The Truth About Living Together

Experts share smart tips for a smooth transition

We never sent a save-the-date. The invitations had not been printed yet. Then they were printed, but not yet addressed. Then they were addressed, but not stamped. When my fiancé, Jamie, and I decided to move in together four months before our wedding, sometimes we acted—or acted out—very much unlike a couple in love. In the wake of every horrible argument we had as we got used to being roommates, these were my thoughts: The invitations aren't mailed yet—cancelling the whole thing wouldn't be so bad, would it?

One morning, as I was rushing around our apartment getting ready for work, we got into a fight about something very small and stupid, so small I can't even remember what it was. A few minutes into the argument, I said, "Do you think we should just end this?" "End the fight?" Jamie asked, cocking his head in confusion. "No, end this. Us. Break up," I answered. "We're not breaking up over this," he said. "Go to work and we'll talk in a little bit."

I should here note that I catastrophize everything. I was born worrying and doubting. I live my life as a semiprofessional storm cloud. Jamie, on the other hand, is the pragmatic optimist. I like to think that's what makes us so good for each other. But too often after we moved in during our engagement, I forgot all that in the stress of getting used to sharing space, as well as planning a wedding and working overtime to pay for it.

In talking to other brides, I found out that my experience was hardly unique. A couple moving in together is in a difficult situation to begin with. That becomes even more complex (a.k.a. worse), however, when the two are engaged and approaching a wedding; every fight seems that much louder because everything gets punctuated with the thought till-death-do-us-part</>.

One New York woman, who moved into a city-size apartment with her fiancé three months before they got married, confided to me that, during what she knew was supposed to be the happiest time of her life, she immediately switched to thinking, What the f--k have I done? Other engaged couples move in together before starting the wedding planning as a way of testing the domestic waters: If the whole sharing-a-home thing is a disaster, they can still back out.

Romantic? No, but this sentiment is common—and so are the nonstop battles. "You're engaged and living together, and all of a sudden fighting more than ever, and you're flashing forward to all the arguments you're going to have for the rest of your life," says Sarah Jones of Encino, CA, who moved into an apartment with her fiancé, Gregg Stern, 11 months before their wedding. "I found myself irrationally despising him in advance—not so much for the argument we were having, but because he would be the person I would be fighting with forever." And often such feelings can lead to thoughts like, Maybe I should have dealt with all this before we gave the caterer a multithousand-dollar deposit or, Why did I decide my color scheme before I figured out how to live with this man who I can't even bear to be in the same room with while he chews his food?

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