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Consider the why.
Some people want a ring on their finger before co-signing a lease. Some wait until they cannot stand another year with their roommates. And some suggest a six-months-of-dating minimum. But asking yourself why exactly you want to take this step is more important than how long you've been together. "Moving in because you want to share your life with a partner who loves and supports you is a great reason," says Steinberg. "Feeling desperate because your lease is up is not."
Once you’ve determined your reasoning is sound, it can't hurt to double-confirm with a trial run of sorts. Schedule a mini couple's getaway, split the planning, and take note of what does and doesn't work. No, vacation life isn't reality, but it will give you a chance to feel out how you naturally divide chores and responsibilities.
Talking about money with anyone tends to be uncomfortable, but if you and your S.O. are planning to merge households, it's an absolute must. Before signing a lease — or even hunting for apartments — divulge your debt, income, and savings. Based on all that, proceed to calculate how much each of you can afford to contribute to your shared monthly rent.
"Fair doesn't always mean equal when it comes to splitting rent," says Steinberg. "Couples often factor in discrepancies in their respective incomes, and each contribute the same percentage of their annual pay." However you slice and dice it, vow to speak up the minute either one of you feels resentful, and set the expectation that you can reevaluate as your finances shift. Raise? Lost job? Major inheritance? All grounds to reexamine your arrangement.
Devise an exit strategy.
It's not the sexiest subject matter, but having the if-we-break-up talk now can help circumvent major conflict down the road, when emotions are sure to be running high. In the event that things simply don't work out, talk through how you'll split assets, and reassure one another that failure to work as roomies isn't always a relationship deal-breaker. It just may mean you weren't yet ready to take that step.
"Use language like, 'If we decide we're better off not living together...' not, 'If this bombs miserably...'" says Steinberg. "It's important to approach this tough talk with a positive, understanding energy."
Split the chores.
Say hello to your old friend, the chore chart. That's right, you and your partner are going to handle this the same way your kindergarten class did. Talk through which tasks you each dislike the most — some of us nail-art fanatics hate dishes, while others can't stand schlepping the recycling downstairs — customize a weekly schedule, and hang it on the fridge.
Next, create and hang another list of must-have cleaning supplies, like fresh sponges, paper towels, and a Clorox ToiletWand. Use it to keep track of who was the last to restock the stash (buying everything in bulk from one online source like Jet.com makes it easy) so that neither of you has to nag — or end up relying on tissues to clean up major spills.
Don't stop dating.
Bae's seen you sans makeup at this point, but has he or she seen you on day three of a sinus infection? Or after a burrito that didn't quite sit right? According to Steinberg, it's perfectly normal to fear that once your S.O. sees you at your worst, your sex life will fizzle away to a platonic bunkmate status. But if you've made it this far, the chances are slim that this will do you in.
That said, it's still important to make an effort when it counts. "Don't stop dating one another," she suggests. "Just because you see each other every day doesn't mean you can't still have special, planned nights out."