Living Together When You Can’t Afford Rent: How Do You Make It Work?

Moving in with a significant other at any stage in your life can be a challenge. You’ll discover new habits and find yourself arguing over domestic issues such as who does the dishes more often. But moving in together directly out of college, when finances aren’t exactly plentiful, takes things up a notch.

I discovered this first hand when I moved in with my boyfriend a few months after graduating. He had gotten into graduate school at a university in Colorado, and I decided to move with him and find a job there. Everything was going fine until a few months went by and I was still unemployed.

Things got rough for a while. He was stressed because half of his money was going toward me. I was stressed because I couldn’t find work. We were both trapped in our own little stress bubbles, and it took us a while to see where the other person was coming from.

If you’re finding yourself in a similar situation, here are a few things you can do to keep your relationship healthy:

Be transparent about your job search

Word on the street is that when you’re pregnant, you’re not supposed to announce it until a few months in so you know it’s a for sure thing. It’s tempting to do that when you’re looking for a job, too. Maybe you applied for eight jobs last week, but you don’t want to tell anyone until you are contacted for an interview. That’s understandable, but you should at least tell the person you’re living with, especially if that person is paying the bills. By telling your significant other about your days spent networking, tweaking your resume and writing cover letters, he’ll be able to appreciate the effort your making.

Help with what you can

You may be in a tight spot financially, but this doesn’t mean you can’t pay your significant other back in other ways. Get your head out of the gutter; I’m talking about helping out more around the house. I know this sounds like you’d be taking the DeLorean back to the 1950s, but try to calm your inner feminist for a moment. If the situation were reversed, wouldn’t you expect your man to do the same thing? It’s a simple way to show that you appreciate what he’s doing.

Get to the bottom of bickering

It’s normal to fight. But if bickering has become your new means of communication, it might be time to figure out what’s really going on. Instead of sitting silently, fermenting in your own bitter stew, start a discussion. Ask if he’s really mad because you put his coat in the closet or if there’s a bigger issue at stake. Keep pushing until the heart of the problem is revealed.

Say thank you

Remembering to say thank you is hard when you’re thrown into a situation you don’t want to be in. You don’t want your significant other to pay your half of the rent. You don’t want to be the person who applies for hundreds of jobs and doesn’t get a single offer. You’d much rather be a proud independent woman jamming out to Beyonce.  A simple “thank you” every now and then can go a long way.

Remember that he loves you

Being unemployed makes you feel like a shitty person, to put it bluntly. It might even get to the point where you take offense to nearly every comment made. The question, “What did you do today?” will eventually be answered with tears and shouting.

Stop yourself right there and remember that your significant other loves you; if he didn’t, you’d have been kicked out of the apartment by now. He’s investing in you because he knows that you are an amazing person and believes that you will accomplish big things one day. Remind yourself of this and stay positive. It will help with both your relationship and your job search.

Have you been in a similar position? Or maybe you’re the sugar mamma for a guy who doesn’t have it together yet. What do you think the most difficult part of this situation is?

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About the Author,

I'm a Wisconsin girl who is currently testing the waters of adulthood in Colorado with my boyfriend of four years. Most of my real world experience was spent jobless, but now that I'm employed I can finally focus on other adult things, such as making friends and doing taxes. You can check out my blog, Life on a Branch (, for thoughts and advice on navigating through your 20s. Thanks for reading; I hope to see you there!