Whose IKEA furniture do we keep?

Photo Credit: Rachel Lau

They say, “Home is where the heart is.” For some, that statement may very well be true. As relationships begin to mature, cohabitation arises as a way to take the relationship to the next level. However, is this bold step worth taking? Is cohabitation for better or for worse?

Juniors Charlene Hernando and Phillip Pham moved in together two years ago, but their story is far from typical. Hernando and Pham started their housing search with a third roommate. Plans were finalized for a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment, when the third roommate transferred to another university. With their leases already signed, the apartment was left to the two of them, even though they were not officially dating at the time.

“It was a pretty spontaneous decision for the both of us, too,” Pham said. 

Seeing as the couple is currently still living together, everything may seem pretty simple and not as problematic as many make it out to be. However, this assumption should not be made, as the couple encountered many hardships during their first year of cohabitation.

The first year was a time of learning about each other’s eating, sleeping and cleaning habits. Problems began to arise when they realized how different they were from each other. Hernando claims to be the clean “neat freak” in the relationship, whereas Pham appears to be the messier one. The couple had to learn to compromise and set rules — Pham is in charge of the dishes and taking out the trash, while Hernando is in charge of laundry and the general cleaning of the apartment. But, despite their rough patches during their first year, they still enjoyed being together.  Hernando describes this time as their “honeymoon stage.” The two enjoyed living together so much that they would often choose watching TV and relaxing at home over going out with their friends. 

In their second year of living together, the couple has adapted to the idea of cohabitation, and they’ve learned to balance time with each other at home with their respective personal lives. Fortunately, the two also never run into problems when either person has friends over.

“I like his friends and he likes mine,” Hernando said. “Nevertheless, Phillip or I would join in on the party anyway.” 

Many students are still financially supported by their parents, and it is important to seek parental approval in terms of where they are living and with whom. Cohabitation may be a touchy subject, as many parents still hold traditional beliefs, and could be against the idea of living together before marriage.  Hernando said her parents didn’t know that she was living with Pham in the beginning. Gradually, they began to figure things out, and her parents are now perfectly fine with the couples’ situation.

In terms of expenses, shacking up seems practical. On average, rent for one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartments range from $700 to $1000 per month. With the rent, groceries and utilities split in half, couples can end up spending much less by sharing a space. 

“Regardless of how many times we’ve bumped heads in the past, I know that both of us can agree that it’s really nice to come home to one another after a busy day,” Hernando said. “It may seem like the both of us are pretty alike to all our friends, but we’re very much opposites and I think that’s what helps us.”