Imagine waking up to the love of your life every single morning. You get to start the day gazing upon their smiling face and end it the same way. You come home from a stressful day of classes and there’s bae, waiting to hear all about your problems with a glass of wine in hand. Doesn’t that sound…a little terrifying, tbh? As much as you may love your significant other, shacking up while in college can be as frustrating as it is fun, and there’s a lot to consider before making this gigantic life step. To examine the situation’s upsides, downsides and everything in between, we’ve spoken to real UM couples who know firsthand what it’s like to live together.
Juniors Jennifer Ferrante and Joal Swindells were together for more than a year when they decided to live together for the summer. The spring 2015 semester was coming to a close and Ferrante needed a place to stay before her new lease began in August. Since they had previously discussed living together, they decided to take the plunge and test it out. For three months, the two then-sophomores shared one bedroom in Swindells’ three-bedroom rental home.
“I actually thought the most difficult part would be trying to not fight since we were literally sharing one bedroom, but we really didn’t fight that much,” Ferrante said. But it wasn’t all fun and games. “I guess realizing we both had to do chores was difficult. Usually, if I stay over at his house he treats me like a guest, but since I was living there all summer, I had to help out, too.”
If you’re in a serious relationship, you’ve likely “played house” with your significant other. Whether you’ve spent an entire weekend holed up at their place or you regularly split household duties when hanging out, it feels kind of nice to pretend it could be like this all the time: you’re cleaning, she’s cooking, you’re both folding laundry side by side. It’s a pretty picture. While it’s true that living with your significant other should be a happy experience, the honeymoon phase will fade quickly.
Remember how much you initially loved your freshman year roommate? Sharing a tiny room in that cinderblock jail was a breeze when your cellmate was someone so awesome, right? Fast forward to midterms season and every little thing they did annoyed the crap out of you. This is what it’s like to live with your significant other, except you’re also sleeping with them.
You may realize you hate the way he chews. Or her stray hairs in the shower send shivers down your spine. Household squabbles are bound to happen, and they don’t ever really go away. How you handle these fights can make or break not only your living situation, but also your relationship. As in all cohabitation scenarios, compromise is key. If she buys Cottonelle but you’re a loyal Charmin user, at least give the brand a shot before adamantly refusing to change your ways.
Similarly, you can expect a little leeway when you forget to pick up your dirty laundry every so often. While it is important to choose your battles (because nobody likes being nagged for every little thing they do), you should also be firm in the beliefs you feel strongly about. If you’re constantly washing all of the dirty dishes every time the sink is full, you have to speak up. Not only will it help establish better communication, but it will also save you both from a huge blowup later on. Pushing your real problems to the backburner only postpones the inevitable, and when they finally do catch up, it may be too late to salvage your bond.
So keep your cool and realize that though fights will happen, you can get through them if you’re both committed to the relationship.
Something that young couples can’t afford to fight about, though, is money. One of the top reasons that couples of all ages break up is due to financial struggles. Whether you’re living it up in Miami thanks to “Bank of Your Parents” or you’re out there hustlin’ to earn your keep, it’s crucial that you and your partner discuss your financial plan before you even step foot into your new shared space. If you feel uncomfortable discussing money, you’re probably not ready to move in together, because sharing a bed will bring up conversations far more awkward than how you will be paying for things.
Many of our parents moved in together at our age (or even younger) because it was cost-effective. For current students at the University of Miami, this may seem less relevant than it did for our seemingly more independent parents, many of whom were paying their own tuitions. But it’s still a very real solution for those looking to save money. Living with the person you’re sleeping with on the reg means you can split a lot of the things you would normally have to purchase yourself.
“We split rent, which was nice and super cheap,” said senior Alex Piccirilli, who lived with her then-boyfriend for about six months. “Before we lived together, we practically shared everything anyway, so it was nice to split the costs of gas, food and rent.”
Though shacking up may seem like an easy solution for most of your problems, you shouldn’t choose this path just because you think it will make things easier. Unlike the random roommate you had while subleasing two summers ago, you actually have a relationship with this person, meaning you have to consider a lot more than just whose turn it is to take out the trash. If your list of reasons to move in with your partner include things like “cheap rent” and “less travel time between houses,” but lack things like “waking up to her singing in the shower” or “stimulating conversation whenever we want,” it may be time to revisit this decision.
As the saying goes, “Don’t f*** where you eat” (or something like that, right?). Sometimes, live-in relationships can take a turn for the worse. Regardless of the situation, any kind of breakup is pretty much the worst possible thing to happen when you live with your significant other. Not only are you heartbroken, but you also have to deal with what comes next. Instead of sobbing into a carton of Ben & Jerry’s or drinking with your friends to forget your sorrows, you have work to do. Who moves out? What do you do with all the stuff you bought together? How are you supposed to continue to go to class and fulfill your responsibilities when you can’t even look at your roommate?
Junior Anna* had to answer these questions last year when she and her live-in boyfriend broke up.
“We felt really suffocated and, toward the end, very resentful of each other,” she said. “It was because we spent 24/7 together. We lived together, had classes together, did track together and had the same friends.”
Unfortunately for Anna, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The two decided to split right in the middle of finals, so on top of dealing with her emotions, she also had to stay on top of her studies.
“It was hard, because you love this person and you don’t want to never see them again,” she said. “But at the same time, you know leaving is inevitable.”
After reestablishing their own identities, Anna and her boyfriend were able to reconcile and are currently back together. For them, living together hindered the development of their relationship. But for others, it only brought them closer.
Senior Maria Jiménez Muñoz has been living with her boyfriend for 10 months and loves every minute of it. Aside from adapting to her partner’s quirks, she has learned a valuable lesson that most couples don’t learn until much later on.
“I don’t necessarily need time without him to have time to myself,” she said, addressing the ever-present issue of finding alone time when living with a significant other. “I can be reading a book while he is sitting next to me watching a documentary and that’s fine.”
She makes a good point. As most college students know, after dealing with the stresses of class, work, extracurriculars and everything else that comes with being a new adult, sometimes you just need a good Netflix binge. Couples who can zone out and do their own thing without getting annoyed of the constant presence of another person are on their way to forming a strong relationship.
Speaking of “doing things,” one of the biggest appeals of shacking up has got to be the sex. Not only can you wake up next to your attractive lover every morning, but you can catch them for a midday quickie or even say “screw it” and let dinner burn in the oven while you get it on in the evening. In the mood but running late for work? Invite them in the shower with you…you know, to save water (wink).
However, every silver lining has a cloud. Living together certainly has a way of taking all of the mystery out of things. Though you’ll still find your sweetheart just as attractive as you did before you guys lived together, seeing their naked bodies will become much more commonplace. Don’t forget why you love them and are attracted to them in the first place. And if all else fails, just ask them to “conserve water” with you next time you need to wash up in the shower (wink again).
Some people revel in the idea of getting as close with their partner as possible. Senior Jenny*, and recent UM graduate Mike* are loving the ball-and-chain life.
“We are so busy that living together actually helps us find time to eat, binge watch TV and fall asleep together,” Mike said. As a very active college student, Jenny has to balance her social life along with her home life with Mike.
“I still want go to frat parties and mixers, but it’s a little awkward getting dressed up and asking him if I look pretty before going out with other guys. So sometimes I skip out on fun things because I want to hang out with him,” she said. “But he’s worth it. I love him.”
Obviously, there’s a lot to take into account when deciding to move in with your significant other. It shouldn’t be a rash decision based solely on convenience or pressure. If you think you’re ready for the real deal, though, talk to your partner about it and see where they stand. You’re young, you’re in college– you never know what can happen. But if you can glance at your snoring, drooling partner and smile and think to yourself, “Wow, I love this ridiculous mess of a person,” you’re probably on the right track.
*Name has been changed to ensure privacy.
words_lexi wiliams. illustration_claudia fernandes-hernandez.