up sabotaging it.
Cohabiting may seem like an easier option in comparison to marriage because break ups do not involve those long drawn out legal tussles.
Ngobia however warns that in the event of a break-up of a cohabiting couple, the emotional pain and devastation experienced is similar to that of a divorcing couple, only worse because the couple didn’t have the benefit of enjoying a marriage
Source: DAILY NATION