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Maintaining Independence While Sharing Your Life

independenceContemplating taking that next step with your significant other but worried about keeping your independence? Moving in together can be sometimes be the death of a relationship. Or it can make it stronger. Read more about navigating the world of human connection in How to Fall in Love with Anyone.

When we began discussing moving in together, my partner and I each worried whether or not we were doing the right thing. We didn’t want to give up our independent lives, yet we knew we wanted to be together. It turned out that coming to an agreement about our expectations was the key to happy cohabitation.

Even after we finally decided to live together, we wanted to go into it with our best intentions, so we drew up a contract. This idea, which I borrowed from a book called The New “I Do”: Reshaping Marriage for Skeptics, Realists and Rebels by Susan Pease Gadoua and Vicki Larson, turned out to be the thing that gave us a sense of control over the process of merging our lives.5 Our relationship contract covers everything from cleaning to dog walking, expense splitting, and sex. It isn’t legally binding or particularly technical, but it’s intentional. It makes the nuances of sharing a life more explicit.

Even within our fairly conventional relationship, the contract is a way to reject the dominant narrative about how love goes, specifically the idea that the work of love is in finding the right person and that this person will already know what you want, what you need, how you feel. They will take out the recycling before it’s full and do that sex thing you like without you ever having to mention it. The idea of a right person and a right way to practice love is so deeply rooted in our love stories that it’s really hard to let go of—or it has been for me. The contract was the best way we could find to make our relationship ours.

Have you already moved in together and are happy with your level of independence? Are you thinking about taking it one step further? Sometimes, marriage doesn’t always equal love.

Originally from Appalachian Virginia, Mandy Len Catron is a writer living and working in Vancouver, British Columbia. She’s writing about love and love stories at The Love Story Project ( She teaches English and creative writing at the University of British Columbia. Her article “To Fall in Love with Anyone, Do This” was one of the most popular articles published by The New York Times in 2015.


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