Deciding to move in with your partner is a significant step in any relationship. It’s often said you don’t truly know someone until you live with them – even the most rock solid connections can be strengthened, tested (or both).
Moving in together is an exciting and overwhelming time, but experts rate moving home as one of the most stressful life experiences. So it’s important to do some serious thinking and have a robust, open conversation before committing to this next stage of your relationship.
Here, we’ll guide you through important questions and topics to discuss as a couple that’ll help make your big move a little easier, and hopefully prevent tension further down the line.
Your place or theirs – or some place else?
Moving in together is a big milestone in any relationship and it’s important to talk about, and get clear on, why you’re moving in together.
Couples can decide to cohabitate for a myriad of reasons – out of convenience or practicality like a lease ending, or because it’s the next natural stage in the relationship – but being on the same page is key. Communicating clearly around your decision to move in together helps to alleviate misunderstandings and ensures the process is collaborative.
While going on holidays as a couple can be a good indicator of your compatibility, living together takes that experience out of vacation excitement and into the nitty gritty of daily life. It’s also helpful to discuss this from the outset so you’re aware of each other’s needs and expectations.
Choosing a place is another important part of living together. Whether you’re moving into your partner’s place, vice versa or a new place altogether, discussing the living arrangement is vital. Even talking about the worst-case scenario of what will happen in the event of a separation will help set expectations early on. On the flip side, it can also open doors to discussing your future and long-term relationship goals, like getting married or even how you want your retirement to look.
Talking about money can be awkward, but if you’re going to be living together, you’ve got to know the good, the bad and the ugly. This includes being open about any debt either of you have accumulated and being realistic about how much each of you can contribute financially. Figuring out if you’re going to combine finances, even partially, will require a certain amount of vulnerability too, but it’ll also foster trust within the relationship.
It’s also important to decide how everyday expenses like bills, rent and groceries, will be paid – and by whom. This can be part of a household budget or an arrangement to split the bills. Everyone has different incomes, budgets and spending habits, so be aware of one another’s money matters, and work as a team financially.
This may also be a good opportunity to talk about any long-term financial goals, like taking holidays, buying property or having children. Talking about such financial matters regularly helps make sure you’re on the same page and are both comfortable with your budget.
The ground rules
Discussing how you’ll approach household duties like chores and cooking will leave less room for misunderstandings later. It’s a good idea to sort these things out early so resentment doesn’t fester.
When it comes to housework, revealing your strengths or dislikes can lead to a healthy discussion and the dividing of duties. Perhaps you hate vacuuming but your significant other doesn’t – there’s usually a way to compromise. Even if both of you hate cleaning, discussing such topics (like the previously mentioned budgets and finances) can lead to finding solutions – like splitting costs for a cleaner.
Living with someone also means living with all of them. You’ll get to know what ‘clean’ means to each other, so it’s helpful to talk about what’s expected when it comes to tidiness around your home. At the end of the day, sharing the housework as a team allows for extra quality time together, or opportunities to work on your individual interests, which ultimately will strengthen your relationship.
The nitty gritty
When you live together, there’s no avoiding each other. This means on days when you’re stressed and might not feel like talking to anyone, your partner is right there with you. It’s important to discuss how you both react to stress and what you need in those times of crisis. Being honest and open about your triggers and reactions will help deflate miscommunications in close quarters. Another thing to be mindful of is how much alone time you both need. Healthy relationships involve spending time away from each other now and then and maintaining friendships with your own social circle.
One of the exciting parts of cohabitating is being able to build a life and home with your significant other. How you’ll celebrate holidays and daily decisions like whether your family will eat dinner together every night and rules around TV will stem from how you envision your household. Being mindful of each other’s upbringing helps foster understanding, particularly in culturally-diverse relationships. Combining cultures, cuisines, traditions, or even the dilemma of a shoes-on or a shoes-off house, can be a fun part of the process if healthy conversations are had.
Keep in mind
Just as every relationship is unique, so are each of these approaches for couples. Ensuring you’re on the same page and having the tools to communicate with each other is the most important thing. For example, you don’t need to have the same political views, but you can respect each other’s opinions.
These conversations aren’t always romantic, but avoiding necessary topics paves a path towards misunderstanding and resentment. Living with someone isn’t easy – it requires mutual respect, cooperation and compromise, but don’t forget to enjoy the fun moments along the way too.