There is no denying that Vancouver is one of the most expensive cities to live in. When I was looking for a new apartment, I realized that finding a place to live is just as hard as finding a good relationship. They are few and far between and if you want something nice and reliable it’s going to cost you.
My friend Kevin had just recently ended things with his girlfriend of four years and was beginning to date. He would like to own a home but the market makes it difficult to take on a mortgage as a single person. After two months of dating, Kevin found a partner and their relationship moved quickly. In just one month of starting their journey as a couple, they decided to move in together to save on the cost of living separately. Since things were going so well Kevin decided there was no harm in speeding up the inevitable. But I departed my meeting with Kevin with more questions than answers and decided to pay special attention to this topic.
The subject arose again on a casual night out with my friend at Rodney’s Oyster Bar where a gentleman approached me for insight on his relationship. He has been with his girlfriend for four years but the relationship has teetered on the edge of breakup for months. They live together, and because real estate is so expensive even to rent in Vancouver they have prolonged an unhealthy relationship. Out of caring for her, he has been hesitant to ask her to move out for fear she will not be able to meet the basic need of finding a home. Real estate prices may also be a reason that people are continuing to stay in relationships that are less than ideal. I reassured this man that although his feelings of care for her may be valuable, it is not helpful for him or her.
There is no doubt that society favours the idea of coupling up and grants it benefits. Mortgages are easier to attain with a partner. Rents are more affordable as a couple. You pay less tax as couple with dependents and you can’t forget about the stigma that society has on being single past a certain age. Is commitment now a secondary effect of high prices and the demand for prime real estate? And if so are we in danger of jumping into less than healthy relationships because of it?
It can be a relief to experience some ease financially when you move in with someone. We get comfort that we are not alone and we don’t have to take it all on ourselves. Cohabiting with your spouse has its pros and cons. Conflict is sure to arise in any relationship and cohabiting decreases physical and psychological disengagement because you have to interact with your partner sharing a space with you. If you do not work it out your daily life could be affected quite negatively. For this reason, people are more motivated to push for a resolution when conflict occurs. This is good news for those who are able to effectively resolve conflict but not good news for couples that have a toxic dynamic when handling conflict.
The savings in your pocket will not lower stress from your relationship problems. I recommend couples take a close look at how they resolve conflict before moving in together. If your relationship has yet to experience conflict it may not be a good time to move in together because you have not had an opportunity to engage in conflict resolution.
Economic constraints induce stress that lowers our ability to make otherwise sound decisions. We settle or rationalize away reasons that make it clear we may not be ready to move in with someone. Be wise and invest responsibly because you are not just sharing monetary costs with your partner but also psychological space.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to email@example.com. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.