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.
Be Ready To Redecorate
Living together means you need to make your new place feel like home to both of you. If you’re going to both be happy and feel comfortable in your new apartment, you have to make sure you both have a mutual sense of ownership.
This is especially true if you’re moving into her place or she’s moving into yours. If you want her to feel as though she actually has a place there instead of being a long-term guest, this means that you’re going to have to do more than just give her space on the book-shelf and room for a couple prints on the wall. You want your home to be a blend of your two personalities rather than one dominant theme with the occasional hint that maybe somebody else lives there too.
This ultimately means that you need to be ready for a great deal of compromise and sacrifice for the both of you. You may love that reclining lounge chair with the pulsating shiatsu massage and built in mini-fridge, but living together means having to give it up so that your girlfriend can put in her couch and ottoman combo instead. In exchange, as much as she loves Louis XII replicas, she has to be willing to compromise on the Shaker modern style furniture instead.
Have Your Own Space
Living together doesn’t mean that you have to be together 24-7, nor does it mean that you magically no longer require time on your own. Both of you should make a point to carve out your own space, especially if it means giving you some much-needed personal time.
In an ideal world, these would be literal, physical spaces that you could designate as your own private retreat; a man-cave, workshop, craft room or library/office that you could decorate and trick out however you want. Detached garages and spare bedrooms make for excellent personal spaces if you have them available.
However, the odds are good that your personal space may be as much in the mind as anything else – a willingness to be left alone watching TV in the living room or soaking away in the tub for a while without being disturbed is just as useful if space is at a premium. Having a place to retreat to in order to take a time out and just relax on your own can be invaluable, especially when the two of you feel as though someone’s always right on top of you at all times. The ability to have a brief escape from the stress of living together – and it will be stressful at times – can mean the difference between screaming matches and pre-marital bliss.
Have Your Own Lives
Similarly, you should maintain your own lives outside of the house as well. Living together doesn’t mean that you’re chained at the hip or forming one gestalt being with no outside interests or contact with the world around you. Both of you should be nurturing your social life outside of your relationship with your lover. Time spent with your friends helps build your external support system as well as helps continue to round you out as a person.
In practice this means that the two of you should make a point of having guys and girls’ nights, without feeling guilty that the other may not have plans. You’re both allowed to have a life outside of each other without having to feel obligated to check in constantly, or to call it an early night because the ol’ ball and chain is back home waiting for you. That way lies resentment and co-dependence, two fates you want to avoid.
Separate Bathroom Sinks
Trust me on this one. If it’s at all possible, you want his and her sinks and mirrors in the bathroom. Hell, aim for separate entire bathrooms if you can. This may well save your life and your relationship.
Be Prepared For Your Relationship To Change
Living together means that changes to your relationship are inevitable. Even couples who’ve dated for years prior to living together will go through the long and sometimes torturous routine of learning all of their honey-bunny’s little quirks and habits. The little things that were cute while you weren’t up in each other’s business all day and all night will become teeth-grindingly annoying. Snuggling together and waking up wrapped in each other’s arms starts to become less romantic when you’re sucking in his morning breath and he’s realizing that you fart like the brass section of a John Williams retrospective in your sleep. She’ll resent the pubic hair on the toilet rim, you’ll want to know why you suddenly don’t have any space on the bathroom sink. The little things that you used to be able to laugh off will cause you to pull your hair out as you resist the urge to blow your top.
That 24-hour sex-a-thon you were expecting will also dry up… likely sooner than you expect. When you’re living separately, you have to make time for sex; you only have so much time together so you have to make the most efficient (and squishy) use of it that you can. When you have all the time in the world, carving out naked time becomes that much less important. There will be nights when all the two of you will want to do is collapse on the couch, watch Castle and turn your brains off…. sex will be the last thing on your mind. Living together means that you will start to take sex for granted. It’s like having your favorite movie on all day, every day – it’s great at first, but eventually you’re going to get bored of it and then it will become the background noise of your life as you start focusing on everything else.
The survival of your relationship after you move in together will require effort on both of your parts. The two of you will have to put work in – not just to adjusting to your new life together but also keeping your relationship fresh and exciting. It’s entirely too easy to fall into patterns and routines and from there into boredom and stagnation. Even the little gestures that show that you care – unexpected flowers, surprising her by cooking her favorite meal, the occasional flirty, sexy text – can keep the spark going and keep the two of you from becoming roommates instead of lovers.
Don’t let the challenges intimidate you. Living together is a momentous step in the course of a relationship… but it’s one that can lead to some of the best times and fondest memories of your lives.