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The Challenges of Dating While Living at Home With Your Parents

For many millennials, it’s the new normal

Dating is impossibly difficult. Living under your parents’ roof past age 18 is even more difficult. Put the two together and you come away with an awkwardness cocktail that smacks of basement must and secondhand embarrassment.

In 2016, a Pew Research Center analysis found that living at home with parents had become the most common living situation for adults age 18 to 34. It remains true that the youngest of these adults are still the most likely to live with their parents — half of them are doing so, according to Pew, up from 46 percent a decade ago. But researchers also found that 25 percent of people aged 25 to 29 live with a parent (up from 18 percent a decade ago), and 13 percent of people ages 30 to 34 (up from 9 percent). These living arrangements reflect not just the economic factors that are keeping these millennials at home, but also the growing trend of delaying marriage.

The upshot of all this is that there are a lot of millennial men and women who are having to bring their Tinder matches home to meet Mom and Dad, right before they climb into their childhood beds to get frisky beneath their Toy Story 2 comforters.

So how do these millennial daters feel about dating while living at home?

“For me, it’s been horrible,” says Tryst27, in response to the question, “How bad is dating while living at your parents’ house?” on the AskMen subreddit. “When I was with my last girlfriend, it was impossible to have alone time. At my house, there was generally always someone else in the house all hours of the day and night. At my then-girlfriend’s house, it was small and her mom was being super watchful. Had to keep her door open at all times and could not sleep in the same bed. Mind you, I’m not a very sexually inclined person. I just wanted to cuddle up for the night with the woman I had been with for almost a year.”

Writing for Match.com, Maggie Kim attempted to find a solution for the privacy issue. The experts she turned to — 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 — suggested straight-up telling your parents that you need your privacy when it comes to dates, in the hopes that honesty will work better than sneaking around. “[They] 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,’” advised Medea. How effective this is depends on what kind of relationship you have with your parents, of course.

For some millennials, though, their “at-home” living situation isn’t a total downside for their dating lives. Writing for the The Washington Post, Pinar Tarhan cites the benefits of the situation, foremost among them being that she gets to use her parents as a (very valid) reason for not inviting her date up: “‘You don’t already want to meet my parents, right?’ That works wonders if I don’t want things going too fast with someone new, or if I just prefer staying at his place,” she writes.

When I ask a friend of mine about this — a serial dater who, at the ripe old age of 28, is still living at home as he searches for both a job and “the one” — he too sees the glass as being half-full. “There’s always food in the fridge, and my dad likes good liquor, which is a nice touch,” he shrugs.

But how to handle those awkward date/parent interactions when they do happen? The accepted wisdom seems to be to do everything in your power to keep them separate. Another friend of mine, who’s 26 and still living at home, says she once had to hide a hookup in the bathroom. “My mom usually waits until I get home to fall asleep, so usually I just have the guy wait in my room and leave before my parents wake up,” she explains. “But one time, my parents came home right after me, and I didn’t want to introduce them to a guy they’d probably never see again. I told him to hide in the bathroom while I chatted with them before they went to bed.”

Doing this also spares your date: As for those of us who’ve been on the other side of this dating-while-living-at-home predicament can attest, it’s never a great feeling to make tense chitchat with a semi-stranger’s parents at 1 a.m. Nor does it feel good to wake up in a stranger’s empty bedroom and follow the smell of bacon downstairs, only to find the entire family having breakfast in the kitchen.