Love seat for two?

Deborah Pritchard

Couples choosing to live together face both advantages and disadvantages

Credit: Ron Soltys

Before deciding to live with a boyfriend or girlfriend next year, think about the dirty socks and underwear laying around the house or the abundance of makeup taking up all the bathroom space. Consider the reality of cohabitation.

Cohabitation is a growing practice, particularly among the young. In 1960, 439,000 people cohabitated. In 2004, that number increased to more than five million, according to Popenoe and Whitehead, 2005.

Younger people and people with less rigid religious beliefs are more likely to cohabitate, said Michael Moore, assistant director of the Kent State Psychological Clinic, who is a couple’s therapist. This is when two unmarried people live together and share a sexual relationship.

“Couples that come from families that are somewhat more liberal tend to be more educated and have more lenient beliefs about cohabitation,” he said.

People should consider the degree of seriousness in the relationship before choosing to this, he said. It’s a significant step toward being engaged that requires a high level of commitment.

“It’s like getting a new roommate,” Moore said. “You have to adjust and deal with all types of issues that you didn’t have to deal with when you weren’t cohabitating. Questions that people should consider are: ‘Are your schedules and study habits compatible?’ and ‘How will chores be distributed?'”

One of the adjustments Melissa Giancola, a senior organizational communications major who has been living with her fianc‚ for five years, had to make was to become financially responsible for herself.

“I had to learn to budget,” Giancola said. “We made a list of what we would own eventually and then crossed it off as we got it, such as pots and pans and a bigger television.”

She said other adjustments she had to deal with were socializing and going out more, as well as dealing with her fianc‚ playing Playstation and watching certain television programs, such as sporting events.

Advantages mainly include financial aid and increased seriousness in the relationship, Moore said. Cohabitation may also provide a sense of security and increased trust in each other.

“You are allowing the person more access to you on a daily basis,” he said. “I think that naturally leads to more trust.”

“It was more convenient to move in and take the next step in our relationship,” Giancola said. “You always have a companion. You always have someone to talk to and tell your problems. You always have someone to come home to.”

Cohabitation is good because people are able to get to know their significant other better and their ways of living, but it can also have negative attributions, Giancola said.

“Guys get in a comfort zone and sometimes don’t see a reason to get married,” she said.

She said one of the disadvantages is that she often worries about his safety and what he is doing late at night.

“You can’t sleep until he’s home,” she said.

The initial period of getting adjusted to cohabitation can be stressful, Moore said. A lot of people are nervous about cohabitation because they think the stress that comes with cohabitating is different than other stress.

The key to being successful is to learn to compromise and maintain open and honest communication, Moore said. If those things aren’t in place, it can represent a roadblock in the relationship.

Giancola’s advised being respectful of the other person and to try to understand where he or she is coming from.

“You have to learn to deal with things you wouldn’t normally do on your own because now you’re sharing your life with someone else,” she said. “People are going to be people. They make mistakes.”

A lot of people see it as a trial period, Moore said. On one hand. it can increase trust and access, which for some couples solidifies in their mind that ‘this is the person I want to spend the rest of my life with.’ For other couples, the increased access and information may make him or her realize he or she doesn’t like a lot of things about the other person, which can lead to a breakup.

Cohabitation can be beneficial to a relationship but is not essential for a couple to function optimally, he said. It is an issue that should be discussed on an individual basis. Some people think it is the fast track to marriage. Once people make the decision to cohabitate, marriage is the next step.

Contact student life reporter Deborah Pritchard at [email protected].