On the list of the most stressful life events, moving in with a significant other is somewhere near the top. I can personally attest that it’s there for good reason. Moving in with a boyfriend or girlfriend is extremely different from living with roommates, and I know couples who’ve broken up because they jumped in without being fully ready. If you’re about to move in with your significant other or you’re considering it, here is some hard-earned wisdom from my first year of cohabitation.
Assess whether or not you’re actually ready to move in together. I mean for real.
Have you been together less than a year? Stop reading this. You’re not ready. I’m serious, just don’t. Hit the one year mark and then we’ll talk.
Haven’t had real, productive fights yet? Get out of here now.
Are you moving in because one of you just got kicked out of your current living space or is going through some major transitional period or is short on cash and needs a place to live? Find another solution, even if it’s temporary. Moving in because you “have” to is just going to add undue stress to an already stressful situation and possibly lead to a breakup that could otherwise have been prevented.
Still with me? Okay. Have a serious discussion with your significant other about what you expect your life together to be like. Not the cutesy, John Mayer song where you’re having sex on Sunday mornings and doing the crossword together every weekend over brunch. What does this mean for your relationship? Where will moving in lead to eventually? How will money factor in? What is a realistic area or neighborhood as far as commuting, cost, and personality fit?
Make a budget beforehand.
If you do only one thing suggested in this post, or even this website, make it this: sit down and make a realistic budget before you even start looking for an apartment. The number one reason for divorce? Money. Don’t think that only comes into play when you’re married. When you live together, you become financially interdependant. The budget you had in college or when you lived at home completely changes when you’re running a household. See our post on how to make a household budget and do it with your partner.
You’ll start to see what’s important to each of you. Would you rather live in a smaller place and get out of debt faster? Do you want to spend more money living in a nice place so you can entertain at home instead of going out all the time? Will you cook at home or order out more?
Rent should be no more than 1/3 of your monthly after-tax income, so if one of you makes significantly more than the other, maybe one person will shoulder more of the financial responsibility (at least for the time being). Not everything has to be split 50-50. Just make sure each person is truly okay with the arrangement.
Moving costs more than you think. Estimate how much you need for furniture, cleaning supplies, everyday household items, kitchen utensils, appliances, moving supplies (yes, you actually have to pay for things like boxes, tape, and bubble wrap), movers (or pizza & beer money if your friends are helping you), a van, and so on.
And don’t forget that in most states the tenant pays the realtor fee. You can negotiate this with the landlord, and in most cases at least get them to split it, but you still need money for a deposit (1 or 1 1/2 month’s rent), setting up utilities, and perhaps a pet deposit. And of course, you should always have a nest egg in case there’s an emergency or one of you loses their job.
Figure out how much all that is going to cost and double it. Then add some more. Now you have a realistic estimate of how much just moving in is going to cost you. Even moving in with someone who already has a place is going to cost you. See our posts on finding an apartment and moving on a budget for more help on this front.
QUICK NOTE: If one of you already has an apartment and the other is moving in, make sure to get a new lease with both of your names. You should do this for two reasons: 1.) If the landlord didn’t realize more than one person would be living there and takes issue with it, you’re in violation of the lease and can be evicted. 2.) If the worst happens and you break up, without your name on the lease you have no legal rights to that apartment. He/she can kick you to the curb with no recourse.
Guys might think a giant TV and no forks is an okay way to live, but most girls will freak out once they realize that’s how their boyfriend believes the two of them should exist. Take an inventory of everything the two of you have and what you’ll need. You probably won’t be able to buy everything you want for the apartment right away, so prioritize what you’ll need immediately to function on a day-to-day basis and retain your sanity.
Resign yourself to the fact that the fights will increase – at first.
“Oh we don’t really fight, we get along really well.” Well you’re gonna fight now.
“But we love each other.” I’m sure you do, but you’re going to fight.
“We’re different.” No you’re not.
Stop kidding yourself: you will fight. You’ll fight more than you ever did. You’ll wonder if anyone has ever fought this much without it ending in divorce or a grizzly murder-suicide. And it’ll be different fighting than you’re used to. And you won’t have your own house or apartment to storm off to until you calm down.
Honestly, it might help just to know that yes, it is normal. If you have friends who have moved in together, take some time away from your partner and grab a drink with them to talk about it. You might underestimate just how much it helps to talk it out with people who’ve been there. Maybe see a therapist, separately or together. Calling in professional help doesn’t mean you’re nuts or in trouble. It’s all about preventative maintenance.
Have a place you can go for a time out. Get out of the house and away from your partner. Go shopping, go to the gym, take a walk somewhere, grab a drink – whatever. Just get out and do something else. Give each other a chance to breathe.
Remember that the fighting is temporary. It lasts a few months and eventually settles down, but only if you fight fair and productively, and you’re willing to set aside your ego and compromise. Be willing to change. Don’t come at it with the attitude of: “Well this is just how I am and you have to get used to it.” You both need to make adjustments if you want it to work out. So woman up and be willing to not always get your way.
Childhood and family issues will rear their ugly head.
It wasn’t until I moved in with my boyfriend that I realized how different our childhoods were and how much that colored our divergent expectations. I thought I had a handle on how being the only child of a single mom had spoiled me, only to realize that I had no clue how self-centered I could really be sometimes.
All I can say is, talk it out. Talk it out as calmly and as often as possible. It sounds totally lame but my mom taught me to start by filling in the blanks in this sentence: “When you do _______ I feel _______ because _______ .”
Sometimes you’re responding to issues from your past and you’re not so much fighting with your partner as you are with ghosts from your upbringing. Again, brining in a professional might not be a ridiculous notion.
Never underestimate how your surroundings affect your general mood.
Don’t rush into getting a place because you’re afraid you won’t find one or you think it’s the best you can do. Don’t assume that you’ll get used to a high traffic area or crazy noise levels. Don’t live in barren surroundings because you’re too lazy to decorate or you don’t think it’s worth improving a rental. And don’t stay in a relationship that’s not working because you feel trapped in a lease or a living situation.
Do a quick Google scholar search and you’ll find literally thousands of articles with evidence that your living quarters affect your overall mood and well-being. Even the craziest workaholics spend more than 50% of their time at home. That’s a lot of your life to spend in misery.
If all of this gave you pause, good – you should take it seriously. But I don’t want to scare anybody, because it can be amazing. My boyfriend and I have become a stronger couple and better friends since moving in. I’ve definitely become a more self-aware and slightly improved person in general. And I’d venture to say that nothing, short of marriage, makes you feel more like a real team than sharing a household and a life together.
But I will hit him the next time I see a dirty dish in the bedroom.