Times are changing, in more ways than one. Whereas just a few decades ago the idea of living together before marriage was frowned upon, it's quickly becoming the norm. It’s viewed as a way to understand your partner and work out any kinks before tying the knot, if you ever do at all.

So why does the stigma against college couples living together persist so stubbornly?

The Stigma

This change has a lot to do with how society views young adults, especially those in college. I am one of those college-aged young adults in my third year, and I have been living with my significant other for almost a year now. As a group, we’re frequently framed as overly sensitive and prone to quick changes in thinking and acting.

Ashley Martsen is a second year Physics major. She and her current significant other have been together for four years and are currently living comfortably together. She attributes society's stigma to people placing their own experiences into someone else’s life.

“[The stigma is caused by] people being at different points in their life, and projecting the point they’re at onto other people,” Martsen said.

It’s a common theme for people to go through a bad experience, dating or otherwise, and project that bad experience into something that doesn’t apply to everyone. When my significant other and I proposed moving in together, many people, including family, told us we should wait and projected their past failures to effectively communicate onto us. I was appreciative of the warning, but also frustrated at the unfair comparisons.

In college, you will find a variety of different people, many of which are going through a key time of change and growth, but many who have already figured themselves out.

Martsen and her significant other have been together for four years, and she has no interest in dating around. To others, dating around might be an integral part of the “college experience.”

It is this change that brings many to suggest college couples should not live together. The question often is, ‘what if you change, and this change separates you from your significant other? What if you’re living with your SO at the time of your separation?’

This is something that can, and does, unfortunately happen. But, moving in together does not make this outcome a guarantee, or even likely — it’s only a warning not to do so before you’re prepared.

Are You Ready?

Knowing if you're ready or not for such a big step is hard, and these standards don’t apply the same way for everyone.

For my significant other and I, it just made sense. We were still both looking for housing and couldn't afford our own places, but more importantly, we enjoyed doing things as a group and never got tired of spending time together. If you plan to live together, you should already be close friends.

For Martsen, her rules include being past the “honeymoon” stage in a relationship —around six months. Additionally, she suggested identifying any issues you might have with them, openly and honestly communicating about most everything and depending on the relationship, keeping nothing entirely off-limits.

Similarly, it is beneficial to have an understanding where the relationship is going, how serious are you and what your goals are. Having mutually beneficial goals in life and academics is important to a healthy, sustainable relationship. Do you both prioritize schoolwork or social interaction? To Martsen, this is a key discussion to have.

“You need to have a general consensus on each other’s goals, like how school is prioritized,” Martsen said. “Is studying going to take priority over a date that was planned, like, three months ago.”

Mutual goals are a good first step, but you also need a firm set of house rules. You need to discuss who is going to do what chores and when, when is alone time and if there will be a set date night. Living together can be exciting, but setting up a space and a time exclusively for schoolwork and actually following through is going to be a necessity.

Failing to agree upon house rules and goals is a good early warning sign. As we discovered, it's key being on the same page for important topics like logistics and bills, and being able to openly talk about those things.

“If it’s something you don’t see eye to eye on, try not to bring it up if it’s not something super important,” Martsen said. “If it’s something you can’t overcome, you’re living together, so do it civilly.”

If you can’t overcome a disagreement, it may seem like you’d be stuck; after all, you’re living together. Be sure to discuss what you’re going to do if something does happen. As uncomfortable as it may be, it’s important to have a plan for the safety and health of everyone involved.

This Sounds Awful ... Why Do It?

In layman’s terms, you do it because it’s a beautiful experience like no other.

College can be a dark, often painful grind at its worst. Coming home, I always know I have someone to talk to about what happened, my worries and my joys. After living like this for a year, I'd never want to have to come home after a bad day only to find a cold and empty house.

On a more practical note, having a partner to live with just makes sense; splitting costs for food and rent along with the responsibilities of maintaining an apartment leaves more time for other things.

My significant other helps me keep track of important events and assignments, goes shopping with me and makes something simple like cooking a joined and new experience that would otherwise just be another chore.

I understand that many have had bad or failed experiences in the past that may leave you hesitant to try again. Don’t lose hope, it can happen and work with the right person.

I can’t recommend enough, if you’re ready, to move in with a significant other. Make your own experiences and learn for yourself what makes living together worth it.

It’s not always a good idea depending on how stable the relationship is, but once you get past the preparation and doubt, living with your significant other makes college life all that more bearable.

“Having that support constantly whenever you go home is super valuable,” Martsen explained. “College is really stressful, having that person there and having them know what’s going on, balancing out the stress [is important].”

It doesn’t matter how much money you spend on furniture and gaudy decor at target, it’s the constant, comforting presence of your loved one that turns a cheap college apartment into a home you look forward to coming back to.