So, you think it’s time to take the leap and move in with your significant other. But, before you dive right in, you’re wondering what you should know and consider before you pop the big “should we move in together?” question. Moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend is a huge step that can have either a really, really positive impact on your relationship, or a really, really negative one if you decide to live together for all the wrong reasons.
Don’t let that freak you out — we’re here to help. If you’re thinking about cohabitation with your significant other, check out this quick and easy guide to living together. From knowing when it’s the right time to dealing with the day-to-day adjustments, we’ve got you covered.
HOW TO KNOW YOU ARE READY
The most important consideration is whether you’re truly ready to move in together (as individuals and as a couple). As we mentioned above, taking this step too soon or at a bad time can have serious consequences. With that in mind, it makes sense to think long and hard about your decision before signing a lease and jumping into cohabitation. So, how do know when you’re ready to move in together? Ask yourself these questions and they should provide some clarity.
Have we been together long enough? If you’ve been dating less than a year, it’s always a good rule of thumb to wait a while before moving in together. That doesn’t mean that you’re doomed if you move in too soon, but, overall, the chances of it being a positive experience are less.
Why do we want to move in together? If “saving money” and “convenience” came up at all, you’re definitely not ready for this big commitment. Moving in together should be about building a life together and taking the next step in your relationship — money and the fact that your lease is almost up are NEVER good reasons.
Have you sat down to talk about living together? If not, now is the time to do it. Before moving in with anyone (family, your BFF, a random stranger), it’s always good practice to sit down and chat about logistics, wants, and needs first. Talk about what you’re both feeling, and discuss the future, the details of living together (where you’ll live, who will pay what, and on and on and on…), and whether or not this is a good decision for both of you. Not being on the same page can lead to disaster.
Are you comfortable enough to argue with your partner and talk about uncomfortable topics? When you move in with someone — yes, even someone you know really well — you learn all sorts of things about them, and some of those discoveries may get on your nerves. In fact, don’t be surprised if more arguments than usual happen in the early stages of your cohabitation (it’s just part of the adjustment phase). So, before you move in together, make sure that you’re comfortable arguing with you significant other (if you haven’t had serious fights before, it’s usually a good sign that you are not ready to move in together) and are comfortable talking about uncomfortable topics, like money. Living together should build upon a level of trust and openness that already exists — don’t expect moving in together to create something that wasn’t originally there in your relationship.
SETTING FINANCIAL AND HOUSE RULES
Once you decide you’re both ready to move in together and are on the same page about what this means for your relationship, the next step is talking about financials and the house rules. Sit down together and talk about what you can each afford, how you’ll be splitting all costs (everything from utilities to date night to a toilet paper buying schedule), and what the house rules will be (who can stay over, guidelines for pet peeves, splitting chores, and so on). Establishing guidelines and having these conversations before moving in together will ensure you’re both clear about expectations.
Most importantly, once the plan is set and the rules are put in place, follow them. Not sticking to your side of the bargain is disrespectful to your significant other and shows lack of commitment on your part. Plus, nobody likes a inconsiderate roommate, even if it’s their boyfriend or girlfriend.
LEGAL ISSUES TO KEEP IN MIND
Trust in your partner is important, but protecting yourself is ALWAYS a good idea. So, make sure that you’re covered legally should any issues (like a breakup) come up. Here’s what to do/pay attention to:
Decide if you want both of your names on the lease. There are pros and cons to having/not having your name listed — for a breakdown click here.
Pay attention to the penalties for breaking the lease and what can happen if rent is not paid. In order to make sure you aren’t liable to pay both your portion of rent and that of your significant other’s in case they do not keep up with their half, make sure your lease has a clause that dictates “individual liability” rather than “joint liability.”
Pay attention and know your rights in regard to damage to the apartment. Even if you didn’t cause the damage, you could be liable for it as a party to the lease.
Get renter’s insurance. Seriously, this is a non-negotiable — do it!.
MERGING YOUR DECORATING STYLES
Sharing your space and merging your style with someone else’s is a tricky process, whether your roomie is your significant other or a stranger you met through Craigslist. You can run into challenges even when you both have similar styles and tastes, but things can get really complicated — ugly, even – when you can’t see eye-to-eye on decorating decisions. If you and your significant other are having decorating wars, consider these strategies:
Work on a creative compromise. Whether it’s splitting up rooms around the apartment to showcase your individual styles or end up merging your two styles together in every room, it’s important to be willing to compromise. The space belongs to both of you, so keep in mind that being a decorating diva is not cool.
Discover what you both like. Grab a few decorating magazines and catalogues and flip through them together (noting when you find an item or room you both like). This will help you discover your common ground, and will make it easier to create a space you both love and are happy to call home.
Focus on what’s most important. There’s no reason to have a war over every little thing you put in your shared apartment. Instead, focus on what’s most important to you both. Your partner may love that (arguably hideous) painting, but you love that shag rug that he/she despises, so you both either give up your favorites or learn to live with them. Yep, that’s right, decorating together can teach you some seriously valuable relationship lessons.
ADJUSTING TO COHABITATION — 10 SIMPLE RULES
As we mentioned before, sometimes moving in together can spark some serious fights. And, that’s totally okay. But, it’s how you deal with disagreements and tricky issues with your partner that can really make or break your relationship. To keep the peace and to bring up issues in a productive, positive way, it’s smart to follow these rules for living with your significant other:
BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO
When you live together, breaking up becomes a whole lot more complicated: There’s no easy way to just say your goodbyes and then go on your merry way. If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation (and we hope you never do), there’s a few things you can do to alleviate the awkwardness.
If it’s a while before the lease is up:
Talk to your landlord about the situation. They may or may not be sympathetic or willing to help, but you can at least use the conversation as an opportunity to go over your options and/or the consequences of breaking your lease.
Break your lease and deal with the consequences. If you need out badly enough, a dint in your wallet might just be worth it. But, if the consequences are more serious, we recommend grinning and bearing it until the end.
Come to a compromise together and wait it out. Whether it’s getting another place and sharing the costs or rearranging the apartment into a two bedroom setup, there might just be a way to find a temporary solution that you can both live with.
Sublet your apartment. If your lease allows subletting and there is market for them in your city, this could be your best and most cost-effective solution.
Move out and stay with friends/family members until you regain your bearings. Word of caution: don’t make it a habit and definitely don’t take advantage of your friends/family. They’ll want you to leave eventually, and you should.
SPLITTING APARTMENT ITEMS
A related issue in breaking up is how to split your stuff:*
*A word of advice here — Don’t act like a big child. Pitching fits and being a jerk won’t get you anywhere with your ex, so be cordial. If they’re being less than pleasant as well, you being the bigger person might help bring down his/her defenses some, too.
If you didn’t pay for anything together, only take what you personally paid for or what you brought to the apartment at the beginning. This will make it easy for you both.
Don’t try to take gifts you gave your partner while living together. If it was a gift, it doesn’t matter if you bought it, it belongs to your ex — period.
If you went halfsies on most things, make a list of everything in the apartment, sit down together and divvy it all up. Things you both don’t want should be sold for split profit or donated. Things you can’t agree on should also be sold or resolved by compromise e.g., your ex takes the TV you bought together and you take the living room furniture.
Let your ex have it all and move on. If you’re lucky enough to be able to afford all new things and don’t want to have a bunch of things lying around that remind of your ex in your new place, be the bigger person and let them keep the stuff.