By Sarah Foster Special to Published Nov 20, 2010 at 1:21 PM

When most of my generation's grandparents were dating, the idea of them residing in the same house prior to taking a march down the aisle was all but unheard of. It just wasn't done. Most women didn't move into the home they shared with their husband until he carried her through the white picket fence and over the threshold.

Times have changed. Many couples now opt to live together prior to getting married or even choose just to live together and never get married. Prince William and his fiancée, Kate Middleton, revealed they've been living together for many years prior to announcing their engagement this week. The Prince obviously didn't care what Charles or The Queen had to say about it and good for him.

Many couples I know felt pressure from their families not to live together until the ink began to dry on the marriage license. In fact, I know a few whose families vowed they would not put forth any money towards the ceremony or reception if the couple moved in together first.

Parents these days have to be pretty naïve if they don't know what their 'kids' are doing each night after they've ventured off to college. It's my best guess that parents that don't want their kids living with their significant other before marriage aren't really in denial about the fact that they have very little control over what or whom their kids do each night, but that protesting pre-marital cohabitation just makes them feel better about the situation. Like telling 28-year-old daughter who she can live with is somehow going to make the fact that she's been sleeping with the guy for two years little more than a blip on the radar.

It's foolish, really not to see what life is like when you can't go running off to be alone in "your own" house. You're planning to marry this person and spend the rest of your life with them. Don't you want to have a little heads up if that special someone turns out to be a hoarder or not? Living with a non-family member is really difficult. Hell, living with family members sucks, too, but at least you feel like you can say, "clean up your dishes you frickin' pig!" when it's your own flesh and blood. Anyone that had a roommate in college or after knows that roommates can really blow. Everyone has different ideas about how a house or apartment should be arranged and cared for. And let's face it; some people are much cleaner than others. Some people think clipping your toenails while seated in the living room with your feet on the coffee table and eating a bowl of Mac & Cheese is perfectly normal, non-nauseating behavior. The rest of us know better.

Sure, even if you don't live together most couples spend significant amounts of time at one another's places, but if you think that's the same as living with someone day in and day out ... you're wrong. So why don't we look at couples that don't live together as the weird ones? We all know they are sleeping together so why not be honest and commend couples that at least spend some sincere time getting to know each other's obnoxious habits before deciding to get married and subsequently divorced?

I do understand not wanting to disappoint or hurt family members. Like I said, our grandmothers and grandfathers grew up in a different time and those that haven't caught up to more current situations and lifestyles can be offended. Parents under the age of 70, however, need to get over themselves. If you wore bellbottoms you need to get with the times. Besides, think of how better off a couple is when they know that much more about each other before committing to a life together. What parent wouldn't want that for their children? It's like taking an SAT prep course before trying to navigate the actual test. If you can't get through two hours of prep ... the SAT might not be a great option for you. Ok, that's not a truly great example, but you get my point.

It's nice to know what you're getting into before you dive in, but if you don't think the living together thing will happen any time soon, here are a few hints that you might get more than you bargained for.

For instance, any man that allows his mother to do his laundry for him is not a good sign. Either he's going to start looking to you to do his laundry or someday you'll come home from work to find his mother ironing his tightie whiteys and judging the hell out of you.

Some people are overly clean. You know the type. They immediately grab your coffee cup from your hand before you're done with the last sip, wash it and then wipe down the table in front of you whether or not there is a drip or a crumb. This is more sanitary than living with a slob, but it can get really obnoxious. There is a time for being consumed with cleaning, like when you have invited guests coming over, and there is a time for waking up and not bothering to make the bed.

There are times when things get too bad to ignore and that should be a huge red flag. Bugs, rodents and really obvious amounts of dirt and dust can't be swept under a rug. If someone made zero effort to clean up before inviting you over, it's either because they are the laziest person ever or they honestly don't see the problem. Either way, yikes!

What if you move in together and it's clear you were brought on not only as the bed buddy, but also the maid, the grocery shopper, the chef, the garbage man and the dog sitter? Or as it turns out, you are more than welcome to move in, but none of your stuff is. If you're moving into a house already owned by one or the other of you, it needs to be clear that the 'new' person gets some say in what stays and what goes, otherwise the newbie will always feel like they are a guest. It's not always a matter of cleaning or chores, it's a balancing act of personal space and shared space and sometimes two people just cannot negotiate that aspect. And, one person can't be expected to serve the other. I'm more than happy to help out and pull my weight when it comes to making a house clean, make sure there is food available and so on. But unless I'm on the payroll, I'm not cleaning up after a capable grown up.

It's hard to let down family, but it's your relationship and your life. If your family has more than three brain cells combined, they know full well that you're sleeping with your partner. There is a lot to learn about another person when you live with them, even if you think you already know everything. And after all, the Royals do it!

Sarah Foster Special to

No, the sex columnist's real name is not Sarah Foster. (Foster is the model/actress that played an ex-lover of Vincent Chase in the first season of "Entourage.") In reality, our sex columnist is a Wisconsin native with a degree in journalism and a knack for getting people to talk to her.

Sarah never considered herself an "above average" listener. Others, however, seem to think differently. Perhaps she has a sympathetic tone or expression that compels people to share their lives and secrets with her despite how little they know her. Everyone from the girl that does her hair to people in line at the grocery store routinely spill the details of their lives and relationships to Sarah, unprompted but typically not unwanted. It’s strange to her that people would do this, but she doesn’t mind. Sarah likes that she can give advice even if it is to complete strangers.

So why the pseudonym? Simple. People tell Sarah these things because for some reason they trust her. They believe she cares and therefore will keep their secrets in a locked vault the same way a best friend or therapist would. Sarah won't name names, but that vault is now unlocked.