When is it time to cohabitate?
When you met each other, there was a powerful spark between you. Then you went on a few dates, met each other’s friends and family, and now everyone knows you’re a couple.
Maybe your partner stays over a few nights each week, or you spend the whole weekend at their place. Does this describe you? If so, you wouldn’t be alone. Most new couples reach a point in time where trying to figure out living arrangements becomes front and center.
At the center of it all is the question: Should we move in together? A recent study in the UK explored this topic. In the survey, participants were asked how long they waited, plus how nervous they felt about the prospect.
Results varied across the country, with people in London being the most nervous (and, unsurprisingly, waiting longest on average to move in together).
But even in those areas where fewest people worried about moving in with their partner, at least a third of couples said they were nervous about it. Of the 1,000 people who took part in the study, only 53% said they didn’t feel anxious about sharing a home.
Just because you’re worried about moving in together doesn’t mean it’s not the right decision – and waiting until it feels right might mean waiting forever.
You might want to ask friends and family to help you decide. But remember that even if they’ve got your best interests at heart, their opinion is going to depend on their own experiences.
If your best friend’s relationship fell apart after she moved in with her boyfriend, she’s not going to have an unbiased point of view.
The survey found that 12% of UK couples have moved in together within the first six months of a relationship – but that some couples will wait up to five years. Some couples don’t even think about living together until they’re married.
Different people will have wildly different ideas about what’s “normal”, so you might get lots of contradictory advice.
If getting a place together means leaving home (or moving out of your student flat) for both of you, then it’s more nerve-wracking. You’re making a decision to spend a lot of time with your partner at the same time as taking on the first place of your own.
It’s tempting to move in together quickly so that you can see each other every day but take a while to think through the practical implications. Decide how you’re going to split the bills and the rent.
Will you divide them between you equally? What if one of you is earning more than the other? What will happen if one of you gets a pay rise (or loses their job)? What are you going to do about furniture and all the things you take for granted in a house, like kitchen utensils or tools?
If having your own place is a new experience for both of you, it’s worth taking things slowly and discussing potential problems together before you take the plunge.
If one of you already has a home of their own, it can be an easier decision. Maybe there are benefits to living with your parents, or perhaps your first shared house with your friends has been a non-stop party, but if the person you’re in love with has their own place why wouldn’t you live there?
You still need to talk about all the practical issues like paying bills, but one of you has been doing this for a while so there shouldn’t be so many unexpected expenses.
The biggest issue for most couples in this scenario is that one person still thinks of your home as “his house” or “her house”. You need to talk about this before you move in, or it’s easy for problems and resentment to build up.
This is also an issue if you’ve both got places of your own. How do you decide whose house will become home for both of you? Will it be the biggest? The cheapest? The one that’s most convenient for work? You also need to think about what will happen to the house you’re moving out from.
If you’re renting, then you can simply give your landlord notice. But if you own your own place, do you want to sell it? You may want to consider renting it out, but that can bring problems of its own.
You’ll be paying a mortgage on a place you don’t live in; even if that’s covered by the rent, how will your partner feel if your tenants disappear in the night with three months rent in arrears?
And does keeping your own place look like a sound financial move or a lack of commitment to your new life together?
There’s no easy answer to the question of when to move in together. Couples have lots of different experiences and expectations and loving someone doesn’t guarantee that moving in with them won’t be a stressful time (for both of you).
But remember that there’s no such thing as a “normal” length of time to wait, and that you can ask for advice, but the decision has to be made by the two of you.
The best rule is to move in together when you’ve talked through all the practical details and planned together for what you’ll do when things go wrong and times are hard.
If you can plan together for things going horribly, you’re more likely to live together happily.