Moving in together is one of the biggest milestones for a relationship; it’s up there with marriage and starting a family in terms of signs of commitment and investment. It’s also incredibly appealing – splitting the cost of living 50/50, hot and cold running sex whenever you want it, not having to maintain two households, the thrill of waking up with the man or woman you love in your arms… it’s almost enough to call your honey and tell ’em to start packing their bags, isn’t it?
Of course any dream can turn into a nightmare without warning. You’re expecting the sort of cohabiting bliss that you normally only see in sitcoms from the 50s, but what you get instead is the roommate from hell. You don’t know who this obsessive-compulsive demon is and what he’s done with the guy you thought you were shacking up with. The awesome “bangin’-out-on-every-flat-surface-in-the-apartment” sex has turned into “Once a month if the stars are aligned perfectly and there’s nothing better on TV.” Every conversation is a fight about money, chores or how you spend your free time.
You’re just about ready to choke a motherfucker and hope that they technically qualify as a recyclable rather than having to wait for the bulk pick-up. Where did your happy fantasy disappear to?
The unavoidable truth is, moving in together will inevitably change your relationship. You’re going to be sharing more than just living space and expenses, you’re going to be sharing your lives. So if you’re going to make the big leap into living together, you might to make sure you’re going to do it right.
There aren’t any guarantees in life, but following these tips will help you avoid turning your domestic bliss into a single-bedroom nightmare.
Make Sure You’re Doing It For The Right Reasons
For a lot of couples, moving in together is something that “just happens”. Instead of weighing the pros and cons and making plans in advance, the process of cohabitation occurs in dribs and drabs. It starts with keeping a spare toothbrush at their boyfriend or girlfriend’s place. Maybe a spare shirt and pair of underwear, just in case. Or a razor and some toiletries because, hey, you never know, right? Before too long one or the other of you decides, hey, you’re half-way there already, might as well pull the trigger on this, right? It’ll totally be more convenient for the both of you…
Other times, you may have entirely different reasons for moving in. You may be seeing this as a relationship test, trying out what your long-term relationship will be like when the two of you get married while your partner is thinking that this is a low-emotional-investment way of putting off getting engaged while they desperately look for an exit strategy.
Either way, you’ve not had any conversation about what moving in means or what your expectations are. As a result, the two of you have ideas that are night-and-day different from one another and you’re inevitably going to come into conflict when you get clocked upside the head with the hob-nailed boot of reality.
To make matters worse, by the time you’ve realized that moving in together – or your entire relationship – was a mistake, you’ll find that pulling out is much, much harder than it would be if the two of you were still living separately. Your lives – and finances – are so intertwined now that it can feel like you’re stuck.
You have nowhere to go and your personal effects are so tied up in your shared home that you can’t afford to leave.
If you’re going to move in with your honey, you can’t just throw your stuff into a couple boxes, carry them over to her place and call it a day. You have to have a long series of conversations to make sure you’re both on the same page.
Sort Out The Money Issues First
Before you even start buying packing material, you need to sit down and hash out your financial issues in advance. Money is one of the biggest cause of conflict with couples – single or married – who live together, and poor planning can haunt you for decades.
To start with, whose name is going to be on the lease? If your girlfriend is moving into your place – or you’re moving into hers – the name on the lease is going to make a significant difference. If your boyfriend ends up not coughing up his half of the rent and causing your landlord to begin eviction proceedings, it’s your credit rating that’s going to take the hit. The same applies to who the utilities are registered to. If things go wrong and you’re listed as the responsible party, it’s your ass that’s going to be twisting in the wind.
While you’re at it, how are you going to handle bills? Are you splitting it down the middle 50/50? Will you be establishing a joint checking account that you both pay into? Will one of you be paying the rent while the other handles the utilities? What about insurance? If there’s a significant income disparity between the two of you, are you going to be expected to kick in the same amount each month, or does the person with more take-home pay shoulder more of the financial burden?
How about large purchases? If you decide you want that huge flat-screen TV or a new leather couch, do you have the autonomy to just go ahead and buy it, or are you going to have to work things out in advance?
These are questions that you need to ask and answer long before you start looking at moving in.
Pro tip: most banks can set up automatic bill payments via their websites. Take advantage of this service. Knowing that your bills will be paid on time automatically even if you can’t remember what day it is will save you both a lot of headaches.
Establish the Ground Rules
Living together is completely different from staying together over long weekends; once you’re sharing living space together, you’re inevitably going to discover that the way you are used to living may not be completely compatible with the way he is used to and vice versa. You’re a neat-freak who likes keeping your place as tidy and organized as possible while she’s used to living in an apartment where the cockroaches moved out in order to find a place that’s less disgusting.
Much like dealing with finances, you need to find a way to make your lifestyles mesh as smoothly as possible. The less time you’re spending butting heads over unmade beds and toilet seats being left up is more time you can spend actually in the beds and dirtying up the sheets.
This, by the way, includes establishing who’s responsible for which aspect of the housework. Splitting up the chores in advance means that you can ensure that neither of you is left feeling like an indentured servant, drudging away to a chorus of singing cartoon mice while your honey is busy in the other room catching up on Dr. Who reruns and Internet porn. Laying out the responsibilities early means that you can ensure that everybody is pulling their weight, rather than unfairly stacking the deck.