It was the last time my age hindered me while I was in college. The remainder of senior year was down to single digits, and it was my boyfriend’s birthday. I wanted to provide him with a nice dinner and get him some of his favorite beer; I wasn’t smart enough to know how to cook a nice dinner, so we went out to pizza; and I wasn’t old enough to buy him his beer, so I had a friend do it. She got me the wrong kind. He and I sat on my balcony; he sipped his offbrand beer, and I sat, dejected, because the day hadn’t been perfect. I was half a bottle into pretending I liked the beer when he looked at me, smiled, and said, “What if we moved in together?”
It’s called “popping the OTHER question,” and it’s happening more than you think: nearly half of women reported their first union was cohabitation, as opposed to marriage, in a study titled “Knot Yet.” (Get it?) But as exciting as this new frontier may seem (Picking out curtains together! Buying new kitchenware together!) and as unglamorous as it actually is (my number one tip: buy a poop candle), there’s one huge thing on your cohabitation checklist that you can’t ignore: telling your parents. Hopefully, they’ll be as excited for you and your significant other as you are… unfortunately, mine were less than thrilled. We’ve gotten to a place where it’s ok now, but here are a few things I kept in mind leading up to The Talk:
1. Remember, it’s your decision.
Their reactions may be more different than you think. My parents are divorced: my traditional and conservative father didn’t take well to the news, and kept telling me that he’d be more comfortable if I’d waited until after I’d gotten married. My happy go lucky mother loved the idea, and she loves my boyfriend so much, she suggested that we might as well go get married. Even though their opinions contrasted, they still wanted me to take on a commitment I wasn’t ready for. I held firm and insisted that I did what my boyfriend and I thought was best for our relationship right now, and that was cohabitating.
It’s your life. There should be no pressure involved, whether it’s your significant other pressuring you to say yes, or your family pressuring you to say no, or anyone pressuring you to take on more than you want (even if they offer to pay for the honeymoon). Stick to your guns: you’re a strong, independent woman who can and will make her own decisions. Don’t let anyone forget that. Beyonce never has.
2. Your SO should be your supporter, but not the only one.
If you don’t think your family will be jumping for joy once you tell them the news, you’ll likely lean on your significant other to get you through the experience. My boyfriend and I talked about it for months, hammering out exactly how I’d tell my parents and prepping for every reaction. It’s something that affects the two of you, but don’t let it consume your life; I will admit, several fights were had over an issue that we sided with each other on. Go to your friends and other people who know you or your parents well, and get their point of view; it makes sense that you’ll want to talk about it a lot, but mix up who listens! (Never bore the same person twice, I like to say.) You’ll get some new perspectives and you don’t have to overwhelm your boyfriend or girlfriend with your panic, especially if they don’t know your family very well.
Important: pay attention to your friends’ advice. You know your over-protective family is dissuading you from moving in, but are all of your friends saying the same thing? Maybe you’re jumping the gun.
3. Don’t tell your parents with your SO present.
He or she should be supportive, but ultimately, this is a conversation between you and your parents. It can be a volatile discussion, and emotions may fly. Honesty and openness is the name of the game here, and, quite frankly, your parents will be a lot more transparent with just you than they will in front of your future roommate. You also wouldn’t want anyone to lash out with an outburst, offending the other side. Take one for your cohabitating team; step boldly in the face of anger, or disappointment, or wedding planning– whatever your parents will throw at you– and have a straightforward conversation with your parents, adult-to-adult.
I finally did it one weekend I came to visit for my mother’s birthday, about a month before my boyfriend was due to move. My dad had been asking me about roommates and my upcoming lease renewal, and I just gave him a hug and blurted out that I had a roommate in mind, and it was my boyfriend. We went out to dinner and had a long talk about it, and while it was hard, it wouldn’t have been nearly as successful if it weren’t just the two of us. (My dad wanted to talk to my boyfriend one-on-one too, so he took him out to dinner. At TGI Friday’s.)
4. Respect your family’s wishes.
Hopefully, you’ve gotten them to respect you and your choices, and now you have to return the favor. It’s like you’re 16 again: when you’re at their house, you follow their rules. Though your curfew many have been stricken, still be cognizant of your family’s comfort level– this may mean sleeping in separate beds when you go home to visit your parents, or doing whatever else you can to ease them into the situation. I tend to look at it this way: I get to sleep in starfish position, and I fart to my heart’s content.
5. Remind your family that you still love, appreciate, and need them.
Some of the backlash may be because your family fears you’re replacing them. Let them know that’s not the case; they’re still as important to you as ever, and all you want for them is to support your decision, and share in the happiness that your significant other has brought you.