There are a lot of benefits to moving in together. You no longer have to spend time driving or commuting to see your loved one. You can say goodbye to the toothbrush in your purse and the overnight bag under your desk at work. Splitting the rent might even mean you could move to a nicer place (or at least stop living with roommates).
According to 2015 report, the number of young and middle-aged Americans who cohabitate with a partner they’re not married to has doubled in the past 25 years — and 66% of married couples have lived together before marriage. But when do you know it’s time to move in together? And what conversations do you need to have before you sign a lease or buy a home? We talked to Moraya Seeger DeGeare, MA, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and the co-owner of BFF Therapy in Beacon, NY to find out more.
Examine Why You Want To Move In Together
First, think about why you want to move in together. Particularly in cities with a high cost of living, some couples move in together to save on rent — and then discover their relationship wasn’t ready for that step. One 2014 study found that while 27% of people moved in with their partner within the first six months of dating, only 7% said they’d recommend living together so early. While there is no specific length of time you need to be dating before moving in together, you’ll want to consider what your motivations are, and how much you and your partner share your lives — especially if you’ve been together for less than a year.
“When you know that this is the person you want to be with, that’s a really good time to start talking about it,” DeGeare says. Other things to consider: Do you know your partner really well? Do you know their family and friends? Do you have established routines together? How comfortable do you really feel with them?
Decide How You Want To Split Finances
“You definitely want to talk about money in advance, and I think a lot of people know that,” DeGeare says. But although this advice is common, it’s still necessary. Decide how you’re going to split the rent, bills, and shared expenses — including groceries and household necessities like toilet paper. Are you going to combine your finances, even partially? What about savings? What are your financial priorities when it comes to your home — are you going to invest in new furniture together, or are you all about the IKEA MALM?
You should also talk more generally about how you handle money: what's your budget like? Do you budget? “Even if you don’t have bad spending habits, most people are going to have different relationships with money,” DeGeare explains.
Open Up About Your Debt
One thing many couples often overlook when talking about finances is talking about debt. With over 80% of millennials carrying some kind of debt, paying off student loans and credit card debt are a big part of most people’s monthly expenses. How will debt figure into how you split your costs? Will you contribute to paying off each other’s debt? “It can be really positive to think about it as a combined debt,” DeGeare suggests — particularly if you’re planning on getting married in the future.
Discuss How You’ll Split Chores
You’ve probably read at least a few think pieces about "the second shift," aka the gender gap when it comes to who's responsible for chores and childcare — and it’s a real issue, particularly for couples made up of a man and a woman. But queer couples may also have different expectations about who does the chores, too — or simply different comfort levels with dust and grime. How long are you okay with letting dishes sit in the sink? How often do you deep-clean? If you're planning on children in the future, this is where you have the childcare discussion, too.
DeGeare suggests beginning by talking about how your family split up chores while you were growing up — and share if you want to stick to those patterns or create something different. And be realistic — know that you’ll continue to have conversations about household labor going forward as your circumstances change. “When you move in together, you can put up rigid rules, but you’re going to have to adjust,” DeGeare says.
Talk About How You’ll Create A Home Together
DeGeare specializes in culturally diverse counseling. She says that talking about how you’ll combine your cultures is important — and can also be really fun. “When you’re dreaming together, imagine what you want your home to feel like,” she says. Talk about both your past and the future you want together — the sort of food you’ll share, your home decor, and how you’ll celebrate holidays. Don't forget the nitty-gritty details: Do you come from a shoes-on or a shoes-off household? Did your family eat dinner together every night?
Be mindful of any assumptions. “A lot of people go into relationships with expectations like ‘that’s just how people grow up,’ without really thinking about it,” DeGeare says. Instead of being critical, think of this discussion as a way to imagine your shared life together.
Consider How You Handle Stress
When you live together, there’s no avoiding each other — including when you’re stressed. DeGeare suggests partners discuss how they react to everyday stress and how they act in times of crisis. “Are they more likely to pull away, or are they more likely to go after the problem?” she says. “Those are the conversations you want to be able to comfortably have before you move in together.” Know that you're going to argue sometimes, and be honest about how you'll react.
Be Honest About Past Relationships
Get real with yourself and your partner about why past relationships didn’t work — especially if you’ve lived with a partner before. “Be really honest about why it ended,” DeGeare says. “Not just the breakup, but why the living together part might have been challenging.”
She also suggests doing some soul-searching about any lingering trauma from past romantic relationships, as well as from childhood. “Because that’s absolutely going to show up, especially if this is the first time a person’s moving in with a partner,” DeGeare says.
Share Your Long-Term Expectations
Before you move in together, talk about your long-term plans for your relationship. Are you planning on getting married? If so, discuss your timeline. The same goes for having children: Do you want children? If so, how many children do you want to have? When? “It’s crucial to be on the same page,” DeGeare says. “I see this a lot with couples, where they have different ideas and their timelines are really far apart. One person ends up with a lot of resentment.”
DeGeare says that you need to be able to have vulnerable conversations with your partner — starting with, “What’s your biggest fear for this relationship?” Be open about what your fears are about moving in together or getting more serious.
“You need to wait if you can't be vulnerable with your partner," DeGeare says. "If you’re like, ‘oh, I really like them,’ but you can’t risk it and have an honest conversation, you absolutely need to wait because that’s going to blow up in your face. All of us are craving connection, but if we’re not willing to be vulnerable, then sure, we’ll save some money, but we’re going to feel really lonely.”