Before Living Together: 7 Realities Of Shacking Up

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Moving in with your girlfriend is a huge deal. In life-change terms, it's a bigger transition than getting married. Though you don't get the recognition from your family and friends that comes with tying the knot, you're going through a huge day-to-day shift when you move in with a woman.

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We're all for cohabitation before marriage, and there are plenty of reasons why shacking up with your girlfriend is a great idea. You create a home together. You develop an ad hoc cuisine that is native to only the two of you. (You'll know something special has happened when you walk into the kitchen and she's making that cottage-cheese-and-pickles mix you've been dipping Triscuits into since you were seven — and she's making it for herself.)

Related: Living With Your Girlfriend

But there are plenty of unpleasant surprises, too. Suddenly, the spontaneous visits from your buddies require call-aheads. Sometimes you want to spend Sunday afternoon watching sports highlights and eating Hot Pockets, but she can't stand the thought of staying inside on a beautiful day and shames you into going out to brunch against your will.

Before you make the big transition into cohabitation, it's a good idea to adjust your expectations somewhat. Here, allow us to help.

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The Two-TVs Myth: You’ll combine your possessions, and there’ll be an extra TV for the bedroom. Sweet!

Reality check: She probably won't like a lot of your most beloved stuff, starting with your choice of wall-hangings. Artwork is deeply personal, after all, and that framed map of Yosemite that you've had since college might not make the cut. And TV in the bedroom is terrible for a relationship. Resist the urge.

The Bro-Integration Myth: You’ll continue with your regularly scheduled nights out with the boys, only now you'll come home to a welcoming embrace in bed and hot coffee the morning after.

Reality check: What she didn't know before couldn't annoy her, but now she'll see just how blotto you tend to get when you and the guys decide to really throw down, and she probably won't like what she sees. You'll have to tone it down a little bit, trust us.

The Live-In Maid Myth: Of course you plan to do your part, but she's just better at this stuff. You occasionally Swiffered your own place, but let's be honest — Swiffers just move the dirt around. She's probably going to actually mop sometimes, which will be awesome.

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Reality check: You will be expected to do your share of the chores and pick up after yourself — this is just one of the realities of shacking up. And once she notices something that irritates her, she's going to bug you about it until you're fully conditioned — yes, we said conditioned — to change. This means that along with a slightly cleaner living space, you will be living with about 56 per cent more criticism from her. You may, in low moments, wish you could go back to living alone with your clothes blissfully strewn all over the floor. That's natural.

The Two-Income Myth: Living together means paying less rent, so more money is left for you to spend on beer and iTunes.

Reality check: While you will indeed be splitting the bills now (presumably), you may have new expenses to cover now, too. We hope for the sake of your relationship that you've moved into a larger living space than either of you were occupying alone, which means your rent has gone up. Although you may eat at home more often now than you did during bachelorhood, you're now stocking a fridge in a way you never did before. Bottom line: In our experience, the savings and expenses more or less even out with your pre-cohabitation lifestyle. But saving money is a horrible reason to move in with your girlfriend, so hopefully this point isn't important to you.

The Sex-Everywhere Myth: You're going to christen every room, and then embark on a shining future of (at least) daily sex. It's so convenient now, why wouldn't you?

Reality check: Yeah, this one's harsh. Your sex life is going to change. On the one hand, you might try things you never tried before, since sex will become more routine and she'll be in her comfort zone rather than waking up in yesterday's makeup at your place. On the other hand, after a few months, you very well might be having less sex than you had anticipated. Such is the life of many couples. We wish we could reassure you that your girlfriend is the exception, but she probably isn't. If she is (in other words, if two years in you're still doing it daily), you're a lucky man. Buy her something special to thank her. Seriously.

The Lingerie Lifestyle Myth: What man doesn't love the sight of his girlfriend ambling around his apartment in one of his shirts the morning after? Now that you'll be living together, there will be two kinds of mornings: Sexy oversize T-shirt mornings, and sexy lingerie mornings when she's feeling more feminine. Although you haven't yet confirmed it, you suspect that after a long day at work she'll sometimes come home and strip down to her cute underwear.

Reality Check: You know what women love wearing after work? Yoga pants. Show me a woman who doesn't love an evening in yoga pants, and I'll show you a woman who just prefers straight-up pajamas. Also, while there will be plenty of sexy walking around the bedroom in her underwear (at least for the five minutes before she decides what to wear), you'll also see the "real" woman more often than you ever have: exhausted, no makeup, puffy face, hungover — the works. Remember, you love her for her personality.

Around the Web

What to Know Before You Shack Up: Men's Health

What You Need to Know Before Living Together | Psych Central

The Downside of Cohabiting Before Marriage - NYTimes.com

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