Love shack! Time to move in together?

Originally Published: May 2, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: April 23, 2009
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Hi Alice,

How common is it for college couples to move in together while still being undergrads? My boyfriend and I have been dating for 2 years and plan on getting an apartment the following year. However, we worry that if we attend graduate schools in different areas, having to then live apart may harm our relationship. Also, how can I convince my parents to accept the idea (I have already tried having an open discussion but they reject the idea completely even though they love my boyfriend). His parents have already said that this would not be a problem. Also, my parents help finance my housing so it would be difficult to move in without their approval.

Thanks for your help,
confused

Dear confused,

Wow, sounds like you're in a complicated situation! Let's try and break these issues down into relationship logistics (are you and your partner ready to move in together?) and other logistics (your parents' support, your finances, not to mention where you might live).

Although it used to be rare, today it's fairly common for couples to live together before forming a more "official" union (marriage, a civil union, or other committed partnership), a trend that has been increasing since the 1960s. In fact, more than half of all marriages today are of couples who lived together prior to marriage. However, this trend includes adults of all ages. The numbers are lower for college students, with one study estimating that between 6 and 8 percent of college couples live together.

Before you start apartment hunting, be sure to consider all of the reasons you want to move in with your partner. It may help to make a list — how would living with your partner be different and/or better than living with a roommate or alone? What might be difficult? You mention that you are concerned about going to graduate schools in different locations — are you moving in together to be closer to each other now? Does it make sense for your relationship as it is currently, or are you trying to prevent breaking up later? Moving in together can be a great source of comfort and enjoyment for some couples, but it can also create additional stress and conflict in a relationship; some studies suggest that couples that live together actually have shorter relationships than couples that delay living together.

Onto the other logistics… Before you move in together it's a good idea to talk about finances and other household issues, since these are common sources of arguments and stress for co-habitating couples. Moving in together to save money might not be the best plan, since couples often argue about finances, so be sure you and your partner are in agreement about who will pay what bills before you sign a lease. And, although it might be strange to talk about "what ifs," a conversation about what will happen financially (i.e. bills, lease, finding new roommates) if you break up is not a bad idea. You might also consider where you would be living with your partner; will you have friends nearby? Will you be able to pursue school and your interests easily?

Since you mention that your parents are not completely supportive of this idea, and you rely on them for financial assistance, you may want to try to talk to them again. Be prepared to listen to their concerns. Are they worried about your grades? Are they morally against non-married couples living together? Although gaining their support on this might not be easy, it is worth it to try. Their disapproval could put additional strain on your relationship with your partner, and not just financially. When you talk to your parents, you could start but outlining the pros and cons you identified in the list mentioned above.

It's great that your parents already like your partner, but their resistance could indicate that they are concerned for their child, you. Being prepared to talk about your concerns, and listen to theirs, is a good way to demonstrate your maturity and to show them that you are serious about this living situation. That said, you should also prepare yourself to accept 'no' for an answer, at least at first. It may take time for your parents to support the idea of living with your partner, or they may never support it. In the latter case, consider that you still have options, such as living with your parents decision, getting a job to earn money to pay your own rent, or continuing the discussion at a later date.

Since you asked, long-distance relationships can be complicated, but they are not doomed. Many couples make long-distance work, some for long periods of time. Communication is very important thing in maintaining a long-distance relationship. Because you are spending time apart and your lives may be separate in many ways, it is wise for long-distance couples to keep communication open and value being able to speak freely with one another. Additionally, demonstrating commitment to your partner and learning to trust one another are crucial. These things alone won't guarantee a successful relationship, but lots of long-distance relationships last, so don't be discouraged. Check out long distance relationship and long-distance and lacking communication for more suggestions on how to make it work.

By communicating openly with your partner and your parents you'll be on your way to sorting out a living situation that makes everyone comfortable. Best of luck talking things through,

Alice