Moving in together can feel like a huge, scary decision. Not only are you undeniably taking the next step in your relationship, you’re also giving up that sense of freedom that allowed you to let your laundry build up for two weeks, or leave dishes in the sink for several days.
Moving in together can be a great thing though, especially if you’re used to living with roommates; breaking down the barriers and living with someone you deeply care about is a much more rewarding and cozy situation than living with a friend or someone you met on Craigslist.
“I knew it was the right time when I was spending literally every night at Ryan’s,” said Tyler, 27, from Toronto. “We already knew each other’s quirks and not-so-great habits and knew we could work around them. I definitely think those training wheels helped us get where we are and go into it knowing we could work through any new challenges that living together presented.”
“My experience with moving in with my ex-boyfriend was… not so great,” said Kelly, 31, from New York City. “It was a few years ago now, I was still in school and my then-boyfriend was working full time. We hardly had time to see each other, and both of our leases were up, so despite only dating for six months, we decided to move in together to save rent.”
“Let’s just say, it was not enough time to get to know each other before being crammed in a tiny East Village apartment all the time,” she added.
Are you thinking about moving in with your partner? Here’s what to consider before signing a lease together, according to dating experts. Moving in together can be a great next step…but there are reg flags you’ll want to look for to make sure it works out.
When to Move in Together
Moving in together is an important milestone. It’s often viewed as a stepping stone for something bigger, but moving in together is a huge step.
According to Lauren O’Connell, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, a guiding motive to move in together is often the desire to move the relationship forward.
“I don’t think this is something easily defined as good or bad—it depends on the relationship itself, and the people in it, and their particular reasoning and motives to move the relationship forward,” she said.
Another motive is often saving money. Cohabitating is a way to combine resources, save on rent, not have roommates and perhaps even afford a nicer place. According to O’Connell, this is good if this isn’t the only impetus for moving in.
“It doesn’t mean you don’t love each other or that it might also lead to an engagement or marriage, but think about it—there is no simpler way to double your income overnight than by moving in with your sweetie,” added Dr. Diane Strachowski, Ed.D, Licensed Psychologist.
Another reason to move in is simply the desire to spend more time together. Often, happy couples say “we moved in together because I was sleeping at his/her house every night anyway.” This is a wonderful reason to move in together. It means you’ll enjoy each other’s company every night with all your stuff in one place.
If you’re seriously considering moving in with your partner, O’Connell suggests living together a few days a week before fully integrating your living spaces.
“It’s smart to live together before moving in,” she said. “Moving in is often the first significant experience a couple has of blending finances, compromising, and discovering things about the person that are difficult.”
Dr. Strachowski agreed. “You want to be certain who and what you are attaching to, it might feel like a huge risk to get serious, or even marry someone you’ve never lived with. How else will you learn their personal quirks? Do they clean up after themselves? Do they take the dog for walks?”
Besides the financial benefits, moving in together serves as a trial run, so to speak. If it doesn’t work, it’s easier to break a lease than file for a divorce.
On the other hand, it is 2019 and if you don’t feel you ever want to share your space permanently with a partner, you don’t have to. Having your space completely to yourself, and having the freedom to live where you want without having to consider someone else’s needs and wants is valid, and if it’s something important to you, the right partner should support that.
However, given that moving in together is an expected step in traditional linearly advancing relationships, it’s important to be open and honest about this up front.
Your moving in together checklist
“Too many couples I have seen in therapy did not have any open conversations, which leads to differing expectations and significant problems later on,” said Tracy K. Ross, Couples Therapist. “What I hear in my office is that one person assumed moving in was a step towards commitment and the other person just thought it was something they were doing because it felt right at the time.”
Moving in together might be right for you if…
- Your lives are intertwined: “If you’re fully functioning as a couple and integrated into each other’s families and social circles, the relationship continues to grow and progress, you don’t have any significant doubts but you’re just not quite ready for engagement and marriage—moving in is probably a very good next step,” said Ross.
- You are pretty sure you want to be together forever: It is a solid step to take if you have discussed what moving in means to each of you and clarified that you’re on the same page about it.
- You can talk about serious topics: How will you split the bills? Are you dividing just the rent or the housekeeper, the food, the gardener? “Most couples talk about wanting an ‘equal’ relationship and the literature supports the benefits of equal relationships, but equal doesn’t mean 50/50—it means that both are contributing proportionally about the same,” said Dr. Strachowski.
Moving in together might be a bad idea if…
- One person is pressuring the other: Or if the move is motivated by one person’s lease expiring and not much else.
- One of you is financially unstable: If there is a big financial disparity between the two of you and it is hard to broach that subject, or it’s unclear how that will be handled.
- One person is relocating for the other: If one of you is moving for a new job, or if you’ve been doing long distance, this could create an uneven compromise in the relationship, especially if one of you insists you live together as a condition of making the move.
- Moving in is a gesture to “save the relationship”: If there are major issues in the relationship that haven’t been worked out and cohabitating is used as a last-ditch effort to get things back on track, most of the time, it will only make things worse.
- It will need to be kept a secret from your families: If for one reason or another moving in together means hiding the fact from your families, you may not be ready to take the next step.
- One of you has a child: If one of you have a child and your partner isn’t certain or has different ideas about how to integrate the child into their new living situation, that could lead to friction.
Moving in together is a big deal, no matter what
“I think moving in together can be a very positive thing as long as the expectations and meaning of the decision are communicated and processed by the couple,” said Ross. “Too often I see couples in therapy who moved in with each other out of convenience, or to avoid or delay a decision about marriage. It can end up hurting the relationship and one or both of the parties involved.”
If the conditions are right, moving in together can be incredibly fulfilling, according to Tyler. “Ryan and I have been living together for over three years now and although there have admittedly been a few bumps along the way, I do feel like overall it has been incredible for our relationship,” he said.
“The one piece of advice I would give is to make sure to plan date nights outside of the house, and keep in mind that even if you’ve gotten extremely comfortable living together, it’s important to remember to put in effort and keep that spark alive.”
But if you’re not in the right place in your relationship, there’s a good chance you’ll be much happier on your own, as Kelly found out the hard way.
“Honestly, I still live alone and I don’t even mind it! I continue seeing guys, but right now, my career is my main focus and having space to decompress after a long day is a top priority to me. I wouldn’t mind being in a long term relationship as long as he recognizes that for now, I need my space,” she said.