For some happy couples, the idea of living together at uni is idyllic. With your newfound freedom, away from the constraints of your parents’ overprotective clutches, you feel ready to test the grounds of a proper adult relationship. Perhaps you’re still in the honeymoon phase of your relationship and you just can’t bear to be apart from one another. Maybe you’re constantly around each other’s house anyway, your housemates no longer politely hide their annoyance at your public displays of affection and you’ve both had enough of the lack of privacy. The most convenient solution? Getting your own place. Win-win.
But there are some important (and obvious) things to consider before you make such a momentous decision. Firstly, there’s no doubt about it, you will be sacrificing the typical uni experience. No amount of pledges promising to upkeep your weekly Ocean ritual with your ex-housemates will be met. Without their weekly persuasion, you will become a recluse. There’s also the strain that living together could have on your relationship. Ever heard that you never really know a person until you live with them? Well, it’s true. You’re guaranteed to discover your other half’s annoying habits which will drive you up the wall. Hair in the plughole? Festering mugs of tea? Snot rockets in the shower? You name it.
Asides from these little quirks, which you may or may not get used to, this is likely to be the first time you’re living with your partner, and it’s a stressful time at that. You both have uni work to focus on, the last thing you need is your relationship to be a distraction, especially not the negative kind. Conversely, you don’t want your workload to start impacting your relationship. Striking a balance is difficult.
If they’re anything like mine, your parents will probably question your maturity, while countless other adults will advise you to ‘make the most’ of your uni experience without tying yourself down, whatever that means. This is a toxic stereotype. It reinforces the idea that uni is all about having fun and the only way to do that is by sleeping with anyone at a given opportunity. While that might be true for some, you as a couple are free to make your own decisions, regardless of what anyone else’s view might be. But moving in together must be a mutual decision between the pair of you.
There are some other factors worth considering first. Will you graduate together? Is this a long-term relationship? Have you had a trial period to test the waters?
There are also those who came to uni with their partner after their high school romance, like me. My boyfriend and I both set off for different unis in different cities after receiving our A level results. Although we were only a 50-minute train journey away, the distance was still a challenge. Ironically though, because it was so easy to visit one another, we found ourselves together on such a regular basis it made the whole scenario seem absurd. Due to other accompanying reasons, I made a leap of faith and decided to withdraw from my previous university at Easter. The following September, I moved to Nottingham.
Nuanced circumstances worked in our favour too. Although in the same city, we attend different unis, my boyfriend at Nottingham Trent. This allowed us to form our own friendship groups. We run no risk of bumping into each other in the library and consequently excluding ourselves from social circles as a result. The decision to live together was also more a matter of convenience than lust for one another (if you’re reading, I’m sorry). There was very little university accommodation available when I applied to uni so it made sense to rent a house. We found two rooms in a seven-bed house on separate tenancies. Although this meant moving in with strangers, the advantage was that we had an individual liability of our contracts.
Why two rooms? Well, a couple can’t legally rent a one-bed student property because this is classed as subletting. You can, of course, rent a one bed privately if you’re looking to save money, but contracts will differ to those targeted at students, specifically the term dates, plus you’ll also be liable to pay council tax. In my opinion, two rooms are ideal, whether it’s in a shared house or not. Space is your friend when it comes to sharing a house, and that goes for any arrangement. You’ll each get a desk (or more importantly, a wardrobe). You each have a private place to retreat to for some peace and quiet. The best benefit? Having a spare room when friends visit!
There’s always the option to live with others too. The best thing about this is it takes the pressure off because you’re not spending time solely in each other’s company. You also get the best of both worlds; this feels a lot truer to a ‘proper’ uni experience. This is a big commitment for all parties involved though, so make sure you talk everything through with your housemates first.
There’s one VERY import consideration that can’t be ignored. The possibility of a breakup. As much as that’s likely to be the last thing on your radar if you’ve just moved in together, it can’t go unmentioned. Unfortunately for some, living together just isn’t what was imagined. You need to have this all-important conversation while you’re happily loved-up; you’ll thank yourselves later. My advice to any couple is to have a contingency plan. Ours is that whoever breaks up with the other becomes responsible for organising alternative housing arrangements and finding a replacement tenant. Whatever the situation, breaking up will be far from ideal, but it’s a risk you take.
While we considered ourselves pretty prepared for most scenarios, we could never have anticipated what 2020 would have in store when we signed our tenancy agreement. The pandemic has posed unprecedented challenges that we never thought we’d face. Fortunately, my boyfriend has been able to continue his arranged work placement despite lockdown restrictions, so we haven’t been confined within four walls with anything but each other’s company 24/7. A small household means we’ve avoided contracting COVID or having to isolate too *touches wood*.
But the limited contact with others has been torturous at times. We’ve gone from the constant company of five others to spending every evening and weekend together in front of the TV. Consequently, we’ve fallen into the trap of finally embodying a middle-aged married couple, something we’ve desperately tried to avoid. On a more serious note, if we have a falling-out or want some space apart, we can’t just escape to a friend’s. But this goes for everyone at the moment, whatever the circumstances. For all the challenges, as cliché as it sounds, I wouldn’t change things for the world. If your uni relationship can withstand a pandemic, whether you live together or you’ve been kept apart for months, I expect it will withstand the test of time.