Sharing the same bathroom and set of house keys is about more than just having an amazing person to snuggle in bed with every night. You have to be willing to surrender some of your cherished solo time and work as a unit to make your house a happy home. On top of it, you may not be considering marriage — now or ever — which can sometimes complicate matters.
Keep these nine rules to moving in together in mind and set yourselves up for a successful, peaceful and happy co-living situation.
1. Figure out your finances — together
Sorting out financial issues with another person is one of the most difficult tasks you’ll face in your new life as a couple living together. But it must, must, absolutely-no-exceptions here, must be done prior to the first day you step foot in your new place. Are you planning on merging your bank accounts, keeping them totally separate or maintaining your own accounts and opening a new account together that you use solely for bills (which is my personal suggestion)? Have you figured out exactly what percentage of each of your pay checks will be used for house expenses? Have you sat down, whether with pen and paper or some fancy pants accounting app, and determined exactly how much you expect to pay each month for utilities, groceries and extra expenses? There’s nothing romantic about money, which is what makes it so wonderful. Have a frank discussion and leave your emotions out of it.
2. Decide who’s doing the dishes
And who is better at grocery shopping, taking care of the cat and sorting laundry. Before you lived together, you or your partner may have wanted so desperately to win over your new love that you, how should I put this, embellished the truth because, sweet Jesus, nobody just lives to make pasta from scratch every night. Now that you’re going to see each other every single day, you’ll both need to be brutally honest about your strongest and weakest domestic talents so that you can keep your home up and running. And keep you both from dying of starvation.
3. Come to an agreement about guests
Does it matter to you if friends pop in at 11 on a Wednesday night? Is Sunday morning a sacred time for you — one you would appreciate not sharing with you partner’s mother? Or maybe it’s your mother who is accustomed to dropping by your place on a whim — a habit that would drive even the most understanding of partners crazy after a while? Have a conversation with your partner about guests and make sure you’re on the same page before the corks start popping.
4. Is this a pre-marriage trial or are you just happy to see me (every day of our lives)?
So many couples live together and never have the talk. The talk is, of course, the one where they discuss whether they’re thinking of, maybe, one day in the future, tying the knot. What sometimes ends up happening is that one partner believes living together is the precursor to marriage, while the other thinks it’s simply amazing to wake up every morning with a person they love and that’s enough. You don’t want that kind of ambiguity in your relationship.
5. Make sure you’re not in the honeymoon phase when you take that leap
It’s one thing to want to live with someone because you’ve been dating a few years, have had disagreements, have learned how to deal with conflicts and have seen the best and worst in each other. It’s an entirely different animal to shack up because the sex is hot, you’re there a lot anyway, he lives in a more desirable neighborhood while you’re battling bedbugs, or you feel too old to live with roommates and can’t afford your own place. Be honest with yourself and slow down if your reasons are not good ones.
6. Don’t pack your old photos and diaries
No, of course I’m not referring to your Sweet 16 pictures or the journal you keep. I’m talking about old photos of old boyfriends and ancient love letters that you can’t bring yourself to part with. If you don’t feel comfortable torching everything, don’t. But see if you can pack them up in a box and ship them off to your mom’s — your children will love laughing about them 30 years from now. If you insist on bringing them to your new place, you can’t expect your partner not to freak out or at least be slightly annoyed or hurt that you felt it was necessary.
7. Figure out how you’ll give each other alone time
When you first move in together, you’ll want to brush your teeth side by side and watch each other get dressed and undressed. That grows old pretty fast though, because most people are going to need their space at some point. The best thing you can do is figure out how much solitude your partner craves, ‘fess up about your own needs, and make a plan. Maybe he’s a night owl and you’re a morning bird — perfect — wake up an hour earlier than him and enjoy your coffee while you read a book. If your schedules coincide, you may agree to take Sunday morning and a few evenings and do your own things, whatever they may be.
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8. Don’t snoop
There are going to be countless times when your partner leaves his phone or computer out. There are also intriguing cigar boxes and drawers that only belong to him. If you snoop once, even once, you are hammering a nail in your relationship coffin. If you have the kind of trust issues that lead to snooping, you should not be moving in together yet.
I cannot stress this enough. If you haven’t already lived together, you are taking an enormous risk investing in property before you’ve had a chance to figure out if you can share the same bathroom without fighting. Hate the idea of throwing money away on rent? I hear you. But now imagine how much it will cost to buy your partner out if your relationship sours.