Should We Shack Up? A Gay Lovers' Pre-Cohabitation Reality Check
Particularly with the legal sanctions that exist against gay marriage, moving in and living together is a big step and important rite-of-passage for a gay couple. It can symbolize the development and maturation of their relationship, as well as express the sense of a deepening commitment to each other and desire for more definition as partners.
However romantic it may seem to “shack up,” it’s a huge life-changing decision that shouldn’t be made lightly or on impulse. It requires a lot of forethought and preparation or you could be setting yourselves up for a lot of drama, stress, and pain. This article will offer some tidbits of information on cohabitation and lend you some questions for contemplation to assess your true readiness for “taking the plunge” as live-in lovers. Then some suggestions will be made to help foster a smoother decision-making process for you and your guy.
Dispel The Fairy Tale Myth
So you found your Prince Charming or Mr. Right and you feel ready to take that next step by moving in together. It’s a very special time to be enjoyed, however it’s also important to temper your excitement and let your logical mind help you determine if this is the right choice for you at this time in your life and stage of relationship with your boyfriend.
There are lots of benefits to living together: saved time on travel, being able to spend more time together, increased sexual availability, improved cost-of-living, intimacy can be strengthened, etc. Beware of romanticizing this big step in your relationship though; recognize that this is a major life transition with lots of adjustments and that your life and relationship will change.
Even if you’ve lived with someone before, like with a roommate, family, or an ex, it’s a completely unique experience when you live with a new significant other because the relationship dynamics, issues, and feelings are so different. You are merging together two men with different personalities, needs, habits, and lifestyles—integrating these can be stressful and challenging. However, once consolidated and you have reached an understanding and rhythm to your lives, it can be one of the most rewarding and fulfilling experiences you’ll ever have.
* Your relationship will change when you live together; it is a completely different entity to what you had when you were just dating.
* Moving in together will not help a hurting relationship. If it was troubled before, the issues will become magnified and more trying when under the same roof 24/7.
* You will have to compromise and be more flexible. How you managed your home and life when you lived solo now needs to be negotiated with another’s outlook. You will be giving up a degree of independence.
* If you or your boyfriend is still “in the closet” and having continued “coming-out” struggles, living together will pose some additional challenges as it will be difficult over time to hide your relationship. You will need to be prepared to face the reactions of your family, friends, neighbors, and perhaps even your job.
Here are some questions you and your man could ponder as you come closer to making a decision about your living arrangements. Communicate with each other about all of these issues to ensure mutual understanding and agreement.
* Why do I want to move in together? What does it mean to me? What are my motives? If it’s for convenience, financial security, or because you think you “should” do it, these are not the right reasons. Only go for it if you’re comfortable with your partner, are fully committed, and are confident in your compatibility and have no doubts that you’re a good fit.
* What do I want to get out of living together? What are my expectations of myself and my partner?
* How will we consolidate? Where will we live? How will we combine our belongings? How will we manage finances and domestics?
* Is the timing right for us at this very moment? As an example, three years into my relationship with my partner, we decided to buy a home together. My condo sold first and I moved into his house awaiting its sale so we’d have enough of a down payment for our new home. The problem was that his mother was living with him at the time and he “came out” to her just weeks before my move-in! Talk about drama! Having to live with my future mother-in-law, who was sorely bitter about my presence, and having to adapt to his two dogs who just loved to jump on my face in the middle of the night was a little much for my coping abilities. “Mom” and I are very close now, and I’m better about dogs, but it illustrates the importance of good timing in your decision-making.
What You And Your Partner Can Do For Cohabitation Success
* Before you guys move in, ensure that you’re completely committed to each other and the process, that you’re open and honest about anything and everything and have a solid foundation of trust and mutual respect, and that you have a shared vision for your relationship and future.
* Communication is key. Share with each other your fears and concerns, as well as your joys. Always keep the channels of dialogue open, regularly “check-in” with each other, and never keep things you’re feeling bottled up inside.
* Set some ground rules BEFORE you move in, defining your home climate and expectations so there are no surprises. Be flexible in sorting out who does what and mix up the roles periodically.
* There will be lots of shared decision-making. Make sure the two of you have a good system in place for productive problem-solving and healthy anger management. Emphasize the positives in your relationship when things get rough.
* Practice living together before you actually do by “playing house.” Practice domestic roles in each other’s separate residences or go on an extended vacation where you’ll constantly be together to gauge the strengths and weaknesses you see from all the “togetherness.” Try it on for size!
Living together can be a very fulfilling part of your relationship development, but as you can see, requires adequate readiness assessment, preparation, and planning to maximize your success. While some of the drawbacks of cohabitation are not always rosy, also realize sometimes that emotional barriers you may be erecting will need to be pushed through to make this option more viable. While moving in with my partner when I did was a nightmare, it did help facilitate both our coming-out processes and we grew more as individuals and as a couple. It also helped both our families break through their denial systems and grieving processes and helped all of us develop some new, more sophisticated relational skills that has led to a now successful family unit. It all worked out for the best and a lot of good came from it. So best of luck with your decision-making…you’ll be great!
© Brian L. Rzepczynski
Brian Rzepczynski, Certified Personal Life Coach, is The Gay Love Coach: “I work with gay men who are ready to create a road map that will lead them to find and build a lasting partnership with Mr. Right.” To sign up for the FREE Gay Love Coach Newsletter filled with dating and relationship tips and skills for gay singles and couples, as well as to check out current coaching groups, programs, and teleclasses, please visit http://www.TheGayLoveCoach.com