Gone are the days of waiting until marriage. Unmarried couples everywhere are moving in together and they’re no longer afraid of breaking the unspoken social norms or archaic taboos. In fact, nowadays moving in together is definitely a serious step, but it doesn’t always have to mean that the next step is a proposal or a marriage. Millennials have embraced the idea of breaking the rules, especially those that weren’t really that practical, realistic, or necessary in the first place.
Maybe you and your partner are thinking of making the big jump. Maybe you’re nowhere near it. Either way, it’s always great to evaluate your relationship and do a little bit of introspective thinking about who you both are and where you’re going.
That said, shacking up isn’t just a casual, everyday decision. There are legal, emotional and financial processes involved, all of which can’t be detached with a simple breakup text or simple tiff. You have to be ready to share a closet, split bills and do so many mature, adult things together.
If you’re determined to move in together, whether that means the bags are officially packed or it’s a romantic, far-off dream, these are the questions you need to be asking and the things you need to be thinking about.
1. Can you be yourself around them?
If there’s one place where you should be able to be unfiltered and authentically you, that’s in the comfort of your own. Obviously, it’s always good for you to feel accepted and at-ease in your relationship, but it’s not uncommon for couples to head their separate ways and to shed the different layers of personality or walls they put up around a partner. Maybe you’re a bit more uptight or nervous around him, but when you head home you tend to be free-spirited and silly. Maybe he’s never seen you without makeup and you lounging around with a fresh face. That’s something you need to address. Can you be yourself around him? Are you comfortable being silly or going makeup-free or whatever else you need to do? You need to be comfortable and genuine if you ever want to truly relax, unwind and make your house into a home. Besides, if you can’t be yourself then that might not mean this is the person for you.
2. How well do you know them?
It goes without saying that you shouldn’t sign a lease with a stranger. This goes hand-in-hand with the first question because how well you know someone depends on how willing they are to truly let you in. What has your partner revealed about themselves to you? This can be anything from whether they prefer dogs over cats to their political views to their family and relationship dynamics. If you’re going to share a space with someone, you need to know about both the basics and the deeper deets. A healthy relationship involves getting to know each other, happily taking in the new info and being aware of how this may affect where you both stand, especially if you’re going to share a single space.
3. How will you handle finances?
Let’s be honest, this is no fun to discuss. We’re taught to squirm when finances come up, which usually leads to leaving them unmentioned. Here’s the problem: the stigma around financial matters as some sort of impolite or off-limits topic of conversation only makes things like living together (or even just living independently) harder. You should be aware of how you deal with money, your spending habits and what you make or earn, as should your partner. From there, you need to talk about how you’ll handle bills, your lease, your credit and so many other financial matters that come with living together. Will you split things evenly? How? Make a plan. Is he a little bit more forgetful when it comes to bills? How will you handle that? There’s a lot to unpack.
4. How will you handle arguments?
There’s no slamming the door to the bedroom here. You now share a bedroom. It’s pretty common for couples to head home and cool off after a spat, but that’s not so simple when you both live in the same home. How do you handle heated discussions or arguments? Does he leave? Do you cry? These are not fun things to think about by any means, but they’re necessary. It may save you a bit of heartache and confusion in the future. Make sure that you can handle the idea of a fight without the option of saying goodbye and having your own space entirely to yourself afterwards.
5. What are your individual expectations?
No, moving in together does not mean you’re getting married or will ever get married. Societal expectations don’t need to influence your individual expectations, but these desires and goals should be topics of discussion for you before moving in together. What does moving mean to you? What do you want to get out of the relationship? You need to tell your partner what you expect of yourself as a significant other, as a roommate and as a friend. He might be thinking this is something else completely, so it’s better to clear the air and make sure you’re heading home on the same path.
6. What are your goals?
You might be signing a lease or buying a home. That is somewhat of a commitment and it’s certainly a serious one in the eyes of the law. You are bound to something for a period of time. In that period of time and beyond, what do you hope you’ll accomplish? What about your partner? If you see a long-term future together, then you must remain informed on each other’s desires for the future and where you both fall in one another’s plans. Think about where you see yourself in five years or ten years, whether getting married seems right, if you want kids, etc. It behooves you to at least discuss what you want within the terms of your lease.
7. How will you handle chores?
Nobody wants to feel like a mom or a maid. It’s easy to ignore someone’s OCD neatness or slacker-ish messiness when you don’t also have to live in it. Where you may have thought washing his dishes when you slept over was a cute, sweet thing to do as a treat, you’d probably would not want to do that every single day. You need to understand someone’s level of neatness or messiness in order to happily live together and you also have to put some action to either of them. You can make a chore chart, set up some sort of reminder text message or promise not to nag about cleaning. Either way, it has to be mentioned, otherwise you’re just going to feel like a mom or a maid. No thanks.
8. What will happen if you break up? Do you have a backup plan?
You’re probably trying to think positive and don’t want to get swept up in any negative thoughts, but you have to make sure you don’t confuse realism and preparedness for negativity. If you’re going to move in together, you have to make sure you at least take steps to protect yourself if you break up, move out, or anything goes wrong. It’s always good to have a plan B, especially when high emotions and significant financial commitments are involved. Make sure that you’re both legally obligated to certain things like the lease, while you’re also only responsible for your own legal belongings. If there are any doubts or fears, don’t shy away from protecting yourself by making sure you’re all covered. This does NOT mean you should have one foot out the door, but it does mean being cautious.
9. How will you each get your own space?
It’s hard to find individual space in a shared space. You might have plenty of time away from each other, but it always helps to have a place to go that’s truly your own. You have a few options. If you prefer to have a physical space of your own, this could mean putting in a desk to sit at or a reading nook or something of that sort, as long as it’s connected to you and your hobbies or passions. This could also be interpreted as meaning you each have your own things and identities so that you’re not totally invested and attached as a couple. Do you have your own friends? What about your own activities? Make sure there are things of yours and only yours that you are whole.
10. What do you like about each other?
Don’t be afraid of how corny or cliche this sounds. It always helps to think about and discuss the things that attract you to one another. You want to remain of these things and make sure that those positives outweigh the negatives. Some people say that the things you find cute about someone become the things you hate when you move in together, but this isn’t always the case. If anything, these serve as cute reminders of why you moved in together in the first place.
Remember that you make your own rules, so don’t feel pressured to make or break certain norms. Either way, you’ll figure it out.