Before the pandemic, many millennials were familiar with living with their parents throughout adulthood thanks to rising housing costs and mountains of student debt. Now what was once an embarrassing anecdote about oneself has become normalized as a result of the pandemic when millions of adults moved home with their parents because they lost a job, needed to look after a sick parent, or just wanted to be closer to family and less isolated. As we venture into a “normal-ish” existence post-quarantine life, many adults are still opting to live with their parents.
Which begs the question: How does that work when you’re single and dating? And what do you even tell a prospective partner about your current living situation without feeling bad about yourself?
“Thanks to the pandemic, living at home with your parents has become much more common, regardless of age or even of financial stability,” says relationship expert Laurel House. “Beyond the pandemic, it’s now a cultural norm for singles and even couples to live with their parents.”
House points out there are a variety of reasons why adults are continuing to live with their parents, all of which are normal and can be beneficial to both you and you parents.
“There is honor in living with your parents if you are taking care of your parents. Though it might not always feel convenient to have your parents in your space, the fact that you are taking care of them is honorable, admirable, meaningful, and respected,” House says. “It shows prospective daters that you are a family person and that caring for your family is a priority, which might not be convenient now, but it is reflective of the bigger picture of who you are and who you will be in a longterm relationship.”
And if you’re living with your parents due to financial concerns and trying to save up, that’s a great quality, too. Who can fault you for wanting to be financially responsible post-COVID, especially if you’ve lost work as a result?
Even with all its merits, living at home with your parents as an adult still can cause shame and embarrassment. If you’re struggling with how to navigate dating while still living at home, House offers some tips and insights to make it less awkward and more empowering.
Be clear about why you live at home
“If you’re insecure about living with your parents, that insecurity might come across as insecurity or possibly defensiveness,” she says. “So first, you need to come to terms with the reasons why you live with your parents and be confident in them.”
House calls this knowing the three Cs: “Communication creates Clarity, and clarity creates Confidence.” You might want to practice what that means and sounds like before sharing it with a date.
For example: “When the pandemic hit, I was concerned for my parents. I didn’t want them to be alone and isolated. Plus, finances got tight, so I felt like it would be best all around to live together. That way I can be there to take care of them and we formed our own bubble. And honestly, it’s nice to have them close.”
How to tell your date that you live with your parents
You have a date and they ask you about your living situation. What do you say?
“When telling your date that you live with your parents, the first thing to remember is there is no shame and no reason to feel like you have to apologize,” House says. “It just is. Just like having a dog, or a roommate, or living alone. It just is. That being said, people who are unfamiliar with that living situation might come to their own conclusions as to why you live with your parents because, as with all things, when someone doesn’t understand another’s lifestyle or choices, they create reasons in their heads that make it make sense to them.”
If your date wants to know more about your living situation and if you feel comfortable talking about it, House recommends doing so in a calm, confidently vulnerable, and unapologetic conversation that allows your date to get to know you in a more intimate way.
She suggests you might want to bring up the conversation first by asking about your date’s living situation. “Ask: ‘So what’s your living situation? Do you live alone or with a roommate or at home…?’ In listing a few things you are diffusing any potential insecurity on their end about their living situation because you don’t know if they live with their parents or a roommate, as well.”
Then let them answer, and listen and comment on their situation. Ask a question about it. Then share: “As for me, I live with my parents.” Then, says House, talk about the reasons behind it so that your date has a better mental understanding of your situation and they don’t come up with their own imagined picture. “You might say, ‘We have a lot of respect for each other’s space. I’m obviously an adult so I come and go as I please and we both contribute to household duties.’”
Whatever it is that you say though, House stresses, it’s important to be honest.
“If it’s a situation that you’re insecure about [be truthful about it]. For example, maybe you lost your job during the pandemic and that’s why you’re living at home. [You could say]: ‘There were a lot of layoffs at work and sadly I was one of the people who were cut. So financially it made sense to move in with my parents while I got back on my feet.’”
If you are living with your parents for a finite period of time with an end in sight, House recommends saying that, too. “Let them know your game plan of when your goal is to move out on your own again.”
How to set boundaries with your parents
Dating while living at home with your parents also means implementing boundaries with them so that you can feel comfortable to pursue a personal life without much interference from them.
In this case, House says the three Cs are just as important with your parents as they are with your dates. “Communication creates Clarity, and clarity creates Confidence. Talk to your parents about your expectations and boundaries when it comes to dating,” she says. “Some people don’t like to share much with their parents about their dating life, and that’s absolutely fine. But you should communicate your boundaries.”
House recommends the following script you might use with your parents when it comes to communicating to them about your love life:
“I’m dating now and, though I would rather not talk about my dates until someone is serious, I would like to create boundaries so that I can feel comfortable bringing my dates home, and you will feel comfortable having my dates here, while respecting that we are all adults and we all need our individual space.”
Additionally, in terms of boundaries, you might decide that when you have a date come over, your parents stay in their space so that you don’t risk an interaction.
“Whatever you decide, it’s essential that there’s respect and communication between everyone,” House says.
How to spend quality private time with a date
If you want to spend more private time with your date, there are several options you can take. Of course, your date themselves might have their own space they don’t mind sharing. Other choices include booking a hotel, renting an Airbnb, or going to a campsite and bringing a tent.
“There are websites that allow you to book comfortable hotel rooms for blocks of time during the day, even last minute, at reduced prices, depending on availability,” House says. “Many of the hotels include five-star hotels. One app that offers this option is called Dayuse. There are now apps that allow you to rent people’s spaces for a few hours, including their swimming pool area or game room. This is an opportunity to do some research and get creative.”
What to do when someone rejects you for living at home with your parents
People are people, which means they come with their own judgments and criteria when it comes to dating and relationships. If you encounter someone who judges or reject you based on your living situation, House says it’s crucial to remember they aren’t for you.
“Their rejection and/or judgment is more of a reflection of who they are and what their priorities are then it is about you,” she says. “This shows that your core values don’t align. And you don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t value one of your core values.”
Ultimately, House says she wants people to know that if you are clear and confident about your priorities, there isn’t a real reason for shame when it comes to living at home with your parents, even within the presence of a stigma.
“So if someone judges you based on their perceptions, it’s an uninformed judgment. I like to call this ‘PrioriDating,’” she says. “It’s a term I coined to describe this trend of dating after determining your priorities, being clear on your most important core value, then being confident and unapologetically vulnerable about it, and aligning your life to that number one priority. It’s about figuring out what your top priority is when it comes to finding a partner.”
This may be safety (physical, emotional, financial safety) or it might be feeling cared for, or having a family. House says that once you determine that priority, then you will find and fulfill this need.
“This isn’t about dating based on a list. This is about mindfully dating based on your most important priority in a relationship.. Whatever it is, you must align with it. Your conversations, associations, thoughts, actions, and attitude must all align with this so you can be, feel, experience, and live that priority. You do this by frequently checking in with yourself and developing a priority-driven awareness that will help you find what you’re looking for.”
And who you’re looking for will want to be with you no matter where you live and who you live with.