You're in a loving, committed relationship; you share similar life goals; you can see your future together; you hardly spend a night apart. If you're thinking you're ready to move in with your significant other, it's definitely an exciting time in your relationship — and it's also a really big step. Hence, the reason the topic is such a source of anxiety and stress for some duos. It should not be approached willy-nilly.
When sharing a living space, even the most loving couples have some adjusting to do. And that's okay, as long as you're both willing to compromise and show each other respect. Like with many aspects of a relationship, communication is key, and while you're bound to disagree at some point or other, it's important that the conversation stays constructive. Above all, remember that moving in with your beau means you're no longer living side-by-side; it means you're starting to build a home (and life) together. You are literally doing every single day as a unit — that's not small potatoes.
Ahead, two relationship experts share their advice going from separate spaces to moving under the same roof. From deciding if you're ready to take the leap, to discussing your expectations beforehand, these therapist-approved tips will ensure that your transition into cohabitation will be as smooth as possible.
Signs You're Ready To Move In With Your S.O.:
Think you're ready to take your relationship to the next level? Gabrielle Freire, a licensed marriage and family therapist, shares a few telltale signs you and your S.O. might be ready to cohabitate:
- "You spend a lot of their time together, including spending a few nights a week at your significant other’s apartment [or vice versa]."
- "You’ve deleted all your dating apps."
- "You have a toothbrush, makeup or other toiletries, and a 'drawer' of clothes at your significant other’s place [or vice versa]."
- "You’re mature and have been in a committed relationship (with no major drama)."
- "You two adopted a dog or cat [together]."
Dr. Hernando Chaves, a licensed marriage and family therapist, adds that having mutual long-term goals and similar stances on matters like marriage, children, and where you want to live is also important. Of course, both people expressing that they're ready to take the next step is necessary, too.
But on the flip side, he reminds that only you, as an individual, can decide whether you're ready to take the leap. "I've always encouraged people to be enthusiastic with consenting to new chapters in relationships," he explains. "Many times we don't listen to our gut instincts that have reservations or concerns. If you're feeling pressured or uncomfortable with moving in, that's generally a sign that you should be very cautious about doing it."
Discuss Expectations Ahead Of Time
If you're spending a lot of time at each others' places, there's a good chance you've gotten a glimpse of how your other half prefers to live. However, going from guest to cohabitant means you may discover some surprises when you start living together full time. That's why having a detailed discussion about your expectations and non-negotiables can help you avoid some heated arguments in the future.
"People have different schedules, different hygiene and cleaning habits, and different comforts with inviting people into their home space," Dr. Chaves points out. So, to ensure an easier transition, "it can be helpful to discuss what [your] roles would be like while living together. Different partners may take on different tasks, chores, and errands that can help support the household running more smoothly." At the end of the day, he says, "it often comes down to having good communication and willingness to discuss, compromise, and support."
Make An Effort To Build A Home Together
Especially for those who are used to (and enjoy) living alone, it can be difficult to start sharing a space. Freire notes that it's essential to take steps to build a home together so no one feels like they're imposing or being intruded on. Her solution? Start fresh, if you can. "Searching for a new home will give both people equal footing — you may even upgrade your living situation (two incomes may allow for a higher rent [or mortgage])," she says. "You can decide, as a couple: Do you want to live someplace that has access to nature or city life? If you plan to live with your partner, you have decided to build a life together, so look for home amenities that meet both your needs."
Understandably, this isn't always possible, so Freire suggests plan B, which is to make room for each other. "[To] the partner whose home or apartment will be 'the home': Allow your partner to bring in some of their furniture, pictures, linens, and/or dishes. Give them some space to add their belongings on the bookcase or mantel. The partner who is moving in will appreciate that thoughtfulness, as it demonstrates a blending of the two homes."
Learn How To (Lovingly) Disagree
It's common knowledge that even the happiest couples fight sometimes, and you'll probably disagree more often when you're living under the same roof . But the key difference between a healthy argument and a destructive one is all about communication.
When it comes to expressing your concerns, "I suggest the typical, 'I feel ... when you ...' and then share your observation," says Freire. "I also suggest that you use reflective listening skills so you don’t interrupt your partner when they are speaking, and then restate what you heard. At that time, your partner can [either] confirm or tell you if you’re incorrect, and then you clarify any misunderstandings."
To that, Dr. Chaves adds his thoughts on picking and choosing your battles. "An old therapist question to clients: If you had to pick one and only one, what would you choose, to be right or to be happy? We need to move away from this idea that we need to be right. Many times the battles in our relationships are power struggles and good questions to ask ourselves are, 'What am I fighting for right now? Is there a compromise? Would acceptance be a better place to move towards?'"
And In Regards To Those Annoying Habits ...
No matter how much you know and love each other, there's a good chance one or both of you will have a habit that the other finds completely annoying. While it's unfair to be petty, if your S.O. does something that makes you bonkers, it's important to address it before resentment festers. "I think telling your partner what’s bothering you is healthy," shares Freire. "[But] keep in mind that you want to be respectful of their behaviors; it may just be something that they do, and they aren’t even aware of another way to do it."
The best way to go about it? "State the facts and don’t start the conversation with, 'We really need to talk,'" she says. "[By] telling them in such as manner, [they] may find it more dramatic than it needs to be and it won’t necessarily help you approach the topic neutrally. Remember, if you’re judgmental about your partner’s really irritating behavior, they will probably put up their walls, and that’s not the best way to resolve conflict in a relationship."