The Truth About Living Together

Continued (page 5 of 5)

A seamless move-in calls for lots of cardboard boxes and, most importantly, straight talk and a spirit of compromise between you and your fiancé. Elana Katz, a psychotherapist in New York City and a teaching faculty member of the Ackerman Institute for the Family, recommends that engaged couples try these five simple guidelines:

Seek virgin territory. In a perfect world—which, granted, isn't even in the same solar system as the real estate market—you'd be moving into a brand-new place together. When one of you invades the other's space, however, it's that much harder to create new house rules that suit (and benefit) both of you. "People don't recognize how different sensibilities and styles can be," Dr. Katz says. "Most of us take our own style as the given and the other's as aberrant."

Converse about cash. "It's so unsexy to talk about money," Dr. Katz points out, but it needs to be done. Before you move in, discuss how the household finances will be split or covered, depending upon your respective incomes. Plus, Dr. Katz says, talk about how your lifestyle might change. Moving in can feel really different if you're used to going out to restaurants and all of a sudden, you're eating frozen pizza every night.

Tackle the mundane. Short of making a construction-paper chore wheel, sit down and figure out who will do what around the house. "If you don't deal with it, it's in the foreground all the time," says Dr. Katz.

Fight right. "Try to avoid sentences that start with "You always" or "You never," she says. And instead of saying what he's doing wrong ("You slob! You left your socks on the floor—again!"), Dr. Katz suggests that you gently let your know how his actions affect you inside ("I love being your fiancé , but not feeling like your maid."). Then strike a bargain: He can leave the socks on the floor in the bedroom (maybe!) but not in the living room. The idea is to make sure that the solution is livable for both parties.

Make a date to duke it out. When one of you wants to talk about something that's bothering you, the other may not want to deal with it just then. Both people should be prepared for those "big topic" conversations. So, Dr. Katz suggests that instead of saying, "I don't want to talk about it" and leaving the subject suspended, try "I've had a rough day and am not at my best, but Saturday morning, we'll grab coffee, take a walk, and circle the park until we solve this."

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