So, you’re dating someone, and have been for a while. You and the Significant Other have been talking: maybe it’s time to move in together? You’re already swapping nights over at each other’s apartments anyway, and you each have two toothbrushes, one for your apartment and one you keep at the Significant Other’s. The relationship is getting serious; it might be time to take the plunge. But how do you know when you’re ready? Here’s a brief checklist:
1. Have you been dating for over a year? If not, forget about it. All those people telling you not to do it, that it’s too soon, that this is just madness, that things won’t always be like they are right now, that you don’t know the other person well enough, all those people are right. It might seem like your relationship is special, that you and your honey will buck the odds and have it all work out – but, probably not. Everyone who rushes into moving in together thinks they’re special, that their relationship is different … and yet think of how seldom it ends up working. So don’t be a statistic. Just wait a little longer and see….
2. Are you doing it just because your lease is up? This goes hand-in-hand with point number one. Particularly for big-city dwellers without much cash, for whom roommates are necessities, this can be a motivating factor. I was eavesdropping on the El the other day, listening to a woman who’d moved in with her boyfriend after 2 months because both their leases were up and they were always “at each other’s places all the time anyway.” This is a bad idea. And it can lead to a lot of misery, far more than the inconvenience of finding a new roommate or apartment. Case in point: guess what the woman was talking about when I was eavesdropping? She was complaining about how miserable she was living with her now ex-boyfriend. Hmmm… she and her boyfriend had eight months left on their lease. I don’t envy them.
3. Have you and the Significant Other talked about it before? If neither of you has brought it up yet, it’s probably not quite time – it might be time to bring up the possibility, to talk it through. Heck, after talking about it, and thinking on it, you and your sweetie pie might be ready to move in together in a few months. But if neither of you have even mentioned it, you don’t know what the other’s reaction is going to be – and this can’t be a unilateral decision.
4. Have you and your Significant Other had big fights before? Contrary to what you might think, it’s better if you have. Why? Well, if you move in together, there are going to be a few fights. You’re going to have to work through some things. It’s natural: you’re sharing a space in a way you haven’t before, it’s a psychological adjustment, and you won’t have your respective corners to retreat to. A fight or two will happen, no matter how good the relationship. And if you’ve had a big fight or two already, you know your relationship is something worth fighting for, that you and the Significant Other can weather it and come out stronger. If you’ve not yet had a real argument, then, who knows?
5. Is this something that you want to last long-term? Generally speaking, that’s a good sign – it means you’ll stick with it, it means that you’re serious. But also make sure your Significant Other is on the same page. If not, it can lead to problems. And this is not to say all move-ins have to be the preamble to a potentially long-term commitment, i.e., the dreaded M word.
6. If it’s not a long-term thing, make sure to have some clearly defined idea of what’s going on. I have a friend who moved to Mexico with his girlfriend. She was Mexican, he wanted to live in Mexico for a while, so their plan was that he’d live there for a year with her, then move back to the States and that would be the end of it. They both liked each other and were interested in a medium-term type relationship, but not in a marriage-level-type future commitment. This can work out fine – as long as both parties are honest with themselves about how they feel. If one party cares about the relationship far more than the other, it will inevitably lead to hurt feelings and emotional pain. So, be careful.
Okay, so now I’ve banged out the basic checklist – once you’ve passed this test, there are still a few more details to consider. Check in next week for Part II, where I get down to the nitty-gritty, including money issues.