8 Things You Need to Know Before Moving In Together

How to Determine If You’re Ready to Move In with Your Partner

The decision to move in with your partner is life changing and for some, can make or break the relationship. The thought of playing house may seem fun and exciting and the idea of saving money on rent or combining forces to get a nicer place can be extremely enticing. But when money, fights over who was supposed to do the dishes and a lack of me-time come into play, even the most romantic relationship can turn sour.  

To decide if you’re ready for and capable of domestic bliss with your partner, check out what our relationship experts say are the most important things you should know before moving in with your partner.    

Are You Waiting It Out Enough?

Make sure you aren’t making the decision to live together while under the spell of the honeymoon phase (which can last about six months to a year). “I always recommend waiting a bit, at least until some of the love hormones such as oxytocin and dopamine, which may cause you to be somewhat irrational in the beginning, wear off,” says marriage and family therapist and sex therapist Moushumi Ghose.  

She explains that when we’re under the spell of these hormones, it’s easy to overlook relationship red flags (ahem, like thinking that bad boy bartender was our Prince Charming) that can explode under the pressure of sharing a roof.  

Know that there’s no rush. You should take your time to get to know your partner and your dynamic (more on that to follow). It goes without saying that you should also wait to move in together if either of you feels any sense of pressure.    

Are You Compatible?

Those love hormones can also give you blind optimism when it comes to your compatibility with your partner. Because of this, you need to not only wait it out, but also be truly honest about your compatibility.  

Seriously look at how you match up on areas of spending, work ethic, common interests and seemingly smaller issues like cleanliness, sleep patterns and how you like to spend your down time. Address all these compatibility marks head-on and don’t be shy about discussing them with your partner—realize neither of you are perfect.  

“Once you move in together these seemingly miniscule day-to-day happenings will become an important part of your relationship together,” says Ghose. “If one person likes to go out a lot but the other spends a lot of time at home this can become a giant discrepancy when you make the move to live together.”  

It’s helpful if you’re already spending most nights a week together (think four or five)—this will help you get a sense of what it’s like being around the person morning and night, their quirky habits, etc. So if you are only spending a couple of nights together now, try increasing your days together first to get a better sense of your partner.      

Are You Both Ready to Share

Thoughts of living with your significant other can be clouded by movie-like images of living together and happily ever after, but you really need to think about yourself and if you’re ready to make this commitment to your relationship.  

“If you still crave having your own space…don't want to share your closet space, and don't want to make compromises, then you may want to take a step back and consider it all,” explains clinical psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula.  

And even if you’re ready to share your space, etc., is your significant other really ready for that as well? Find out. It won’t work if only one of you is ready.  

Don’t listen to everyone around you telling you what’s best for your relationship (because you know they will). It’s okay if, even after a few years together, you still aren’t ready to move in.   If you’re not yet ready, don’t be afraid to hold off. “This does not mean that the relationship is over,” says Dr. Durvasula, “but rushing this critical step may be like rushing through an essential developmental step. And nothing is permanent.”    

Do You Communicate Openly? 

In any relationship, effective communication is critical happiness and success. Before you even think of moving in together, you must learn to talk openly about issues that may make you cringe.  

“Couples don’t talk about two subjects: money and sex,” says relationship coach Dr. Dar Hawks. “Those two subjects lead to splitsville and ugly separation because couples did not discuss them on a regular basis and did not have agreements with each other.”  

To be able to live together harmoniously, you’ve got to be on the same page about these important, sensitive issues. And when you inevitably do experience tension, open communication will help you recover and grow.    

Do You Fight Fair
The key to living happily ever after isn’t how cute you are with each other or your shared love for a hobby; it’s problem solving, plain and simple. And the type of problems you will incur while living under the same roof are a whole new game.  

Every couple will face challenges, but as psychotherapist Darren Haber explains, “it is not what problems you are facing or wrestling, but how those problems are solved.”

He recommends sitting down with your partner and honestly asking yourselves these questions:  

1. Can each person respect the differences between them in terms of feelings and opinions? Learn that it is okay if feelings and opinions are different and one person doesn’t always have to be “right.”

2. Can each person control their feelings when problems arise or take longer than expected to resolve? When dealing with problems, you should not pull away from your partner or feel like you’re losing control—yes, you must keep your guard down and try not to lose your temper.

3. Can each person live with unresolved problems while remaining connected to each other and the relationship? Meaning, can you go without harboring ill feelings to each other if you don’t get your way and avoid rehashing old fights when new problems arise?

4. Can you stay affectionate and loving to each other while resolving problems? No cold shoulders, silent treatments allowed.

5. Can you recognize that problem solving is a pathway to a closer connection?   “Forget about winning arguments, being right, scoring points,” says Haber, adding that you must use these questions to learn to put “we” before “me” in a way that feels mutual and shared.  

If you’re not there yet, keep working toward good communication and learning how to fight fair—you’re definitely going to need it if you ever want to live happily together.    

Are Your Finances Straight?

Mo’ money, mo’ problems is a real thing when you decide to live with someone. “Couples just don't talk about finances, nor do they make agreements with each other about finances, which leads to upset or potential breakups down the road,” says Dr. Dar.  

She recommends answering the following questions to ensure you’re on the same page about finances now and in the future:  

1. How are you going to handle bills? You should note whether everything will be split 50/50 or if one person will handle rent while the other pays the electric and other bills. Don’t forget about groceries, furnishings and day-to-day supplies—the last thing you want to do is get in a major late-night fight over who’s going to buy the toilet paper.
2. What debts are you bringing into the relationship? If you have school loans, car loans, or are going to have a mortgage, you must discuss and clearly outline who is responsible for paying what and stick to it.  

3. Will you have separate or joint checking accounts? When you’re sharing financial responsibilities, you must decide whether you want to merge your money into one account or keep funds separate.  

(Dr. Dar does not recommend a joint account or merging your finances before marriage, but you can set up a separate account you both transfer money into to pay your shared bills if you prefer that type of situation.)  

4. What assets are you both bringing into the relationship? When you’re living separately, you probably have yet to discuss 401ks, inheritance, or property. Before moving in together, establish whether these assets are solely for the person to whom they belong or if both partners will share them.  

(It’s best to keep these funds separate for a while until you decide the relationship is permanent, and there’s nothing wrong with keeping them separate forever).  

5. What is your emergency plan? How will you pay the bills should you or your partner (or both) lose your jobs? Set up a financial cushion and establish how much money will go into it each pay period…and stick to it.      

Are You Both Expecting Marriage or Not?

While your friends may ooh and ah retelling stories of how right after moving in with their boyfriends he proposed, that does not mean that will happen in your relationship. In fact, your significant other may not even be thinking about marriage at all.  

“For some people moving in is simple logistics—one person loses a lease and you figure ‘what the hell,’” explains Dr. Durvasula. “In other cases, it is a next step to marriage or other long-term commitment.”  

Talk openly about what you see for your future and if that includes an engagement shortly after moving together or marriage at all.   If you want to get married to this person in the near term, have the conversations needed ahead of time to ensure that moving in together isn’t a replacement for getting engaged.  

(To help you determine if you’re ready for engagement, check out: 25 Things to Know Before Getting Engaged.)

Remember, for some, family members may have a lot to say about living with someone before a ring, but it is your life and your decisions to make.  

“It is in fact your life, if you feel it is right, but other people are shoving their scripts at you, think long and hard about whose life you are living—theirs or yours,” says Dr. Durvasula.       

Do You Have a Backup Plan? 

Realize that moving in together doesn’t have to be a black and white situation—you can always rethink your living situation or your relationship—as long as you plan accordingly.  

“Moving in together can be an experiment and the two of you may agree to re-assess in 6 weeks,” says Dr. Durvasula. If things are getting heated or you feel you or your partner need space, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to breakup. “Perhaps you stay together, but keep two different places for a bit if the experiment doesn't go well now,” she says.  

Keep your financial situation independent from the situation so if you need to leave you can, and realize living together may not work or it may be a great, wonderful adventure. As Dr. Durvasula says, “Trust yourself, communicate with your partner, be realistic about your expectations, be prepared for compromise… and make sure you write your names in your books.” 
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