Thinking of moving in together? Consider these tips
Moving in together can be intimidating, especially for guys. Sharing a living space means that you’re ready for a big uptick in the relationship. You’re probably going to be sharing a bathroom.
You might have to split some bills. You and your partner are going to be learning things about each other that will challenge your level of commitment.
You might be asking yourself – am I ready for all that?
Well, life is what you make it, my friends. And cohabitating can have it’s benefits and drawbacks. It’s a complex decision and it’s best to weigh out the pros and cons before you make the big leap.
1. Practice Marriage
Firstly, living together with your significant other isn’t like a “test marriage”. It’s completely different because the stakes are different. Just because you live together doesn’t mean you can’t break up. Technically, you’re just a step above exclusive dating.
The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development links pre-marital cohabitation with a higher rate of divorce, infidelity, and stress. Yet, there is an ongoing debate about the veracity of that research.
A counter study from the Council on Contemporary Families found the NICHHD’s research to be shortsighted. Arielle Kuperberg, the author of the counter study, found that age was the true link between cohabitation and high divorce rates.
“What I found was that it was the age you settled down with someone, not whether you had a marriage license, that was the biggest indicator of a relationship’s future success.” Her study concluded that couples who waited until after the age of 23 to move in together cut their likelihood of divorce in half.
Another thought to consider is that a person’s behavior while cohabitating isn’t necessarily the same behavior that they’ll exhibit once you get married.
Tying the knot, so to speak, is a more permanent bond that expands the relationship beyond simply buying furniture and cooking meals together. Bottom line – don’t view living together as a practice marriage.
2. Keeping the Flame Lit
Moving in together presents more opportunities for intimacy, but depending on your circumstances, cohabitation can also rob your relationship of its sexual spark. When you’re just dating, you often present yourself to your partner in a finished form. You arrive to the date already dressed up.
You can go home when you have an upset stomach. Having your own living space means that you can hide your preparation and retreat to your corner for life’s less pleasant aspects.
Having a shared living space means that you get a chance to view each other in totality – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Keeping the romantic flame lit might become more of a challenge when you’ve seen your significant other’s morning face and witnessed what happens when they eat too much spicy Mexican food.
There’s also more pressure to maintain the best version of yourself while living in the space that previously was your comfort zone. This can wreck your romance and cause tension in the relationship.
In order to keep the flame lit in your cohabitating love life, you should learn to accept every aspect of your partner before you move in together. The fewer surprises – the better. Also, keep “dating” each other.
Related: How soon is it to move in together?
Arrange for special occasions such as movie night, living room dance parties, and invite friends over for dinner to emulate the types of activities you enjoyed together before you started sharing a place.
Additionally, you need to give each other some breathing room, some time and space to let it all out. If your significant other isn’t having a good day, then don’t pressure them to satisfy your sexual needs.
Leave some food in the oven and pay a visit to that friend who hasn’t seen you in a while. This will pay dividends in the bedroom when your significant other is back to top form.
3. An Eye for Finance
If you’re on the fence about living together, then you should carefully consider how you’re going to manage the finances. Are you going to share living expenses evenly? Are you going to get a joint bank account?
This might not be a fun discussion between you and your partner, but it is absolutely imperative that you bring this discussion to the table before you move in together. A 2011 survey conducted by Relationships Australia found that financial instability was the number 1 relationship killer.
So, don’t become a statistic simply because you didn’t want to have the big talk about money.
Living together doesn’t mean that you both have to be great with money. Just find out who is. If your partner is a whiz at managing expenses, then let them take the lead on financial matters.
Determine your expected contributions, your projected income, and the best way to manage the flow of money between the two of you. If you can take the guesswork out of your financial relationship, then you can focus less on dollars and cents and more on enjoying each other’s company.
Another financial tip is to be patient. Your financial situation will change over time, hopefully for the better. So, what worked in the beginning of your relationship might not hold up over time.
Be flexible enough to adjust your financial strategy and be patient enough to allow your money problems to improve.
4. Set Boundaries
I know what you’re thinking – if my girlfriend moves in with me, what will happen to my Playstation? Well, don’t unplug your baby just yet. Moving in together means that some sacrifices will have to be made, but you get to set boundaries around what aspects of your shared life are off limits.
For you, it might mean that you get a few hours of gaming in every day. For her, it might mean that she gets the best counter real estate in the bathroom.
Boundaries are important when you’re dating, doubly so when you’re living together. A lack of boundaries can lead to a lack of trust. A lack of trust inevitably leads to the breakdown of your relationship.
Can you leave your smartphone lying around or does your significant other act like Sherlock Holmes every time it rings? Should you ever leave the house without telling your significant other where you’re going?
Does the home computer have an open password, or are you clearing your browsing history on a daily basis?
You might not think about boundaries when you first decide to move in together, but it’s super important. In general, openness is more favorable to the longevity of the relationship.
Set soft boundaries when it comes to personal preferences such as decorations or how you spend your time. Set more rigid boundaries when it comes to privacy and trust.
5. Don’t Lose Your Friends
One of the biggest concerns for moving in with your partner is their demand for your time and energy. When you share a living space with someone, you might not have any social currency left for your best friends.
A shocking anthropological study conducted by researchers at Oxford University found that your romantic relationship displaces two platonic friendships. Robin Dunbar, the author of the study, summarized his findings as “If you don’t see people, your emotional engagement with them drops off and does so quickly.”
When you live with your significant other, you need to take care when managing your social interactions. You should speak with your partner about how often your friends can visit.
You should do this for both sets of friends – theirs and yours. Your best friend from childhood might be a riot at parties, but your significant other might take offence to his colorful style of humor. It might be best to hang out with that friend when your partner isn’t around.
Maintaining and managing those outside friendships can also save your romantic relationship. Friends give you the chance to relieve the pressure of cohabitating because friends are much more tolerant of inconsistent and unflattering behaviors.
Friends give you the chance to vent your frustrations in a guilt-free and judgment-free zone, so relationship issues won’t get bottled up. You can depend on them (friends) to be sounding boards for your personal dilemmas, especially if you’re still building up the comfort level with your partner.
There are different reasons why couples decide to move in together, but there isn’t a rule book on how to make it work. In fact, most professional psychologists and researchers think it leads to increased relationship stress and the likelihood of divorce. That’s largely because people enter into this living arrangement without deciding what they truly want from it.
Living together is just seen as the natural next step when you’re dating. It doesn’t have to be, but you can use that time to learn more about your partner. More importantly, you can use that time to learn more about yourself.
Ask yourself if you can share your personal space with another human being and allow them to see you in all your facets – your best and worst behaviors without a filter.
Remember, you can make this romantic situation work if you balance your intimacy. Keep it hot by continuing to “date” each other regularly but give some space when you or your partner need some alone time.
Find out who is better suited to deal with the finances and let them take the lead.
You don’t have to write up contracts or agreements if you don’t want to, but make sure that you both have a clear understanding about the financial expectations.
Related: My girlfriend says she “needs space”
Lastly, set soft boundaries around the things that matter least – like kitchen décor. Don’t make it a big deal if it doesn’t have to be. Set more rigid boundaries around things that matter the most such as spending time with your friends and maintaining your privacy.
The important thing to remember is that living together is not the natural evolution of your relationship. You don’t have to move in together to feel like the relationship is moving forward.
Do it because you truly love your partner and want to deepen your connection with them. When things get rocky (and they will) remember that through flexibility and patience you can strengthen your bond.