A lot of prep usually goes into a marriage. People attend courses, seminars, receive special pre-marital counselling. But somehow, cohabitation has been left by the wayside even though there’s not much difference between living together and living together after signing a legal document. In fact, in modern times the amount of couple’s cohabitating far exceeds the number of couples who are married. Whichever route you decide on, it is very important to speak to your online counselor before the big move. And it is advisable for you both to continue to see your online counselor even after you’ve moved in together.
Living together can be quite tricky at the best of times. And couples will need to know how to navigate all the slippery slopes of cohabitation. Here are some of the things that can cause the most strain during cohabitation:
Money: How you make it, save it and spend it
Every couple on earth can contest to what a niggly topic money can be in a relationship. Living together doesn’t just impact closet space. It has many financial implications as well. It is unavoidable that both your finances will become entwined. You will have to start sharing the responsibility for certain expenses such as rent and utilities.
Expenses such as groceries will inevitably increase and if you’re used to eating only a sandwich for lunch and your partner eats a full-blown buffet the finances in regards to this will also become a point of contention. Or if you’re already concerned about finances and how you’re going to pay the bills whilst your partner comes home from the mall carrying bags filled with designer clothes, there is bound to be a financial show-down soon. When living together you need to be on the same financial page. The easiest way to accomplish this is by setting up a budget by doing the following:
- Determine which of the expenses you will share.
- Set a contribution percentage for each party. A 50/50 split simply isn’t fair if one party makes twice as much as the other.
- Open a joint account for joint monthly and household expenses. That way joint monthly responsibilities are protected by any potential poor financial decisions by a partner.
- Determine what each party should be individually responsible for. This includes things such as personal car insurance, clothes, credit cards etc.
- In general a good tip to help you in setting up a budget is to approach it in a similar way you would’ve in a roommate situation. Taking the emotions out of it, income, personal, and joint expenses and debt becomes much easier to identify.
Chores and cleaning
This is also an all-time couple favourite when it comes to fights. You used to tease your partner about their messy room, but now that you’re living together you’re the one who has to scale mountains of dirty laundry just to get to your closet and you’re the one having to constantly carry dirty coffee cups to the kitchen. These might sound minor in the bigger scheme of things.
But it’s all the small things that eats away at a relationship. And these are the kind of things that are crucial to discuss with your online counsellor. Not only to work toward finding solutions, but also just to air the frustration instead of leaving it to simmer underneath the relationship’s surface ‘till the day one of you erupts. When topics are highly emotional it’s always better to have an objective and professional third party who can help facilitate and teach you how to properly communicate these issues to each other in a healthy and constructive way.
Let’s be honest; it doesn’t matter how much you love each other, before you started living together there was a time when you could go home and watch The Bachelor or tinker with your bike the entire day without worrying about your partner. Now you’re in each other’s space. All. The. Time. To many couples there seems to be an easy solution; simply spend more time apart. But, as any online counsellor can tell you, you’ll be surprised at how often that so-called simple solution causes even more trouble. Suddenly one partner realizes that they don’t need as much ‘me’ time as the other which could cause feelings of rejection and resentment. Or both love their ‘me’ time so much that the relationship slowly starts deteriorating and they start growing apart before they even realise what’s happening. There is a balance to ‘me’ time and it’s unique to every couple.
Consideration and compromise
You can’t just dip your toe into living together – it’s full immersion or nothing. And that means compromise and taking your partner into consideration is at the order of the day. Do you remember the time you simply went out for coffee with friends? That can’t happen anymore without sharing your plans with your partner and letting them know when you’ll be back home. Do you remember the time you ate seafood at the coast for three days straight? Well, now you can’t because your partner is allergic to seafood. Living together really highlights our differences as well as our level of selfishness. In truth all of us want the last piece of cake in the fridge, but living together calls for some fundamental sharing. In theory consideration and compromise sounds lovely, in practice it can be really, really hard.
Ever think that sex would be considered a problem after you moved in together? If you were used to mostly seeing each other on weekends, a partner might be surprised to find that during a busy work week your libido might not be very high. Or you might even expect more frequent sex after you’ve moved in together only to find that your partner is satisfied with the amount of sex you’ve always had. Other times a couple might find that one wants more impromptu sexual advances whilst another might not be so impressed when their partner seductively swipes all their work documents of the desk. As with most issues within a relationship, this can only be solved with open and honest communication. This is something a sex therapist can assist you with.
Cohabitation and the law
The biggest risk of cohabitation is the myths that go along with it. The rose-tinted and utter unrealistic glasses of Hollywood is to blame for most of these. Cohabitation legally being seen and protected as a marriage is one of the biggest myths that have led to many a tragic ending. This is not the case in a lot of countries. Without the legal protection of what is referred to as a common-law marriage/putative spouse concept or having a cohabitation agreement in place, many have been left with absolutely nothing after a breakup.
Canada, Hungary and Australia recognize Cohabitation as a legal relationship. But South Africa doesn’t recognize it as such and only certain states in the US does. Therefor its’ absolutely crucial that you consult a lawyer before moving in together. This living arrangement should be safe, secure and beneficial to both parties.
Whether your country recognizes cohabitation as a legal form of union or not, your online counselor as well as your lawyer are most likely to advise you to set up a cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement is similar to a prenup. It’s never fun to talk about finances and other tough relationship topics – especially in the context of a potential break-up. But if the worst case scenario ever occurs, this will ensure that everyone feels safe and secure.
An agreement such as this will include the following:
- The rights and responsibilities each party will have during the relationship and after the break-up in terms of property and debts.
- Will assets accumulated during the relationship be considered jointly owned or not?
- The responsibilities each party has in terms of any debts that was accumulated before living together.
- Will there be a primary breadwinner in the relationship? Or a primary homemaker? After a break-up; how will income be calculated in terms of support?
- What will happen with any potential inheritance received during the relationship?
- How will property be titled during the relationship? I.e. will one party be the main title holder (such as in the case of a primary breadwinner scenario). Will both names appear as owner? Or will the title holder be a business or other corporate or legal entity?
- Who will take possession of assets and property or live in a property after a break-up.
- Who will take possession of and be responsible for expenses regarding pets.
- The custody of any children and how maintenance in regards to the children will be determined. This is also something a child psychologist can assist with.
- If you are both working and living in a foreign country or one of you is a resident of another country; which country or state’s laws will govern the agreement?
Deciding to move in together can be an exciting and happy time. But it’s important to keep a level head and approach the arrangement rationally and in the right way to keep all parties safe and secure. If you are still unsure about certain things you can discuss this with your online counselor and/or online relationship counselor. If you are still looking for an online counselor, we’ll be happy to assist. Simply contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the form below in order for us to reach out to you: