Moving in together: what should you know before you give them a key?
Our ultimate guide to moving in together is here to help. Clue yourself up to all the potential pitfalls and problems and you might just be able to avoid them.
Looking for date advice on the go? Listen to our podcast about the pitfalls (and perks!) of moving in together. Want the full story? The article continues below.
What's the right time to consider moving in together?
If there’s one key to moving in together successfully, it’s getting the timing right. Rush into living together and you risk ruining everything. Forever.
That might sound dramatic, but moving in together is a big deal. There might be many advantages to living together – some financial benefits for example, and not always having to travel back and forth to each other’s places – but moving in together is not something that can easily be undone. Try testing the water by leaving a few things at each other’s places first – though be sure to discuss this beforehand too!
“Cohabitation doesn’t cause divorce” Dr Arielle Kuperberg reports in her 2014 study on cohabiting couples1. “What leads to divorce is when people move in with someone – with or without a marriage license – before they have the maturity and experience to choose compatible partners and to conduct themselves in ways that can sustain a long-term relationship.”
- Read more: one test of relationship maturity is feeling real love - not infatuation. Discover the difference here!
Does it seem like you spend all your time together, and moving in together feels like the next logical step? While that may be the case, it doesn’t mean it needs to happen right away; many people who feel an intense connection with their partner, even when they haven’t been together all that long, fall into the trap of thinking that they’re ready for more. Telling yourself “I’m serious about this person, where’s the harm in moving things along a bit more quickly?” misjudges how long it takes to really get to know someone. Ask yourself this: if it’s going to last forever anyway, what’s the harm in waiting?
Ultimately, moving in together pretty much gets rid of any mystery still held between you. You’ll need to learn to love your partner’s domestic self, see them at their worst, and deal with them at their after-work grumpiest. And they’ll have to do the same for you too! If you’re already familiar with those aspects of your partner and still love them anyway, only then are you in the position to consider moving in together. One year? Two years? There’s no definite amount time you need to have been dating – it’s much more about the attitude.
- Read more: seeing your partner's flaws and loving them anyway is one part of having a healthy relationship. Learn six more signs here
When it is the right time, moving in together can be one of the most exciting parts of a long-term relationship – not least in the planning stage! It’s not all in the anticipation though, and you may well have a honeymoon period when it’s still brand new. That said, the challenges of living together don’t stop there…
Compromise is the key to cohabitation
They say that the secret to a successful relationship is negotiating compromise, and that’s never truer than when you’re moving in together. So what if you hate your partner’s ugly armchair? It’s special to him, and there’s no getting rid of it now…
Try to head off these problems by discussing as many flash points as you can imagine in a calm environment before you’ve made the commitment to live together. If you can’t agree now, and things get argumentative, maybe it’s not quite time yet. But you will have saved the relationship – there’s nothing worse than discovering too late that you can’t find a compromise on your living arrangements. At least if you do this beforehand you can escape to the comfort of your separate homes!
- Read more: some romantic issues can be bigger than other. Click here for insight on the three most common relationship problems - and how to solve them
Not sure what you might have to compromise on? Here’s a totally incomprehensive list of potential battlegrounds…
- Furnishing (and where to put everything)
- How to spend your evenings in together
- When to spend your evenings in together
- Who to have over to your place
- When to have other people over to your place
- What to eat
- When to eat
- Who does which chores
Don’t be put off by any of this – fact is, you’ve probably already figured out what your partner’s taste is, what you like to do as a couple, who you like to socialize with and everything else during the dating stage. It’s just worth bearing in mind that when you live together, you relinquish some of the control you have over your time and living space to your partner – you need to know they’ll be responsible with it!
- Learning to compromise is one test of true love. Think you've nailed the rest? Take our Am I In Love quiz!
The inevitable tests of moving in together
All couples are different, but there are a handful of common problems and pitfalls that are worth looking out for when you’ve just begun living together. Perhaps none will apply, (or just one, or even all of them!), but forewarned is forearmed.
Domestic coupledom presents a wealth of practical tasks, from arranging and paying bills to domestic chores. Feel free to bargain off tasks you hate – doing all the ironing if your partner promises to always take out the garbage, for example – but try to make the division of labor as equal as possible. This is important, because living together is a joint venture and helping out around the house helps show your partner that you’re invested in your relationship. Even if one of you works longer hours and can’t realistically do as much, be sure that you’re both contributing in a meaningful way.
- Read more: doing a partner's chores is one little way to say 'I love you.' Find more ways to say I love you here!
On a related note, people are brought up differently and live to different standards of cleanliness and tidiness. Don’t be surprised if petty arguments about whose turn it is to do the dishes (or any chores, don’t think you’re safe if you own a dishwasher!) turn into bigger relationship problems. If you begin to resent each other over this it can be fatal for your relationship. Imagine breaking up with your partner over something so silly! But it does happen, so don’t let it spiral out of control.
Don’t forget to schedule in some quality time together too – ‘Date nights’ aren’t just for couples with kids y’know! Now you live together, you’ll probably spend more time together than ever; doing chores together, eating together, sleeping together. Similarly, now you live together you’ll notice more when your partner is gone – off with friends, at work, or pursuing their hobbies – and it’ll feel like less time gets devoted to you if you’re left home alone. Romance can all too easily fall by the wayside, if you let it. Allocate one or two nights a week you can devote to each other and make a point of doing something special or out of the ordinary to keep the spice in your relationship.
From date nights to grocery shopping, your life in a shared home is what you make of it. If you’re emotionally prepared and love the domestic side of your partner already, then go for it! Moving in together is, at least, an adventure; it’s a near-essential rite of passage for every couple and, as long as you’re there to support each other through the sticky moments, an exciting new chapter in your lives together.