Unlike generations past, more and more contemporary couples are living together before getting engaged or tying the knot. This is a positive thing, according to relationship experts, as becoming roommates with your significant other is one of the only ways to get a feel for what it's like to be married without all the paperwork. "When we date, we often idealize the other person because they make us feel great, but when we live with someone we can see their bad habits, need to compromise, have to work together, and negotiate each other's pet peeves," says Paulette Sherman, relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out. "It can be a good test of what's to come in marriage and choosing a life and partner." If you and your S.O. are considering moving in together, here are some the change might teach you about your relationship.
You learn each other's habits.
Typically, there's one neat and one messy person in the relationship—just how neat or messy differs with every couple, but the only way to figure out which roles you play, you pretty much have to live together first. Additionally, you'll learn each other's living habits. "All of the little things a person may take for granted about living alone, like leaving the toilet seat up, cleaning the hair out of the shower drain, or staying up late to watch TV, they now have to share with their partner," says Dawn Michael, Ph.D., a certified sexuality counselor, clinical sexologist and author. "Some couples work this out with little problem and others have a more difficult time."
You learn to divide chores.
Simple tasks that you once did on your own to keep your household afloat will now have to be divided between the two of you, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, laundry, taking out the trash, and caring for any animals you have. "If both of you work, then you may assume you will split the household chores but research shows usually the woman ends up doing much more," says Dr. Sherman. "You should learn how to successfully cohabitate before bringing kids into the mix." She recommends coming up with a playbook of who does what when so things run smoothly and there isn't any resentment.
You learn how to compromise.
When you live alone, it's your way or the highway, but Dr. Sherman points out that when you live with someone else, you'll need to compromise. "This typically means meeting in the middle so that both of you feel heard and respected," she says. "Sometimes one partner may give in and then the next time the other one will."
You see each other at your worst.
"When we date and fall in love, we idealize the other person, but when we live with them and see them daily we tend to have a more realistic understanding and of them," explains Dr. Sherman. "We see the good and the challenging and that is the real lifelong experience earner we will have." If you can accept them on this deeper more realistic level, she says your marriage will probably fare better.
You learn how to budget and spend.
No matter how you decide to split your expenses, be it 50/50 or any other arrangement you see fit, coming to an understanding of how to spend and save is an important pre-marital step. "Since money is one if the top three things married couples argue about, it can be good to get a sense of what you are committing to in this arena," says Dr. Sherman. "You can see whether you are able to discuss money together, set goals, and work together around it."
You learn how you socialize.
Sharing the same humble abode means you're more exposed to each other's friends and family. This can be a great way for you to get to know them better, but it also might make for uncomfortable situations—for example, if you prefer not to have company over but your partner loves entertaining. "You will figure out, as a couple, who you like, who you can tolerate, and others who you simply can't stand," says Dr. Michael. "You'll learn how will you negotiate who you want in your home, how often you want them there, and whether or not it is going to be a problem."
You learn about your sex life.
When you have access to sex 24/7, one or both of you might start taking it for granted. "When you live apart, sex can be more exciting because it is not always available. Now that you are living together, the challenge is how to keep sex passionate, fun, and frequent," says Dr. Michael. "This can be an interesting process to see if a couple's ease into a pattern or if problems may arise early on."