If your partner and you are practically living together, then the thought of moving in together might have popped in your head. You spend so much time at his place that you haven’t set foot in your apartment in weeks (except to get the mail and change your dirty clothes). Making things official is the next natural step, right?
Moving in together is an important step in any relationship, a true test of your commitment, and a sign of a potential life together. But it’s also essential to approach it in the right way and be sure that you are both ready for this big next step.
Breaking up after moving in together can happen, and it can be traumatic, lengthy, and stressful (ask anyone who has had to part with their books and furniture after a five-year relationship), so it’s important to approach this step in the right way. But don’t let that deter you. Living together can be extremely satisfying and help you build the key foundations for a successful, long-term marriage or partnership.
Having experienced this commitment myself and having guided many other people through this process, I am very much in favor of couples living together after a year or two of being together. But how do they come to that decision? Before they take the big step, here are the key conversations they need to have, the steps they need to take, and the transitions they need to make.
1. Know your partner’s goals for the relationship
I’ve known far too many people who thought moving in together was the harbinger of a “forever” situation- and as a result, never asked their partner what they wanted for their relationship. Since some people are more adaptable and not made to think about future commitments, they may not agree on what it means to live together.
If you want to get married, you should make this clear from the beginning. And if you don’t see marriage in the near future (or ever), it’s also important to say where you stand. Nothing is more devastating than feeling “cheated” because of a lack of communication. Avoid resentment; have this discussion long before you live together.
2. Stay together before you live together
Once you think you want to live with your spouse, go home to each other as often as possible. Spend weekends together. Spend the night together in the middle of the week. Travel together for five or six days. The intimacy that develops during these short stays is impossible to replicate on traditional dates.
You can see your partner when unexpected frustrations arise and when you find yourselves in uncomfortable situations. If your relationship continues to grow and deepen even when you’re not at your best, moving in together could be an excellent next step. Staying with your partner for an extended period of time is a way to know if you mesh well together when you are together for a long stretch of time.
3. Talk about your deepest fears about moving in together as a couple
Many people dread the thought of moving in with someone. They are afraid of losing their independence, that the relationship will break up, or that they will have to break up and start all over again. These fears are completely normal. However, I think it’s important to talk openly about your biggest fears before moving in together, acknowledging the risks, and then developing a plan to deal with the worst-case scenario.
Sometimes just talking about how you would handle a breakup or how you would make sure you maintain your independence can allay your fears, and you’ll have a plan for how to proceed if you encounter any of these issues at some point. You need to be honest with your partner because honesty is the best policy in a relationship, especially when you are planning to move in with them.
4. Consider a trial living situation first
You may feel like you’re wasting a month of rent, but it’s really worth trying out living together before you take the plunge and sign a lease. I recommend a month; that’s enough time to settle in, really see what your routines are, and lower your guard. If you plan on waking up with your partner every day, this is the ultimate decision test.
What about when we have a disagreement and can’t take a few days to calm down separately? How does my partner relax when they are not doing so well? What do they do when it’s not “closing time”? You don’t know what you don’t see- and in this situation, you will see everything. If you spend a whole month together and like how living together looks, go ahead and sign the lease. If you notice any warning signs, share them and find a way to fix them together.
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