Cohabitating: When Romance Takes New Forms
Cohabitating with a partner, for many couples, is a natural step in a long-term relationship. It's a trend that's on the rise—in fact, 59 percent of adults ages 18 to 44 have lived with a partner to whom they weren't married.
Once couples move in together, their relationships often change. Sex and spontaneity can become overshadowed by bills and meal planning. This can be interpreted as a loss of romance, but as former relationship habits fade, you can still maintain and even grow your sense of intimacy.
The 'typical' experience
I spoke to two couples: Jen, 38, and Connor, 37; and Monica, 39, and Alan, 31. Jen and Connor have been dating for five years and living together for three, while Alan and Monica have been together for nine years and living together for four. While their experiences were by no means the same, what keeps them going is, at its core, the same: Communication and respect are musts for keeping these relationships healthy.
Jen and Connor discussed how their sex life has fluctuated since cohabitating, saying that though their emotional intimacy has increased, their physical intimacy has changed. If this sounds familiar, don't worry: It isn't a bad thing.
This adjustment is a normal effect of integrating your romantic partner into your everyday life. Once a couple moves in together, it's easy to set aside physical intimacy and replace it with daily responsibilities. But as long as you're honest and open about everything, you can make time for both and become even closer in the process.
Keeping things interesting
To revive the passion and spark in your relationship post-move-in, while it may seem counterintuitive, consider sharpening those planning and scheduling skills. Keeping up with regular date nights can remind you both of what makes your partnership special, and may inject a little adrenaline into the everyday routine.
"I really miss that and need that to feel that 'date mode' rush of anticipation and bliss," Jen said.
And because it's important to Jen, it's important to Connor, which makes Jen feel special as she sees him putting in an effort to make her happy. This is a healthy cycle of emotional intimacy that can lead to the physical intimacy some cohabitating partners feel they've lost after a while.
But not every couple is the same. If you're just not a planner, take advantage of your more adventurous nature. Monica and Alan, for example, tend to do activities on a whim, going on unplanned, spontaneous dates.
Though their dynamics differ, both couples communicate openly and do what needs to be done to keep the spark alive now that they're cohabitating. Fluctuations in both physical and emotional intimacy should be regarded as normal; increasing levels of intimacy can be achieved simply by working on some quality time together.
The necessary work in a relationship simply changes forms once you move in together. The increased responsibilities are another reason why telling each other how you feel is such a key tool to prevent you from losing your relationship to the day-to-day humdrum.
The common denominator that keeps these two relationships afloat is respectful communication and active engagement. Cohabitating in healthy ways such as these allows for a true partnership to bloom.
As the honeymoon phase fades and you realize that sometimes your partner forgets to flush or pay the electricity bill on time, don't lose hope. You'll find that there's something tremendously romantic about being loved in your truest self and loving someone else in theirs. And because of that, no romance has to be lost at all.