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Cohabitation: romance or a nightmare to be?

Sunday May 23 2021
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A couple moving in together. Photo|FILE

By Lucy Tomeka

We have all heard that saying that why buy the cow when the milk is free or something along those lines. There is definitely a reason why our elders told us a lot of these proverbs and aphorisms.

Why the millennial daters and datees choose to ignore these or undermine them is way beyond my comprehension.

The dating game has flipped so hard in this millennia. What was considered the norm and order of doing things back in the day has been reduced to a mere option today.

Amongst the many options we are bombarded with is the aspect of cohabitation.

Moving in with your partner is a big step in any relationship. The need to cohabit is motivated by various reasons.

Couples commonly cohabit as a precursor to the walk down the aisle. Then there are those who choose to move in together as a cost cutting measure or for purposes of convenience.

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With the soaring rates of divorce, others abandon the idea of marriage altogether and settle for living together as a permanent alternative to tying the knot.

One thing is for sure though. Cohabitation is here to stay. And it can be a smart move for couples who are already spending most of their time together.

But it is risky because for many it happens almost by accident. Dating gradually becomes more and more sleep overs, and so you slip into moving in together.

There are plenty of reasons, we have come to learn, as to why people opt to move in together while there are those who are vehemently against the idea.

Life&Style had the chance to speak from people from all walks of life, single and married; men and women to try and understand the many reasons why they stand where they do.


Would you cohabit with your lover?


Hard yes

Wambili Maneno

Wambili, a young married man who absolutely advocates and encourages cohabitation. After having being in a relationship and now married to his wife since they met in 2007, Wambili credits the success of their relationship thus far to the initial decision to move in together.

“I agreed to move in together with her simply because I loved her” he says. “To me love is the basis for making that decision because it helped me find the patience I needed to get to know her better”

“When you live with someone, you learn how to adjust yourself to meet your partner halfway however, before even getting to that point, you need to prepare yourself psychologically to live with them” he adds.

Wambili’s opinion resonates with a lot of young men these days who believe that moving in with your partner helps you learn and observe them before making that decision into marriage or starting a family.


I may consider it…


Said Karume

A husband and father of four, Said lingers between both sides of the fence when it comes to cohabitation. To him, the decision to move in with a partner relies on how serious a relationship really is.

“With the day and age of equalities and empowerment, a hard yes if partners are engaged. People need to their partner to the fullest to avoid incompatibilities that can severely damage a relationship. However, I would say a hard no if after years of being in the relationship respect for space and freedom are still an issue” he explains.

Hard No

Maggie Mtui

Maggie is a wife, mother of three and lawyer who does not believe in cohabitation. “No I wouldn’t move in with my partner before marriage only because I lived with my parents and they would not allow me to permanently move in with my partner. I could spend a weekend though. I also believed he would get to relaxed and take his time to fully commit or never fully commit at all.”

In as much as trends and lifestyles have and continue to change, Maggie also argues that with cohabitation, people also have the easy way out if fights and disagreements arise as opposed to being in a marriage.

As a matter of respect towards the families, other contributors also believe that moving in together before marriage does not accord families and parent their due respect.

Innocent Mashauri firmly believes that before he is to live with a woman, it is important to follow a course that honours both the parents and his partner, religiously and even traditionally.


What to consider when moving in

It is not enough to just give reasons to move in or not; it is more important to think it through beyond the emotions and hormones. Do you just give your partner a key and agree to move in for the sake of convenience and love?

What do you talk about before making the leap? What questions do you ask and what factors guide your prospective future lifestyle?


Know each other

Deciding to move in with your love interest during the initial honeymoon phase of a relationship is unwise.

This is because people tend to show only their best side at this time.

The fact that he loves you as much as you love him doesn’t guarantee that living together will be smooth sailing.

You need to know your partner fairly well before taking the plunge.

You may be spending a lot of time with your love interest but this isn’t the same as living together.

By moving in with your significant other, you will be sharing your life with him, not just the living space, so you should be well aware of his character traits, his annoying habits, his fighting style and how he reacts when he gets angry.

This information is essential in deciding whether you can live with him or not.

While making this decision, keep in mind that you aren’t perfect either and you have unpleasant traits which he will also put up with.

This means that you must be prepared to compromise.


Talk about money

Talking about money with a love interest may sound unromantic and unnecessary. Finances are an integral part of our lives and if talking about them is overlooked before cohabiting, money issues are bound to surface later.

Are you a spender or saver? Do you rely on a budget to get through the month or are you a rather impulsive spender who wings at as you go?

Said says “money definitely matters if both of you are working so you know how best to contribute to your communal living and what is allowed for personal enjoyment such as the need to have a mutual savings for unforeseen matters and vacations.”

A couple has the option of either merging their finances or managing their money separately after moving in together.

Merging all your finances with someone you are not legally married to is however risky since you will have no legal protection should the relationship break down.


Neutral home

Many times when the decision to cohabit is made, it is usually the woman who packs up and moves into the man’s space. One comes with the furniture and the other has the cool gadgets.

As romantic and cute that is, to some, the issue of giving up their space to accommodate the other eventually becomes a nuisance.

Complaints about whose what is in the other’s space quickly become an issue that needs to be formally addressed simply because the idea of a neutral home was overlooked.

A neutral home is very convenient when both parties are renting because it helps bring in that balance that is needed when making joint decisions about where to live, what type of space is needed and even furniture and decor.

When they settled on moving in together, she was the one that packed up, sold most of her furniture and moved into his house.


Personal and lifestyle needs

Personal activities for enjoyment should continue as long as not disruptive to cohabitation and in consideration of the importance of individuality of each person.

“When it comes to lifestyle needs and traits, how do you split the household chores? What days are designated for deep cleaning? If one is working and the other is not, the chores should not be lopsided and be fairly shared to ensure everyone gets their happy personal time” says Said.

The future

Whichever reason you choose to move in together, it is important to have an honest and open discussion about the future.

Be clear about whether or not marriage is on the cards for the two of you in the foreseeable or unforeseeable future.

If you are moving in together with the aim of eventually getting married, agree on a time line for this so that both of you will have clear expectations.

If the goal is to start a family, then it is important to have an open discussion and a workable plan.

Maggie says that talking and planning out a future helps both of you understand where you stand. She says that even after they got married, she and her husband still took the time to know each other and plan out their lives.

“Talk about kids and if they are on the table, talk about career goals and lifestyle expectations and take the time to understand what makes your partner tick so you know how to meet them halfway” she says.


Should you cohabit?

Before you pack your bags and pick out two sets of keys, it is important to find out whether both of you are on the same page regarding the status of your relationship.

Even more important is to consider whether you are moving in together for the same reasons. It will save both of you hurt and disappointment in the future.

Check if your expectations are the same. Do not make assumptions; have the necessary conversations. If that’s uncomfortable, you are not ready to move in.

It helps if you’re already spending most nights together each week at least you’ll know about the dirty clothes everywhere.

Is your partner always there when you need them? Do you feel valued and your opinion respected? Can you talk about anything? Do you trust each other?

Do you handle conflict well? Do you share similar values about things like money, religion and having children?

Do you have fun together? Do your lifestyles match up? Do not move in together before you discuss the things that would definitely break you up.