Co.habits: Co-creating a shared identity through cohabitation
Abstract. Interested initially in how people develop and manage their identity over major life transitions, I decided to research cohabitation among unmarried couples, more specifically to understand how couples co-create a shared identity through this significant transition in their relationship. In recent years, emerging adults have increasingly turned to cohabitation as a necessary next step in determining long-term compatibility with their romantic partners. However, this transition is often marked by uncertainty and tension, as notions existing at multiple levels remain unclear and undefined.
With the high rates of marital disruption driving this trend, many couples see cohabitation as a way to mitigate chances of divorce. Nonetheless, the statistics still remain the same. Many of the existing solutions designed for couples only facilitate day-to-day coordination or address issues after the fact. To understand this design space more deeply, I conducted several interviews and in-home observations to understand the characteristics and relational implications of couples cohabiting. Drawing from my exploratory research, I created a series of concepts that were tested with users in the form of storyboards, ultimately informing my final design.
Through a human-centered design approach, I created co.habits, a comprehensive service that helps couples establish a mutual value system early in their relationship by helping them set shared goals and manage finances. By helping couples communicate more openly about their values, goals, and finances, couples can set more realistic expectations and create a shared vision of their future. While the service helps cohabiting couples reflect on and celebrate their shared achievements, it more importantly fosters the long-term planning required to keep a committed relationship propelling forward.