Shacking up before you say “I do” isn’t nearly as taboo as it was a decade or two ago, but that doesn’t mean you won’t get an earful from family members or friends (especially if there isn’t a ring on your finger quite yet!). "Tradition is strong," says April Masini, relationship expert and advice columnist. "Many people are still the first generation to live together and whenever you break tradition, you've got questions to answer and judgment to be passed." But there are serious advantages to living together before you get married, far beyond the cash you’ll save by paying a single rent or mortgage instead of two. Consider these five benefits as you decide if moving in with your S.O. is the right choice for you—and be prepared to share them with your loved ones if they start to question your decision.
This is probably the first benefit that came to mind when you and your partner started thinking about moving in together: It’s really a practice run for a lifetime of living together—without the major commitment or legal documents. "You'll find out how tolerant you can be, as well as how upset you each get at your various differences," points out Jane Greer, Ph.D., relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. If you’re a total neat freak and your partner isn’t quite so bothered by things piling up here and there or leaving dishes in the sink for a few days, sharing living quarters will help you figure out how to make it work and whether the two of you can handle it. Your lifestyle habits extend past your waking hours, though, and living together also means learning to sleep together. "You can learn to balance and adapt to each other's sleep schedules," Greer says. "You can start to figure out options for handling your differences and needs, and how this will affect your sexual life—e.g. setting aside time for sex if you're on opposite schedules."
Even if you’re not legally married, sharing a home means you’ll be divvying up the chores, taking turn running errands, and learning to work together to manage the budget. Doing so before you tie the knot will give you more time to problem solve and collaborate to find a fair balance. And in case you haven't heard, sharing household responsibilities such as the dishes and laundry is the hottest form of foreplay. (Sheryl Sandberg says so!)
Does all that cleaning get you hot and bothered? You’ll find out! Says Greer, "You have the opportunity to see what your sexual appetites are once you're together all the time. Once you live together, you're able to be sexually intimate every day, if you like." And if you don't want to get down every day, she says, it's good to learn that before you tie the knot. "You'll get to know each other's level of desire and find a balance in terms of frequency so you can both feel good about your sexual life together," Greer says. Of course, those first few weeks of living together are definitely a honeymoon phase, so enjoy it while it happens, and then start a conversation with your partner about both of your sexual needs once that fire turns into a steady smoulder.
Yes, you’ll be saving money by only paying for one home, but you’ll also get a better sense of how your partner spends his or her cash. Says Masini, "Your spending habits never seemed to be an issue when you were dating, but living together brings money to the forefront." You’ll have to negotiate who pays for what (like dinners out or groceries), how you’ll cover the bills, and how you both feel about discretionary spending. One of you might have a hefty savings account or rainy day fund, while the other may see whatever is left over after the bills are paid as available to be spent. "Learning about each other's money habits and values often happen when you live together," Masini says. "This is invaluable information. If you take three extensions on tax returns and then decide to blow them off for a year because you probably won't get caught—and he files in February of every year, you've got some ground to cover as a couple before you get married." Talk to one another about any debts you have, from car payments and student loans (not so bad) to major credit card bills that need to be paid (not so good!). The closer you can get to similar, stable spending and saving habits, the better: You’ll be better equipped to cover unexpected expenses or pay off debts, and will know whether you can really afford that luxe honeymoon you’ve been dreaming about.
As wonderful as marriage can be, it isn’t all romance. Says Masini, “Many couples don’t realize that the day-to-day of such a long-term commitment is fairly mundane. Living together before marriage will give you a chance to try it out—past the honeymoon phase—before you seal the deal.” A lot of everyday life is pretty boring, and while living with the person you love will give you someone to be bored with, it’s not a cure-all! Living together before you tie the knot will prepare you for the less-than-exciting moments, so they won’t take you by surprise. “It’s much more managing two lives combined,” Masini continues. So while budgets, schedules, and the never-ending “what do you want for dinner?” conversation aren’t particularly thrilling, that’s life!