The decision to share a living space with your partner can be an exhilarating and nerve-wracking experience all at once. After all, it is not just a big step in your relationship but also a new chapter of your life. To make sure this chapter plays out well, you need a moving in together checklist. And not just any list. A list verified by an expert!
You also need to address even bigger questions such as: Why do you want to move in with your partner? How soon is too soon to move in? And how to plan this transition? A recent study listed spending habits, messiness, and unfair distribution of household chores among other major points of contention between cohabitating couples. Such issues can be avoided with deliberate thought and proper planning.
To help you with it, we consulted emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for issues such as extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss. She asks important questions, advises on things to consider, and shares tips for moving in together with your partner.
Are You Ready To Move In Together?
Cohabitation has more or less become the norm in long-term committed relationships today. A majority of couples prefer to live together first, and then, see where the relationship leads, rather than tying the knot straight away. But moving in too soon can ruin a relationship. Rush into this decision and it can turn out to be a disaster.
While you need to be careful with the when to move in together aspect of this decision, it is hard to put a finger on how long should you be dating before you move in together. So, how soon is too soon to move in after all? Based on the analysis of a Stanford University study and a popular survey, a majority of couples decide to move in within a year of dating.
Even though the findings from this study indicate that moving in together after 2 years or more was less common, another study found that relationship satisfaction was highest in couples who had shifted together after 1-3 years of dating. Confused? Don’t be! There is no need for you to stick to a dictated timeline. There is no prescribed good time to take the next step. What matters is, are you ready? An honest introspection of your reasons should give you your answer.
Related Reading: 4 Creative Ways To Ask Your Girlfriend To Move In With You
Signs you are ready to move in with your partner
Pooja says, “You know you want to move in with someone when you want to take the relationship to the next level.” But how can one be sure? She adds, “Both partners should have reached a stage in the relationship where they are capable of handling their lives independently and yet feel the need for stability and want to be together.” Here are a few more signs that show you are ready for the next big step:
- You are looking for growth in the relationship and you want to know each other better
- You now know how to fight and make up with your partner
- You are open with each other about your finances and your future goals
- You have similar lifestyles and common interests
- You have traveled together more than a few times
For a more objective view of when to move in together, Pooja recommends a few pertinent questions you should ask yourself to assess whether living with your partner would be the right move for you and rule out a premature inclination to cohabitate with your partner:
- Are you ready to take the relationship to another level?
- Are you ready for more commitment than just dating someone?
- Are you capable of handling all aspects of your life independently?
- Are you financially independent?
- Do you feel that your partner is the one?
If you’re still unsure whether you’re in a place in your life and relationship where you can take this next step, think about your reasons for this decision. Or take this moving-in-together quiz we have designed especially for you!
Things To Discuss Before Moving In Together
This brings us to another crucial dilemma many couples face when contemplating living together. The why and what of it all. How do you know if your reasons for the move are right? And how do you make this transition as seamless as possible? Like with most things, the answer lies in clear, honest communication.
Pooja insists, “Don’t just think about these aspects. Sit and have a discussion with your partner. Communicate and converse. Use a pen and paper if you must.” Here are some things you should discuss before moving together to find out how ready you are:
1. Why do you want to move in together?
The reasons to get into a live-in arrangement can vary from couple to couple. Some do it because it seems like the natural order of progression, a stepping stone to marriage. Others because they’re madly in love and others still for practical reasons, for example, to save money or other financial benefits. When you and your partner discuss living together, talk about why you want to do it, and see if your reasons for making this decision align.
Do you want to test your relationship and see how compatible you are? Do you both feel committed to taking the next step? Do you want to get to know your partner better? Pooja says, “Meeting someone in social settings or briefly for vacations is different. Living with a partner is where partners discover each other fully.”
Even if your reasons align, that does not necessarily mean that it is a good reason to move in with your partner. Sometimes people move in together to save on the rent and share expenses. Experts suggest that solely having a financial motivation to live with your partner is not a great idea. Your reasons need to be grounded in a sense of commitment, love and hope at least for the near future.
2. Have the money talk
Money is not just a loaded topic but an entire value system. It’s an awkward and difficult conversation no matter what kind of relationship. But if you’re going to merge your lives, you ought to address this elephant in the room. Both partners must be open and transparent during the money talk to avoid future financial stress.
Talk about your individual financial standing. Discuss debts and assets. For example, do you have loans, credit card debts, or a financial obligation toward your family? Lack of financial transparency can sow the seeds of mistrust in a relationship, especially when you are under the same roof. It is also equally important to discuss how you want to spend and save money as a couple.
3. Discuss your preference for chores and responsibilities
In the study mentioned earlier, household chores sat fairly high on the list of contentious issues between couples who lived under the same roof. Our relationship with household chores is often burdened with childhood trauma. A person who has seen their mother buried in chores may be sensitive about equal division of work.
This is why you need to keep expectations realistic but also approach the subject empathetically and with a problem-solving attitude. For instance, the partner who is a terrible cook shouldn’t be taking the responsibility of making breakfast or dinner. So, do they prefer doing the dishes or laundry instead? Knowing who likes to do what can ensure a life without squabbles and bickering.
4. Talk about each other’s past
It is important that you have an honest conversation about your past relationships and why things didn’t work out. This becomes even more critical if either of you has lived with an ex. Addressing these issues helps in ensuring that you don’t carry the emotional baggage of the past into your future. Eliminating the ifs and buts and all the doubts is extremely important in making this transition smoother and more fruitful.
5. What are your expectations from the relationship?
Where do you see yourself and your partner five years down the line? And where do they? Is living with a partner a stepping stone to marriage? Do you want to have kids? If yes, then when and why do you want to have kids? These are just a few of the many things to discuss to rule out any unpleasant surprises in the future.
Other long-term expectations could be something as simple as your relationship status. Pooja says, “Talking about how you see yourself as a couple and how you want to be seen helps you both be on the same page.” Don’t leave room for unpleasant surprises for your partner.
6. Share vulnerabilities and secrets, if any
When you’re dating, it’s easier to be the best version of yourself whenever you’re with your partner. Living together is a whole different ball game. That’s when you both get to see the ‘real’ person you’re with and can get a sneak peek into what married life can be like.
This also means that hiding any shortcomings, secrets, or vulnerabilities becomes that much harder. Be it a struggle with addiction or fear of spiders, it will become known to your partner eventually when you are living under the same roof. Why not address these not-so-nice aspects of your life before making the big move and spare your partner any unpleasant surprises?
7. What if it doesn’t work out?
It is a real possibility. Admit it, this scenario plays on your mind when you’re thinking about making such a huge shift in your life. And it’s never easy to break up with someone you live with. So, why not just talk about it like two mature adults? This discussion may seem completely out of sync with your present state of mind but hear us out. It will help slay a lot of apprehension and doubts that you’re not even consciously addressing. Think:
- Who will stay and who will move out in case you break up?
- How will you divide up the stuff?
- How will you handle money and assets in this situation?
Related Reading: 7 Golden Rules For A Live-In Relationship
The Ultimate Moving In Together Checklist
Pooja says, “In a nutshell, both partners need to be sure about this decision. That this step is being taken without any coercion or fear of abandonment.” Once you have addressed whether or not you’re ready to move in together, comes the task of actually doing it. Finalizing the nitty-gritty of your cohabitation arrangement can be a demanding process in itself.
This ultimate checklist will help you through the planning, preparation, and execution of the move, helping ease the process of moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend and celebrate this momentous step you are taking.
1. Finalize your first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend
First and foremost, you need to finalize your first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend. Living together can start with a lot of exciting decisions. Discuss where you both would like to live – at either of your old places or a brand new dig.
You will have to discuss budget and location, both of which can depend on the nature and place of your work. How will you shift your belongings? Would you need movers? You need to talk about the size of the new space, the number of rooms, preferences for hard fittings, division of the closet space, purpose and use of the living space, etc. See if you would like to have a legally binding cohabitation agreement.
- What is a cohabitation agreement: It is a legally binding agreement between an unmarried couple who live together. The agreement helps protect the partner’s individual rights should their arrangement break down in the future. It also helps in cases of mortgage applications or for securing child support
2. Agree on the division of bills
So, you have already gone through the rigmarole of the money talks. Now is the time to get into the finer details. Figure out how you will be sharing expenses. You need a concrete game plan. Address these questions before you sign a lease or start packing up your boxes:
- Should you be getting a joint checking account for running expenses?
- How would you handle grocery shopping or other household bills?
- How will you divide the rent? Will it be half and half or based on individual earnings?
- What about utilities?
3. Set ground rules for house guests
Guests often become the bone of contention in a live-in relationship. Both you and your partner are bound to have your individual social life. This may involve hosting people or having house guests every once in a while, which can become a trigger for bickering and unpleasantness if you’re both not on the same page. But, open communication can help you set boundaries about family and visitors. It’s important to discuss the following:
- How do you feel about guests and hosting?
- How often would you like to entertain?
- How long can a friend in need crash on your couch, if at all?
- Who would move their stuff when guests need extra space?
4. Talk about the impact on your sex life
The initial days of any relationship are defined by the can’t-keep-hands-off-each-other phase. But that honeymoon period is bound to wither away over time and your dynamics change even more once you start living together. The stability and rhythm of a settled life will make the passion fade a little but don’t make the cardinal mistake of letting the passion die down completely.
Have a conversation about it to see how you both feel about this possibility. First, how you and your partner react can be a litmus test for whether or not you are moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend too soon. Second, you can prepare yourself to deal with this by committing to spending quality time with each other.
Pooja adds, “Even issues like contraception need to be discussed in a new light.” See this as an opportunity to discuss your individual parenthood plans. These tips for moving in together, in a way, are guidelines for the leveling-up of your relationship!
5. How much screen time is acceptable?
Another thing to help ensure quality time with your partner doesn’t take a hit once you start cohabiting is a discussion about screen time. Staring blankly at laptops and TV screens has become just an inherent part of our personalities. Most people don’t even recognize when this tendency becomes excessive.
However, this can become a sore point in a relationship. Burying our heads in our phones, and swiping through social media affects our relationships. Every minute spent looking at a screen is eating into your time together. So, it’s important to set a mutually acceptable limit on screen time beforehand.
6. Eating habits must feature on your list
Even if you have been sleeping over at each other’s place often enough, it is important to talk about eating habits and get them in sync as much as possible. This will make your living arrangement smoother and hassle-free. This doesn’t mean that you have to have the same food meal after meal, day after day. But it’s nice to know each other’s preferences.
This discussion becomes even more imperative if your eating habits are poles apart. For example, if one partner is vegan and the other a hardcore non-vegetarian. In such cases, you must learn to make peace with each other’s preferences.
7. What about me-time?
Living together doesn’t mean being joined at the hip at all times. You will both need your personal space and time to catch a breather once in a while or just to unwind after a long hard day. Address how much alone time you need when cohabiting with your partner and make space for it, both literally and figuratively.
When doing up your first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend, earmark a room or a corner as personal space that you can each recede into when you need some downtime, and make sure there are no grudges or resentment over this need for space. That can only happen when you accept that space is not an ominous sign in a relationship but a necessity for a healthy bond.
8. Prepare the first apartment essentials list
Deciding to live together means you will be setting up a new home with your partner. So, do your homework on couples’ first apartment essentials and prepare a list of all that you are going to need. From furniture to mattresses, curtains, linens, cleaning supplies, utensils and kitchen essentials, tools, first aid kit, and décor items. Be sure you’re both involved in deciding what is needed, and buy it together.
9. See what you want to keep and toss out
This new home that you’re setting up with your significant other will have a lot of ‘we’, but it also must have some ‘you’ and ‘I’. While you decide on things to buy when moving out of your place, also consider what things you’d like to keep. We all have stuff that we’re sentimental about. It can be anything from a favorite blanket to a comfy chair. But make this choice prudently. Keep in mind that your new place ought to have space for your partner’s stuff as well as all the new things that you’re buying.
10. Divide up storage space
Before moving into your first apartment with boyfriend or girlfriend, divide up closet space fairly. Women often need more space to fit in their personal belongings. But that shouldn’t mean that the man is left with a measly drawer or two in a chest kept in the living room. Such insensitivity, even though seemingly small, foreshadows unfairness in larger issues and could lead to resentment in a relationship in the future.
11. Decorating the first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend
Once you have taken all the valuable advice into account and done the groundwork comes the exciting part. Decorating the first apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend. How do you want to go about it?
What will the vibe of your new home be like? Cool and casual? Or chic and classy? What color would you like on the walls? How about the curtains and rugs? What kind of coffee mugs and wine glasses? There is so much room to play around here. It’s hands down the most fun and exciting part of shifting with your partner. We hope you enjoy it and make lots of memories.
12. Put your checklist in writing
Given that there are a lot of factors to consider and a lot of choices to make when moving in together, it helps to put all that you’ve discussed and agreed upon in writing. Even if you do not want to have a legal cohabitation agreement, just some broad outlines on finances and key ground rules that you can refer to can be helpful in times of disagreements.
Of course, the dynamics of your relationship and the rhythm of life together will change as you grow as individuals and as a couple. So, this written checklist mustn’t be set in stone. But it can act as a reference point in those initial days when you’re learning the ropes of sharing a home.
- An honest introspection of your reasons to live with you partner should help you decide if it is a good idea for you
- Before moving in, talk about your finances, discuss preferences for household chores, share your past and other emotional vulnerabilities, your expectations from the relationship
- Discuss with your partner and prepare yourself in the eventuality of the relationship not working out
- For the actual step, you need to finalize the space you will move in to based on your requirements. You need to chalk out division of bills, chores etc
- Lay down your expectations and boundaries. Think house guests, screen time, personal space, relationship status etc
That should set up you for turning over a new leaf in your relationship and life. A few careful decisions is all it takes to make it last.
This article has been updated in October 2022.
Based on the analysis of a Stanford University study and a popular survey, a majority of couples decide to move in together within a year of dating. The findings also indicate that cohabiting after 2 years or more is far less common.
It is very normal to have doubts before moving in with your boyfriend/girlfriend as it’s a big step you are taking in your relationship and you can never be sure how it will pan out.
It is hard to put a finger on how long should you be dating before you move in together. Some couples could be ready to move in together after 6 months of dating, while others may wait up to a year before making this decision.
The best advice is to ask the most important questions as to why you want to live under the same roof. When you have answered satisfactorily then draw up the exciting moving in together with boyfriend or girlfriend checklist.