How To Date When You’ve Moved In With Your Parents

Are you an adult who’s living with Mom and Dad again? That doesn’t mean you can’t have a social life. Here are the rules to this new game.

By Maggie Kim

aced with rising rents, school loans to pay off, high unemployment rates and a tight job market, more and more adults are moving back home with their parents—about 18 million between the ages of 18 and 34, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. While living rent-free has its advantages, navigating the dating scene can certainly get tricky when your folks are in the room next to yours. Cuddling on the couch with a new girlfriend or boyfriend? Awkward at best. And is sex even a possibility with the ’rents around? We asked four live-at-home daters to reveal their biggest hassles when it comes to living at home; then we got Andra Medea, author of Conflict Unraveled: Fixing Problems at Work and in Families, and Susan Newman, social psychologist and author of Nobody’s Baby Now: Reinventing Your Adult Relationship With Your Mother and Father, to step in with some solutions.

“My Mom Won’t Let My Boyfriend Sleep Over!”
“If she’d just let him stay over, this wouldn’t happen.”
Age: 24
Years at home: 4

Hardest part? “My boyfriend is free to come and go—as long as he doesn’t spend the night,” Whitney says. “My mom was good about compromising in the beginning; she said he could stay over as long as he stayed in my brother’s old room. But of course, we would sneak into each other’s room—and playing musical beds at 5 a.m. is not the best thing. Now she won’t let him stay over at all, so I always have to go to his place. Sometimes I’d really just like to have him stay here with me, but my mom refuses to see that I’m a grown woman who should be allowed to have guests over.”

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened? “I hate coming home very late (or rather, very early) after spending the night at my boyfriend’s. My mom is up at the crack of dawn, so it’s a little awkward when I come home at 6 a.m. and she’s like, ‘When I saw you last night, you were here.’ If she’d just let him stay over, this wouldn’t happen.”

The solution: Whitney needs to level with her mother, our experts say. “Look, her mom is well aware that she’s sneaking around—and that’s got to feel rather teenage,” Medea says. “It’s not sophisticated to be running down the hall at five in the morning. It’s one thing at 16 to believe you’re fooling your folks, but at 24, she should know better!” Her mom already knows what’s going on; she’s just trying to pretend it’s not happening, Newman says: “Parents do get stuck in the mind-set of thinking their child is a child, and young adults have to jog their parents’ minds and remind them that they’re grown-ups.”

How do you do that? Honesty is the best route, Newman says. “She could point that before she moved back home, her mom didn’t know she’d stayed out all night with some guy. She can say, ‘You’re going to have to look at me as a responsible adult who can make smart decisions for herself. What do you think I was doing when I was living on my own?'” If her mom still balks at letting her boyfriend spend the night, Whitney can also try presenting the situation in terms of safety rather than sleeping arrangements, Medea suggests. “She can say, ‘I don’t think I feel comfortable coming home at 4 a.m. Maybe I should stay there or he can stay here.’” That should get the topic out in the open and both sides talking about what makes sense.

“Living at Home Has Killed the Romance”
Name: Gabriel
Age: 27
Years at home: 6

Hardest part? “If I ever want to bring a girl home, just to watch a movie or cook dinner or something, I can’t,” Gabriel complains. “Having your parents around when you’re trying to cozy with your date dampens the whole thing. It can really inhibit the flirting. And forget about sex at home! It’s always at the girl’s place or in the car or at a hotel. I would never have sex in the house with my parents there. It makes me too uncomfortable.”

What’s the most embarrassing thing that’s happened? “My mom had told me that she was going to be out of the house for hours, so my girlfriend came over. Unfortunately, my mom came home earlier than expected. She didn’t catch us naked or anything, but it was still embarrassing because we were disheveled enough that she knew my girlfriend and I were being intimate.”

The solution: Since Gabriel finds it hard to be romantic with his parents around, he should try to negotiate with his parents to find time when he can have the house to himself, perhaps every other weekend. Newman suggests saying something simple, like “I feel a little uncomfortable
“Mom, I appreciate your interest, but please stop asking so many questions…”
having dates over when you’re here. Can we work out a plan?” The plan will involve boundaries and a level of privacy that satisfies both parties. Newman adds, “In general, an adult child’s bedroom should be totally off-limits to the parents and that needs to be negotiated before the child moves in.”

Still having a tough time feeling romantic with your mom’s Precious Moments figurines staring down at you from the mantel? Medea suggests being creative with dates and getting out of the house completely. “Instead of a candlelight dinner at home, take the candles and the dinner and go to a park or a beach, which is so romantic,” she says. “Gabriel can invest in a small hibachi and dazzle her with his cooking skills that way. This takes the parents out of the equation altogether and he can really impress the girl.”

“My Parents Are Too Nosy!”
Name: Karen
Age: 23
Years at home: All her life

Hardest part? “My parents always know when I’m dating someone new—even if I want to keep it private for a while,” Karen says. “And it bothers me, especially in the beginning, to have my mom prodding me, ‘Who is he? What’s he do?’ It gets annoying. Plus, my parents want to meet my dates right away—and they usually do. And that can be awkward sometimes because of the whole ‘Oh, you’re going to have to meet my parents now,’ which adds pressure when you’ve just started dating someone.”

Most embarrassing moment: “That has more to do with my 14-year-old sister hanging around when I want time alone with my boyfriend. I guess it’s more annoying than embarrassing. Other than that, if I do something my mom doesn’t agree with — like staying out too late — well, I have to deal with the cold shoulder and her pretending she has no daughter!”

The solution: Karen’s problem ultimately comes down to timing. “Karen wants to get to know her date before her parents do,” Medea says. “She wants to make up her mind about the guy without pressure or anyone else’s input. That’s reasonable. She can talk to her mom and dad and tell them that they’re very important to her, but it’s a big step before she presents a guy to them. She can even flatter them by saying she wants to decide if the guy makes the grade before bringing him to meet them.”

As for all the nosy questions, Newman says, “Karen needs to tell her mom straight out to stop prying and that she’ll let her know when it’s someone she’s serious about.” She can say, “Mom, I appreciate your interest, but please stop asking so many questions—if it’s someone you should know about, I’ll tell you.” And, Newman points out, “Instead of letting her mom’s cold shoulder bother her, she can view it as breathing room!”

“Girls Think I’m a Loser Because I Live at Home”
Name: Joel
Age: 26
Years at home: 3

Hardest part? “I moved home because I got laid off from my job, and it gave me the time to record my band’s album,” Joel says. “But it was a real self-esteem destroyer. It’s hard to go up to a beautiful woman at a bar and start talking to her. It’s not like a ‘my place or yours’ problem, because I’m not really about that. The situation is that I have to basically say, ‘I’m sorry I can’t even offer you a place to come and hang out.’ I try not to bring up my living situation at all. It doesn’t usually come up in casual conversation so I never push it—unless it’s a woman I’m really interested in.”

Most embarrassing moment? “I haven’t had any of those weird, embarrassing moments where I tell a new girl I live with my parents and she flips out—I’m too nervous to even bring it up until I get to know someone a little better. Whenever I do tell a woman I’m seeing, I’m sure none of them are crazy about it, but I think they don’t want me to feel bad, so they’ve never said anything.”

The solution: Joel shouldn’t be so nervous about telling women he lives at home, our experts agree. “Today, living at home doesn’t carry the same stigma it used to,” Newman says. “Joel is one of millions who are doing it. He should be up-front with women at the beginning.”

The key is in how he talks about it. “What Joel can do is describe his living situation in terms of his plans—in Joel’s particular case, saving money to record his band’s album,” Medea says. “Then he can focus on talking about the dream, rather than the things he has to do to make the dream happen. And since it’s a cool dream, the woman will cut him some slack. A lot of people are moving back home to position themselves for their next big move. Start talking about your plan. Living at home is what you have to do; the dream tells someone who you are.”

Maggie Kim is a freelance writer who frequently contributes to Happen magazine.
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