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Media's influence on 'shacking up'

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Deciding when to move in together is a major life decision for young couples.

Psychology graduate student Marnie Rogers's research "How to Shack Up, Share Space, and Keep it Sexy" discusses how the prevalent societal messages of cohabitation are reflected in popular magazines such as Reader's Digest, Cosmopolitan and Men's Health.

"The nature of these magazines is informative. They provide checklists, questions and advice on cohabitation," explained Rogers.

"How to Shack Up" was a two-month pilot project Rogers initiated as a stepping stone for her master's thesis. Through numerous interviews, her thesis examines how couples create closeness and a sense of 'we' in the relationship. She will be exploring how unmarried couples are taking media messages into account in their decision to live together.

This cohabitation research highlights the common ideas of cohabitation that might be circulating in the university and in the working world. Rogers hopes her research will evoke thought and reflection, especially among young couples, on how cohabitation will impact their lives.

"I am interested in working with couples and families. Cohabitation is one of the biggest shifts that has occurred in recent years in terms of how couples and families interact together," said Rogers.

The research will provide Rogers with more experience and understanding when dealing with issues that may arise in relationship counselling. She concluded that sharing and having conversations are essential for the functionality of a cohabitating couple.

Twenty-four-year-old Roman Baruiz and 23-year-old Jajurie are a couple that have been living together for over a year.

Baruiz, who manages instrumentation for Spartan Controls, said, "a couple is ready to move in together when both are ready to see what's beyond the book. You can't move in just because you feel like moving in. You have to be financially and emotionally prepared. You have to be comfortable with the idea of less privacy too."

Rogers's research shows that media portrays cohabitation in different ways.

"In Cosmopolitan, women worry about when a man will propose. If you move in together, he might delay his proposal because he will be satisfied with where the relationship is. In Men's Health, the main concern promoted is, 'Will our relationship change negatively? Will the passion and heat in the relationship change?" said Rogers. "There is the thought of whether you will get more tired of each other."

Baruiz agrees media give a lot of attention to the worries associated with cohabitation. However, he and Jajurie had different issues moving in together.

"The media doesn't affect our lifestyle. For me, one of the issues would be the behavioural changes of both parties. When you move in together, you will show who you are and your partner will also. You might realize, 'I never thought she or he was like that," said Baruiz.

Tina Ashiofu, a second year student at St. Mary's University College, said, "[Cohabitation] may bring a couple together but it can also tear them apart. You have to consider both extremes. I haven't thought of living with my boyfriend at all. My parents' house suits me fine."

However, there are many benefits for couples living together.

"There are the practical benefits. Couples may save money sharing a place instead of paying for two separate places. From the couples I have been talking to, they like that they have more time to spend together and share lives to a greater degree," said Rogers. "There is an increased sense of 'we' and increased feelings of intimacy in the relationship."

Baruiz said that he and Jajurie are better off than when they weren't living together. Both currently have more emotional support and knowledge of their partner.

"I learn to control myself with my consciousness of my habits. Additionally, we learn to compromise and give in to one another. We share knowledge too. She's helping me out with things I don't normally do. She taught me how to fold clothes. I taught her how to handle money and other financial aspects."

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