Five Tips For Living With Your Sweetie This Valentine's Day

The Roommate of the Year Shares Advice on Making Cohabitation Work

Feb 09, 2012, 05:00 ET from

CHICAGO, Feb. 9, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The majority of couples marrying today cohabited first, with the 2011 U.S. Census report revealing there are about 7.6 million unmarried couples living together. Whether or not you have lived with roommates in the past, cohabiting with that special someone is a whole new ball game.

In light of this news and with Valentine's Day around the corner, asked their 2011 Roommate of the Year Jesse McLaughlin – who recently turned his cohabitation into a happily-ever-after by proposing to his girlfriend Lisa Harbin – for his advice on successfully sharing space with a significant other. McLaughlin, who has lived with Harbin for the past year, offers five tips to make living with your sweetheart a success:

  1. Talk money before the move
    Discuss finances up front–even before you start looking at apartments. Before the apartment becomes something tangible, make sure you establish what each person is comfortable contributing financially. When you have this discussion, remember to include the cost for internet, utilities, parking, and any other fees that may arise.
  2. Respect personal space
    When you move in, make sure you each give yourselves some space that is your own, especially if this is the first time you are moving in with a significant other. As crazy as you are about each other, spending every minute in the apartment together may drive you both a little batty. Ensure each person still has some alone time carved out for themselves.
  3. Discuss decor
    Hand in hand with respecting your significant other's personal space is respecting their personal decorating style – or lack thereof. You may think the black velvet painting is tacky, but it may hold sentimental value for your sweetheart. Before either of you hang (or purge anything), sit down and talk about your decorating styles and how you can make them blend harmoniously.
  4. Don't forget dates
    By dates, I'm not talking about when bills are due or your anniversary–although those are important to remember too – but dates as in dinner and movies. Once you live together, it's easy to mistake seeing each other around the apartment for quality time. Be sure to make time for a night out on the town together or plan a special evening at home.  Remember, this is your potential soul mate, not just a roommate you split the bills with.
  5. Consider going halfsies on large purchases
    Shared purchases are an interesting issue. To fill your apartment, you may need a new couch or dining room table – or you may just want that new big screen TV. So, who pays for this major expense? Consider splitting it 50/50 (or in whatever way makes financial sense for you as a couple). Although your mind may have a tendency to fast forward to "who will get this item if you break up down the road," remember making these purchases together shows your partner you're committed to the relationship and investing in your future together.

"Even though living together is a practical solution, it's important to remember that your relationship with your significant other is first and foremost romantic," states McLaughlin. "The important lessons we have learned while living together will definitely help us as we move into the next phase of our relationship as a married couple next year."

McLaughlin, a security analyst at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, earned his Roommate of the Year title in fall of 2011 by entering his winning video into the annual Roommate of the Year contest. In addition to bragging rights and a coveted title, McLaughlin won free rent for a year plus $10,000, which he says freed up some much needed cash to spring for an engagement ring! Visit for details about this year's Roommate of the Year contest.

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