Shacking Up: The Smart Girl's Guide To Living In Sin Without Getting Burned


The must-have guide for any woman who’s ever thought about saying “yes” to the other big question: Will you move in with me?

More and more couples are choosing to live together before tying the knot—for convenience, to save money and, most importantly, to see if they’re compatible. While living together can be an exciting way to take your relationship to the next level, it can also present a host of new questions and challenges.

With its fresh,...

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Shacking Up: The Smart Girl's Guide To Living In Sin Without Getting Burned

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The must-have guide for any woman who’s ever thought about saying “yes” to the other big question: Will you move in with me?

More and more couples are choosing to live together before tying the knot—for convenience, to save money and, most importantly, to see if they’re compatible. While living together can be an exciting way to take your relationship to the next level, it can also present a host of new questions and challenges.

With its fresh, girlfriend-to-girlfriend manner, Shacking Up walks you through every step of the cohabitation process, from making the initial decision to breaking up or getting married. Beginning with a readiness quiz to help you decide if you and your honey are prepared to take the plunge, authors Stacy and Wynne Whitman provide a wealth of hands-on advice from lawyers, psychologists and financial planners as well as entertaining, true-life stories from couples with shacking up experience. Topics include: breaking the news to your family; managing and merging your finances; protecting yourself legally; real-estate decisions; and day-to-day dilemmas such as chores, privacy, and keeping the spark alive. Whether you opt for wedding bells or decide he’s not the one for you, Shacking Up is a stylish, empowering handbook for staying smart, savvy, and true to yourself along the road to happily ever after.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Citing a 72% increase in the number of couples shacking up in just the past decade, and claiming, for many, it is a "new step in the mating process," freelance magazine writer Stacy Whitman, teaming up with her sister Wynne, a tax and estate attorney, offers a "new millennium relationship handbook" for 20- and 30-somethings. By turns humorously irreverent and practical, the authors combine a hip, insider writing style with extensive interviews of couples who've lived together, expert advice from psychologists, social scientists, financial planners, and loads of Cosmo-style quizzes and advice boxes, allowing readers to assess their individual situation. Topics range from the momentous (breaking the news to your parents, how to tell if you're ready to tie the knot, and compiling joint purchase agreements) to the truly lighthearted (getting your boyfriend to ditch the wagon-wheel coffee-table, and taking matters, literally, into your "own hands" when your boyfriend can't sexually satisfy you). While admittedly targeted to the heterosexual, childless woman, this book will be useful for anyone else ready for the fantasy to end, and reality to begin. (Mar.) Forecast: The cover is appealing in a Cosmo magazine way. Although the publishers target their audience at 20-40, more realistically, the book will catch the eyes of those between 18 and 32.
Library Journal
Although these books examine the ins and outs of cohabitation from different viewpoints, they do agree on some basics: cohabitation is on the rise (there are 11 million cohabitors in this country today, claim Solot and Miller), and six out of ten couples live together before marriage (claim the Whitmans). Strangely enough, not many self-help manuals on the subject exist. Founders of the Alternatives to Marriage Project, Solot and Miller are a committed unmarried couple, and their book reflects this perspective. Although they acknowledge that many couples live together as a step before marriage, they are most concerned with couples who are planning to live together instead of getting married. They cover topics such as reasons why couples would decide not to get married, how unmarried couples can legally protect themselves, and how to agitate for acceptance of unmarried lifestyles. Stacy Whitman, a journalist currently living with her fianc , and her sister, lawyer Wynne Whitman, have a different focus. While they recognize that some couples might decide to live together ad infinitum, their advice pertains to couples for whom the wedding bells will eventually toll. They address many of the same areas as Solot and Miller, such as legal protection and how to deal with negative reactions from family and friends, but they also include advice on what to do if one member is not willing to tie the knot. Given the dearth of books on cohabitation, either of these would make great additions to public libraries. Also consider Ralph Warner and others' Living Together: A Legal Guide for Unmarried Couples, endorsed by the authors here.-Pam Matthews, M.L.S., Olmsted Falls, OH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780767910408
  • Publisher: Clarkson Potter/Ten Speed/Harmony
  • Publication date: 3/18/2003
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 5.51 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.67 (d)

Meet the Author

A writer for national magazines including Shape, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan, STACY WHITMAN recently married her live-in boyfriend of several years. Her sister, WYNNE WHITMAN, is an attorney with a master’s degree in finance.
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Read an Excerpt


You're Thinking of Doing What?!?

Yes, the unthinkable has happened. After all those years of dating hell, you've found a man who appears to be a candidate for a long-term relationship. (We'd say "Mr. Right," but we don't want to jinx it.) At this point, you're spending almost every night with the object of your affection. You've become a pro at commuting across town with a change of clothes in your shoulder bag (thank goodness for microfiber!). But you're growing tired of the commute and forking out dough for an apartment that's little more than a walk-in closet. Then, as if he's reading your mind, the guy in your life pops the question. No, not THE question, but the other question: "What do you think about moving in together?"

Your heart skips a beat. Your head spins with visions of cozy home-cooked dinners for two and shopping together at Pottery Barn for new slipcovers and matching silverware. Oooh, yes, you can picture it. A place of your own. A real apartment with real furniture. No more schlepping back and forth or paying double rent. But then, before you can finish your celebration dance, you feel a sinking sensation deep in your stomach. Is moving in with Mr. Possibility really a good idea? Would it be a step toward marriage or simply a means of saving money? Can you live 24/7 with someone who leaves empty pizza boxes lying around his apartment? What in heaven's name would you tell your parents?!?

Welcome to the wonderful world of twenty-first-century relationships. Gone are the days of formal courtship and living with Mom and Dad until you're hitched. Today, for many of us, shacking up has become a new step in the mating process. But that doesn't mean it's right for you, right now. Oh sure, some people say it can help you determine whether your relationship is marriage-worthy. Others claim that it will set you up for a huge disappointment. Yada, yada, yada. There are lots of opinions, views, and misinformation floating around out there that can be a bit confounding for smart, conscientious girls like us. Fear not: We're here to help. From this point forward, you'll have a couple of savvy sisters to guide you through the muck.

To a bunch of you, shacking up may seem the natural choice. But even if you're already convinced that moving in together is the way to go, we urge you not to skip ahead. You see, there can be downsides to bucking tradition. Plus, the research is fuzzy as to whether living together is a good test drive or a freeway wreck waiting to happen. For goodness' sake, we wouldn't want you to lease the car only to find out it's a lemon. So you need to tread carefully and truly understand what you may be getting yourself into. As they say, only fools rush in! In this chapter, we'll present all of the pros and cons of shacking up with your mate, so you can weigh them before reaching a final verdict. Hey, the last thing you want is to become a serial live-in chick or wind up in Heartbreak Hotel, right?

The Case for Cohabitation

In case you've been too busy climbing the corporate ladder to notice, shacking up is the thing to do these days. In the past ten to fifteen years, this once daring move has become as common as Internet dating and Kate Spade bags. The number of lovebirds sharing nests in the United States jumped by 72 percent in the last decade, according to the 2000 Census. University of Michigan sociologist Pamela Smock, Ph.D., estimates that as many as six out of ten couples now live together before getting hitched.

Why are so many of us moving in without ceremonies and rings? Are we fun, fearless females? Wild and crazy gals? Rebels without a cause? Uh, hardly. We all have our own reasons, which almost always start with a romantic spark and an intense physical attraction. We are in love and want to spend more time with our best friend, sidekick, and paramour. Some of us are interested in cutting down on living expenses. More important, for many of us, shacking up is a way to shift gears forward in our relationship. We want to get closer to our significant other and share our life beyond late-night dinners, sleepovers, and weekend trysts.

Granted, not all of us shack up with the "M" word in mind. But for the majority of us twenty- and thirtysomethings, the ultimate goal is a walk down the aisle. Which brings us to the big, underlying reason so many of us have for moving in: to help us decide whether our mates are the right ones for us. If we're going to take our relationships to the legal level, some of us think it would be nuts to do it without knowing what it's like to live together day in and day out. "I would never consider marrying someone without living together first," attests Megan, twenty-six, of Berkeley, California. "This way, I already know what will drive me crazy and in which ways we're really compatible, and we've already got practice working on the things that we need to work on."

Here's an APB for the matrimony police: Despite their grave fears, most of us aren't thumbing our noses at the institution of marriage. Really, we're not. Deep down, we want lifelong memberships to the Husbands and Wives Club. But we're petrified of divorce, and it's no wonder. Many of us have witnessed the painful collapse of our parents' marriages or lived through the excruciating breakup of our own. We're all too aware of the divorce rates, which have been appallingly high since the early 1980s. So we're choosing to stick our big toes in the water before diving into anything permanent. "Living together was what my husband, Jake, needed before getting

married," says Kristy, thirty-five, of Portland, Oregon, who cohabited for two-plus years before tying the knot. "His dad is now on his fourth marriage, so Jake sees divorce as 'failure.' He didn't want to fail and make the same mistakes as his dad."

We don't know about you, but there are a lot of people who like the idea of having a dress rehearsal. Set aside any romantic notions you have for a sec. Let's talk practicalities. By shacking up, you get to test out what marriage would be like. It's sort of like sampling a flavor of frozen yogurt before ordering a dish or a Hollywood screen test without the hair and makeup. "Every woman should live with her significant other before taking the plunge," says Beth, thirty-two, of New York City, who lived with her boyfriend for three years before saying "I do." "How else can you see exactly what you're signing up for?"

As most of us know from college or postcollege roommate situations, some people can be tough to live with. "Shacking up allows you to experience your partner's habits in action," says Leslie, thirty, of Jacksonville, Florida. Does he drink out of the milk carton? Leave filthy clothes all over the floor? Clip his fingernails at the kitchen table? You can find out these things and much more. For instance, you can discover whether your man pays his bills on time, gives you enough space, and respects your privacy. You can see how he copes with stress or reacts when your hair clogs the shower for the umpteenth time. You can determine just how patient, understanding, and considerate he really is. "We've only been living together for a week, and I'm already learning how Kevin handles pressure, what really bugs him, what he can compromise on, and what he can't," says Liz, thirty, of St. Louis.

Shacking up can also be a way to make sure your partner isn't keeping any secrets, says Kelly, thirty-three, who lived with her husband prior to marriage. "It's pretty easy to hide stuff when you're on a date or off on a weekend together, but it's hard to keep things under wraps when you're living in close quarters," she explains. "When you live together, you really begin to learn what a person is all about." Amanda, thirty, of Morristown, New Jersey, is a good example. She dated James for two years before he moved into her condo. "I knew that he could be a little moody and always seemed to be short on cash," Amanda says. "But I didn't understand the extent of his problems until after he moved in." As it turned out, James was deeply in debt and had anger management issues. "If we hadn't lived together, I'm not sure I would have learned the truth," she claims. "When you cohabit, you see everything, from his mail to how he acts after a rotten day at work. It quickly became evident that James wasn't the person I thought he was."

Don't forget, ladies: Once you shack up, the fantasy ends and real life begins. "Typically, when you're dating, you don't have a whole lot to argue about," says Jordan, twenty-nine, who has been living with her boyfriend for a year. "It isn't until he starts taking over your closet or insists on keeping his wagon-wheel coffee table that things can start to get touchy." Like it or not, conflict is a part of any close, committed relationship. Living together gives you the opportunity to discover and resolve these points of disagreement before you're legally wed, points out Jane, twenty-seven. You can find out just how adept the two of you are at compromising, communicating, and negotiating sticking points. Like our friend Colleen, thirty-two, you may be delighted to learn that you get along even better than expected.

To Mia, the best thing about shacking up is that you can hash out your problems (toilet seat up versus down and who pays for what) without the pressure of having a ring on your finger. "I didn't have to feel like 'Oh my God, we're fighting and we're already married. This is it--we're doomed!' " the twenty-nine-year-old Chicago resident says. Ann, thirty, of San Francisco agrees that it can be better to tackle the tough stuff prior to the nuptials: "People talk about how the first year of marriage is so hard. If you live together first, you get all those issues--however big or small they may be--out of the way."

Living together can also help you eliminate any lingering question marks about your mate. "It's another piece of evidence to verify that you're right for each other," says Colleen. "I love getting the confirmation that I can trust him," adds Kate. "So far, we've had tests, but no failures." Can you learn all the important details if you date each other long enough? Well, perhaps. It depends on your relationship and how much time you've spent together in continuous spurts. Still, for some of us, living together is the final litmus test we need to be absolutely sure. Even if you're 99 percent certain that you're compatible before moving in, shacking up can give you that extra one percent of confidence when taking your vows, Kelly says.

And let's not forget the joys of sharing your life with another person. From ordering pizza to painting the living room, everything can be more fun when you have a partner in crime. "I really enjoy building a life together and making a home with someone I love," says Jane. Teaming up with your significant other can provide a sense of comfort and security. "I love knowing that he'll be there when I come home--playing computer games, making cookies, or watching TV," says Kate. "I feel more connected to him, knowing that he trusts me enough to share everything." "I hadn't had a roommate for five years, so I was concerned about how I would do living with Doug," confesses Jennifer, who shacked up eleven months ago. "But it's really been wonderful. I relish the companionship, whether we're eating breakfast, watching movies, decorating, or doing laundry together. I sleep easier knowing that he's there."

Even if your "trial run" is a bust, some shacking-up vets maintain that the experience can be worthwhile. Sophie, for one, has no regrets about moving in with her ex. "I was undecided about marriage before I lived with Garrett," the thirty-five-year-old says. "Living together helped me reach a decision fast. I panicked as I saw a future with a man I didn't love. I chose to get out and pursue the guy I'd always been secretly in love with"--her now-husband, Jeff. Ira, thirty-four, was less than thrilled when his live-in relationship with Janet didn't work out. (Doubly so because they had already purchased real estate together.) Still, he's thankful that he found out the truth before he sealed the deal. "I actually wish Janet and I had moved in together earlier," he says. "That way, issues would have come to a head sooner, before we put a down payment on a reception site or bought a house."

Many experts, including Pamela Smock, agree that cohabitation can weed out incompatible couples. Smock speculates that the divorce rates might be higher if so many of us weren't moving in prior to marriage. Then again, the breakup of a live-in relationship can be extremely painful. A number of the men and women we interviewed for this book said they would never put themselves through the agony again. So don't start packing your suitcases until you've finished reading Chapters 1 and 2. By being informed, you can increase your odds of having a happy ending.

Twenty-first Century Relationship Glossary

Hooking Up: You're "more than friends." You've muckled, mashed, or gotten busy--no strings attached.

You've been on more than one "real" date and are sussing each other out (or you're bored beyond belief and desperately need to get out of the house).

Going Out: You're dating exclusively or "going steady," as our parents might say. You refer to each other publicly as "boyfriend" and "girlfriend." You're officially in a relationship.

Living Together: You're roommates and romantic partners. You share a living space and all the responsibilities that go with it--without a formal, legal commitment.

Engaged: You've got the rock, and you're secretly praying that your relationship survives the wedding-planning process.

Married: You've made it official, tied the knot, and vowed to be together "for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health." You have a license saying that you're legally bound, and you're psyched to move forward as husband and wife.

It's Your Life--So Go Ahead and Ruin It!

One of the first things you realize when you start contemplating cohabitation is that not everyone thinks it's such a brilliant move. On the one hand, you'll have girlfriends who support the idea wholeheartedly. On the other hand, you could have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, or godparents--you know, the over-fifty crowd--who aren't so keen on it. Then there are people like Dr. Laura Schlessinger, the radio talk show host who lists cohabitation as one of the "Ten Stupidest Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives" in her book of the same title. (Funny, we think one of the ten stupidest things that you can do is listen to Dr. Laura. But who are we to judge? Our own mother likes to tune in!)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 11 of 10 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 29, 2012


    Walks in wearing a very small string bikini. Her hips sway, and her large breasts jiggle as she moves. She sits down on the hard ground and waits.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 26, 2012



    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2012


    Total trash written by a very young girl, based on the writing.

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  • Posted October 14, 2010

    If you're thinking about it, get the book!

    I picked up this book back in 2004 when my brother and his gf (now wife) decided they were going to move in together. I decided it might be good to read up on this before that topic arose in my own life. I've lent this to numerous friends and they have all said that it has helped them come to a decision. Easy to read and while slightly dated (it's been about 7 years now), it is still relevant to help with the decision making process. Good luck!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 13, 2009

    very thorough

    This book touched on every fear I had about moving in with my boyfriend. It offered advice on some issues I hadn't even thought of and how to manage a problem if it should arise. It is non biased or judgmental and talks about the pros and cons of every decision you might make.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 3, 2004

    Not the most mature book on the subject...

    Well, this book was pretty OK I guess. It was written in a very conversational manner, which I enjoy...when it is not aimed at 13 year olds or imbicles. If you and your partner have been together for more than a week and a half and actually have taken the time to get to know one another, then this book is not for you. Just pick it up in the library or the book store and take a gander at the legal and financial chapters. The rest is for people moving in after the second date. I have been with my boyfriend for six year and this book was little help beyond those two chapters. If reading this book makes you say, 'Man, I hadn't thought about that!' more than once, take my advice and maintain separate addresses. You obviously need to get to know each other better.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 5, 2003

    Write on the money

    These girls know exactly what they're talking about. I have cohabitated with a live in boyfriend for almost two years now and the book has said almost everything we have gone through. It also helped to bring up ideas that spread new light on to our relationship. The chapters on being engaged and getting married are also so true. My sister is getting married in two weeks and being her maid of honor has allowed me to see everything that goes on...craziness! The book went over everything...I told my sister about it and now she's getting it! Both of us are in our 20's.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2003


    I was concerned about moving in with my boyfriend - worried about money, what my parents would say, what other people would say. This book helped me think through issues around the move. I'm happy to say, after some good healthy conversations, we have decided to go ahead and move in together. I feel we are both much more informed and prepared. The book really helped raise issues and present different points of view. Thanks!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2003

    what a great and timely book!

    I thought the cover was appealing but I loved the topics covered even more. This is a refreshing 'how to' book. I am going to recommend it to all my friends...guys included.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 23, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 14, 2011

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