The Next Big Step
50 years ago, moving in with a significant other meant one of two things. Either you had just gotten married and were starting your lives together or you had abandoned your former life and rejected dominant social niceties.
Today, living with a partner before marriage certainly isn’t taboo anymore, but it does still carry a great deal of weight and communicates something to the outside world about your relationship with this person.
Choosing to live with a boyfriend or other romantic partner can make or break a relationship. After all, there’s a big difference between spending a few hours with someone versus spending all of your downtime with them.
Suddenly, each person’s unique quirks and habits are on full display, and depending on your tolerance level, these differences could cause some serious friction.
So when should you move in with your boyfriend? Or girlfriend? Or your gender non-conforming partner?
Well, you and your partner are the only ones who can decide for sure, but we’re here to help. If this is the first time you’ve considered living with a significant other, then you’ve got some work to do.
If you prepare and act with caution, you can avoid hundreds of potential problems and sticking points.
Talk it Through
The subject of living together needs to be brought up with your partner long before you actually make the move.
First and foremost, take note of who brings it up first. Chances are, the person who broaches the subject before the other is signaling that they’re ready to take the next step and that they see the relationship as going very well.
So let’s say your boyfriend mentions it first. This is the perfect time to take stock of your relationship as it is right now. Are you happy in the relationship? Do you feel safe? Do you support each other in your interests and career goals?
If your relationship is on the rocks, then you may not want to move in with your partner right now. Many couples believe that living together will solve their problems.
While spending more time together may be helpful in certain situations, living with a partner is definitely not a blanket solution to any problems you’re currently dealing with.
Regardless of who presented the idea of moving in together, don’t be shy about expressing your concerns about problems that might arise a few months into the arrangement.
This is also your chance to work out some of the logistics of the move. Will you both be looking for a new place to stay? Is one person going to keep their apartment or house and simply make room for their partner’s belongings?
Is the location of the apartment convenient for your weekly routine? Is it close to your work, your school? If you drive, will the new apartment offer parking for two?
During these discussions, you’re bound to run into problems. It’s up to you and your partner to decide whether any of these problems are dealbreakers.
Friends and family members may give you a guideline, saying that you need to have been with your partner for X number of months or years before moving in with them. Giving a specific number might not be very helpful, but the purpose of this guideline is to make you think about how well you know the other person and how mature both of you are.
As a quick example, many young couples living together for the first time have difficulty balancing their relationship with other responsibilities. They might be more likely to call in sick to work or skip classes to stay in with their partner.
But if you’re able to successfully establish boundaries within a shared living space, then it’s a good sign that you won’t become heavily dependent on your partner.
What kinds of boundaries need to be set?
Again, this will vary from couple to couple, but for the most part, setting boundaries means that each person has plenty of room to perform daily tasks and can spend time alone when they want to.
In a one-bedroom apartment or larger, this should be fairly easy. If you need some alone time, you can retreat to one room or the other, as long as you communicate to your partner that you just need some time and space to yourself.
But in a small studio apartment, you might have a tough time taking a break from the other person, especially if you both work and study from home.
Have a Backup Plan
If you and your partner are both emotionally and financially stable, independent of each other, then odds are good that you’ll be able to handle a shared living space.
But even those with a good grasp of their own limits may still need to have a backup plan in place, just in case the relationship doesn’t work out or your partner suddenly can’t afford to pay rent.
If both of you have signed a lease, then you are both responsible for paying rent, mortgage, etc., regardless of any major life changes or other financial obligations.
You may also find yourself in a situation where you need to leave, permanently or temporarily. Keep a mental list of close friends and family members who would be willing to put you up until you can find another place to stay.
The Plus Side
Despite the many potential pitfalls of living with a romantic partner, a successful shared living situation can be wonderful.
It gives you the chance to spend your downtime from work and/or school with someone you care deeply about. Chores and cooking duties can be split between the two of you, or you can even team up to complete tasks around the house.
There’s something extremely pleasant about creating a home with your significant other, a place where you can truly relax and recharge alongside your favorite person.
Just be sure that you’re not jumping the gun. It takes real work to reach this level of stability.