Love and marriage. Do they really go together like a horse and carriage, as the song goes? Or, are more and more of us opting to cohabit indefinitely, rather than tying the knot? We can all agree that moving in with a partner is a big step in a relationship, whether you choose to do it before or after marriage.
The intricacies of sharing a home go far beyond squabbles over the washing up. Yet trivial matters still take over, day-to-day.
The past 20 years has seen more and more people moving in together before, or instead of, marriage. Cohabiting couple families have, in fact, been the fastest growing family type.
Since 1996, the number of cohabiting couple families (as the Office of National Statistics romantically refers to them) has more than doubled. It’s gone from 1.5 million to 3.3 million families.
Opposite sex cohabiters now account for 19.8% of the nation’s 12.7 million family units, with same sex couple families making up just 1%.
Pamela Cobb, from the Office for National Statistics’ Population Statistics Division, said: “In 2016, married or civil partner couple families remained the most common type of family in the UK although cohabiting couple families were the fastest growing family type over the last 20 years. The growth in cohabiting couple families may be due to couples choosing cohabitation as an alternative or precursor to marriage”.
So, you’ve made the decision to take the plunge. What do you need to know?
Here’s your one-stop survival guide to cohabitation, from your friends at Store First.
Think before you leap
Before you sign on the dotted line for that rented flat, or make that mortgage appointment, take a step back. Think seriously about the journey on which you’re about to embark. The excitement of dating will soon make way for annoying habits, shared laundry piles and utility bills. Make sure you’ve got to know each other as well as you can before making the move. Minibreaks, holidays and swapped keys are all good ways to play house, but they aren’t the real deal.
Equally important are your reasons for sharing your space. If it’s simply convenience, you may end up regretting it. There’s no denying it can be cheaper, especially if you’re currently living alone. Maybe the move will bring you closer to friends, family or work, but that’s not enough of a reason. It’s a big decision, so talk it through to ensure you share the same future plans and you both see it as a long-term step, rather than a short-term fix.
Know your rights
Read up on your rights before you move in together, to save any nasty surprises if all goes wrong.
- If it’s rented in your partner’s name, you may need the landlord’s consent to move in
- The partner named in the contract can ask the other to leave at any time
- The unnamed partner has no right to stay after the named partner leaves – although you may be able to negotiate a new contract with the landlord
Single owner property
- The owner can ask their partner to leave at any time
- The owner can sell the property without letting their partner know
- Non-owners can be entitled to a share of the home if the owner agrees in writing
- If you pay towards the mortgage or contribute financially in other ways (and can prove it), you may be entitled to a share of the home
- If you have children, a non-owner can legally secure the right to stay in the home if it’s in the children’s best interests
- You are entitled to half of the sale of the home – even if one partner contributed more towards buying it
- Selling the home must be a joint decision (unless you obtain a court order)
- If you’re left in the home following a break-up, you’ll be legally expect to continue paying the mortgage in full
- You will own the entire home if your partner dies
To protect yourself, draw up a cohabitation agreement which covers your rights, finances, assets, debts and wills, as well as detailing any issues surrounding children.
Plan your finances
According to Relate, money is the top cause of stress in relationships. Pooling your funds may seem like the answer to your financial woes, but it can be a whole new source of arguments. Follow these steps to navigate a cohabiting budget.
1. Be open
Discuss your income ahead of the move – and choose the right moment to do so. A calm, frank chat should lead to a harmonious financial future. Remember, we all take different approaches to money. Openly discussing incomes and spending habits is a bigger deal for some than others. What’s more, there can be all sort of insecurities at play over who earns more or less. Respect your partner’s attitude – regardless of how much it differs from yours – and work as a team.
Using a budget planner like this one can make life much easier. Unlike others, it looks at what you really spend – more than 100 categories make it far more thorough an audit than your average budgeting tool. Take some time to complete it and reap the long-term rewards.
3. Share the load
When one person is responsible for a family unit’s finances, it all too often leads to resentment. The budgeter resents the burden, the non-budgeter resents being in the dark and can be too quick to play the blame game if the books don’t balance.
Sharing the responsibility through regular catch-up meetings will help you to stick to a clear plan, spending and saving in a way you both feel comfortable. Furthermore, it avoids falling into a parent/child trap where the “parent” holds the purse strings and the “child” asks for permission to spend (especially now it’s your own, hard-earned cash).
4. Find the right fit
Whether you choose to keep your bank accounts and earnings separate and divide responsibility for bills, open a joint account specifically for bills or merge all accounts and incomes, make sure it’s the right fit for you both.
There are pros and cons to all three methods of managing family finances, so it must be the one you’re most comfortable with, and the one which suits your financial situation. Plenty of people will swear by one way – but no two families are the same so it’s not a one size fits all scenario.
Divide and conquer
Divvying up daily chores is – unfortunately – the mundane reality of cohabitation. Before you move in together, you may idealistically assume you’ll both do your fair share once you’re living under the same roof. And maybe this is the case for some lucky couples, but the reality is often a different story.
The best living situations stem from an equal partnership, where housework, food shopping, cooking and odd jobs are divided between cohabiters to avoid arguments. Smart cohabiting couples draw up a plan that plays on their individual strengths and preferences. Find a system that works for you and your situation to prevent rows and resentment creeping up on you later on.
Transitioning into a cohabiting lifestyle can be difficult if you’re set in your single ways, so compromise is key. In the hustle and bustle of daily life, prioritising quality time together may involve making a few sacrifices and changes along the way.
Remember, you’re not just moving in with your partner, you’re signing up to a lifetime of living with their stuff, too. Unless space is plentiful, the likelihood is you’ll have to compromise on how much you bring to the party. That may mean downsizing your wardrobe, selling that bike you never actually use or packing your record collection away to enjoy on a rainy day.
Moving house is a great time to declutter, so make the most of those charity shop bags that come through the letterbox for easy donation without much hassle. Selling unwanted goods can also make you some much-needed cash to help with deposits or solicitor fees (or at least pay for that moving day takeaway).
Or, if you really can’t bear to part with it, box it up and lock it away safely at a self-storage facility like Store First. And, in the spirit of Valentine’s Day, we promise to love it like it’s our own!