It’s that time of the year when many Montrealers scour the streets for boxes and scramble to rent overpriced trucks in search of a slightly better deal on a living space. Yes, it’s almost Moving Day, and it will be a particularly eventful one for me, as I will be moving in with my boyfriend, hitting that significant milestone of a serious relationship for the first time ever.
At least I’m not the only one “living in sin” – according to the Statistics Canada, the number of common-law couples rose almost 14% between 2006 and 2011, which was four times the increase for married couples. Since data on common-law couples was first gathered in 1981, they went from representing 5.6% of all census families to 16.7% in 2011.
We’ll be joining the ranks of the other 1.2 million other Quebecers living common-law. Here, over one-quarter of all census families are common-law couples, the highest percentage of all the provinces.
Studies have shown that cohabitation before marriage can lead to more trouble than it’s worth. While some of the advantages include a higher level of commitment and a spike in sex frequency after first shacking up, there was also an overall decline in relationship quality and satisfaction. This manifests itself in yelling and name-calling, physical aggression and a lack of intimacy.
In a piece for the New York Times, clinical psychologist Meg Jay warns against entering into cohabitation without discussing the motivation for the decision and questioning the commitment level of the relationship, something researchers have dubbed sliding not deciding. “Moving from dating to sleeping over to sleeping over a lot to cohabitation can be a gradual slope, one not marked by rings or ceremonies or sometimes even a conversation. Couples bypass talking about why they want to live together and what it will mean,” she wrote.
This, in fact, is the complete opposite of my situation, where my boyfriend tells pretty much every waking moment how excited he is for us to be living together, especially cutting down on travel time between his St. Henri apartment and my place on the Plateau. We’re also excited to start building a life together, playing off each other’s strengths and share the responsibilities to create a happy and healthy home.
Upon consulting friends, family and relationship experts, it seems that the universal piece of advice for someone moving in with a lover for the first time is to make a point in spending quality time together. Since living with anyone, be it a family member, roommate or boyfriend, involves a lot of daily maintenance and dull, ordinary transactions, it’s important not to let it slide into too far into that realm.
As someone who’s been living alone and loving it for over five years, getting accustomed to sharing my space with anyone is going to be a bit of a learning curve. I’m also going to need to learn when to ask for time alone.
I guess what it boils down to is that while my expectations are quite high, I’m confident that we will be able to pull this off with all the finesse and flair befitting of our fabulous new apartment… but not before I have one more sloppy crazy party to celebrate the end of my bachelorette-hood.