Renting With a Romantic Partner

For the first time ever, the number of young adults in the U.S. who have never been married has exceeded the number of young adults who have -- 46.3 percent to 44.9 percent.

A recent Wall Street Journal article also reports that the number of married adults continues to drop. For instance, in 1960 72.2 percent of all adults were married, but that percentage has tumbled to 52 percent.

If these numbers from the Population Reference Bureauare accurate, it's reasonable to conclude that cohabitation is on the rise. So if you and your sweetie are about to sign a lease together, consider the following steps to keep your cohabitation fun and healthy:

1. Choose your place

Take into account both of your incomes. One of the main differences between cohabitators and marrieds is that generally the prior keeps their finances separate. So make sure you both agree on how much you want to spend on rent. If one of you agrees to cover more than the other, lay down ground-rules. Will the bigger spender expect his or her partner to do extra work around the house? This is not a time for mind-reading. Ask the question or state the answer before its even asked, especially if you already know the answer.

2. Who goes on the lease?

On the other hand, a main difference between cohabitators and roommates is that there is often a level of intimacy that can sometimes plummet into disrespect if two people are not careful. The best way to stay protected is to make sure that both of your names are on the lease, so that you are equally accountable. Split bills between you, with one name on some and the other name on others -- regardless of who is paying for them. Legal culpability is sometimes your saving grace in the event of a bad breakup.

3. Handling the money

Since cohabitation generally means two incomes are available but separate, it is easy to get confused about what belongs to whom. So, make sure that you keep some documentation if you share large purchases or give each other loans. If you've ever seen "Judge Judy," you know that it takes little more than a cocktail napkin scrawled with an agreement to prove a case, one way or the other. But please be a little more organized than a cocktail napkin.

4. Telling your grandmother

If you have family that skews old-fashioned, you might want to take care with this particular "happy" announcement. It's possible not everyone will see it as so happy. Avoid shouting it from the rooftops on major holidays or at your sister's wedding. When you do tell family and friends, make sure that you anticipate their fears and questions. Be ready to express how you feel about each other, where, if anywhere, you see things going and what kind of timeline you think you are looking at -- even if you plan to do this 'til death do you part. If you know someone will be particularly upset, try laying it out in a letter -- then follow up after they've had a chance to digest it.

5. You are neither married nor roommates

So act like it. Just because you moved in together doesn't mean you have to behave like there is no more fun to be squeezed out of your love affair. Don't take each other for granted. Similarly, don't treat the person you are dating like your roommate. Not everything has to be fifty-fifty. Sometimes you can make dinner and clean up. At other times he can buy the groceries and get the oil changedon both cars. That's what a relationship is -- partnership.

6. What comes after living together?

Maybe your lease ends and you decide to go back to loving each other from different addresses. Perhaps you realized you could never live with his beer belches and decided to call it quits altogether. Or maybe, just maybe, you decided to get the tax break and make it legal. No matter how your cohabitation ends, if you are clear about an exit strategy, things don't have to be complicated. Change is never easy -- just try not to take it out on each other and remember that you are both going through it together.

Cohabitation is a great way to deepen your committed relationship without needing to involve God, the government or your Great Aunt Marjorie. It is a wonderful way to explore your relationship and even take it to the next level, if you are looking to level-up.

And since everyone's doing it these days, you may as well have a good time.

Joselin Linder is co-writer of"The Good Girl's Guide to Living in Sin: The New Rules for Moving in With Your Man."

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