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How to Know If You're Ready to Move In Together

Moving in together is the closest you'll get to marriage without saying "I do."
Moving in together is the closest you'll get to marriage without saying "I do."
Comstock/Thinkstock

In any romance, there are pivotal firsts -- first kiss, first fight, first vacation as a couple. And if you make it back from that vacation smiling, there could be the make-it-or-break-it M-word: moving in.

Shacking up. Cohabitating. Taking the half-way plunge. It's not a step to be taken lightly, or for the purpose of halving your rent.

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Moving in together is the closest you'll get to marriage without the "I do." These days, many people use it as something of a "test run" before deciding to commit for the long haul, and it can offer a nice glimpse into your future as a couple. According to the Huffington Post, a 2007 Rutgers study found that more than 50 percent of U.S. first marriages follow a period of living together. The problem is, if you do it too soon or for the wrong reasons, moving in together can end your relationship prematurely. According to the same article, a different study by the CDC found that of the couples who move in together, almost half break up within five years.

So what's the right time? What are the right reasons?

Every person and every couple is unique, and the circumstances that lead to a 50-year relationship in one case can be an absolute disaster in another. There are, however, some fairly straightforward criteria that can predict whether sharing a space will be the beginning or the end of a beautiful thing.

In this article, we'll find out which questions you should ask yourself and your partner before taking the half-way plunge, throw out some considerations you may have overlooked, and check out some tips that could increase the odds of success.

The first sign of whether or not you're ready to share a home is deceptively simple: Do you know each other?

Don't answer yet…

 

A successful commitment requires knowing what you're getting into.
A successful commitment requires knowing what you're getting into.
Pixland/Thinkstock

Living with the person you love means introducing a new level of intimacy, and it requires a good foundation. Some signs that you've built that foundation include:

You know each other very, very well.

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While urban relationship myths claim otherwise, moving in with someone you've known for three weeks almost never works out. Even in the movies. A successful commitment requires knowing what you're getting into, and that takes time. Some experts say at least six months; others say at least a year -- basically however long it takes for the "honeymoon phase" to end. (If all you know about your partner is his or her preferred thread count, you're not ready to share a lease.)

You spend most nights together already.

For most couples who successfully merge living spaces, part of the work was done before the big move. If you already spend five or six nights a week together, and each have the proverbial (or literal) drawer at each other's place, and your relationship is going strong under those conditions, you have a halfway decent indication that living together will be a step toward something even stronger.

You've argued and worked it out.

You don't know how solid your relationship is until you've tested it. If you've never had a fight, it doesn't mean you're a perfect couple; it means you haven't been together long enough to know what kind of couple you are. Living together inevitably means conflict, and you better find out if your relationship can weather it before you sign a lease.

You've taken a vacation together -- and enjoyed it.

As far as relationship-testers, travel has two things going for it: financial issues and stress. If you can not only weather but also thrive on vacation as a couple, you have a better idea that you can do the same in a shared space.

You're able to discuss all of these signs.

If you don't see every one of these signs in your relationship, it doesn't necessarily mean you're not ready (and vice versa). However, if you can't at least talk about each of these topics, and talk openly about them, that's a pretty strong indication you're not prepared to take the next step.

These signs are fairly straightforward. Either you see them or you don't. There are some other issues that require a bit more abstract thought.

Have reasonable expectations before you take the plunge and move in together.
Have reasonable expectations before you take the plunge and move in together.
Jack Hollingsworth/Digital Vision/Thinkstock

It's as easy to ruin a relationship by jumping in head-first as by backing off -- it's perhaps even easier, since the number of things that can go wrong in a joint living situation is pretty infinite. To avoid unforeseen conflicts, you might want to consider:

Finances

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One of the biggest relationship stressors (much bigger than a beach vacation) is money. Moving in together means tying your lives together financially, and if you don't know what you're getting into, you could end up with more conflict (not to mention resentment) than you bargained for. Is your partner a spender? A saver? A starving artist? A compulsive shopper? It doesn't necessarily matter what the answers are, you just need to have them before you commit to cohabitation so you can make an informed decision before jumping in.

Space

So, you already spend five nights a week at your partner's place. The question is, do you count the hours until you get to go home and be alone? Living together part-time is very different from really living together. Are you ready to give up a lot of your personal space and privacy? And are you and your partner on the same page regarding how much of that space and privacy you'll maintain after merging homes?

Expectations

Moving in together can be a smart thing for couples who are already spending most of their time together. You'll both cut your living expenses, and you'll be burning a lot less gas when you don't have to drive back and forth from each other's homes.

And if one of you thinks you're being smart by moving in together, and the other thinks you're preparing to get married, someone is going to end up very hurt (and/or homeless). Motivations are a crucial factor and need to be understood beforehand.

Another point about motivations: If you're moving in with your partner mostly because you feel pressured to do so, reconsider. Success in sharing a home requires two very willing participants. Going in half-hearted practically guarantees you won't be able to put in the effort to make it work.

Kids

If you or your partner has children, the ante is significantly upped. Moving in and moving out is a much bigger deal when there are children moving with you, so think about it long and hard, and then think about it again. Most kids need stability to thrive.

And if you think about it, and think about it again, and you still want to share a home with the one you love, consider a few tips for a successful union…

Moving in together can be one of the best decisions you and your partner make -- especially if it works out beautifully. To increase the odds of a beautiful result, consider these recommendations:

Be on neutral ground.

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It's hard to feel truly at home when you move into someone else's space; and if someone else moves into yours, it may feel like your space is being invaded. If possible, start fresh in a home you pick out together.

Discuss responsibilities.

You may already be on the same page regarding chores and finances, but if you're not, it could prove disastrous. So on the off-chance you're not thinking the same thing, discuss these unpleasantries beforehand and work out a detailed plan regarding how things like cleaning, cooking, rent and utilities will be split.

Give yourself some space.

As much as you love spending time with your partner, remember, we're talking 24/7. Few people can manage that level of togetherness without some kind of break. Make sure you each have, guilt-free, some type of area to call your own, plenty of "me" time and/or time with your other friends built into your living arrangement.

Hope for the best…

But plan for the worst. If all goes well, your cohabitation will last for years and years and you'll live happily ever after. But, as you've probably already learned, break-ups do happen. So set romance aside for a moment, and be practical: When it comes to things like buying furniture or adopting pets to fill up your new, shared space, split up the items between you rather than the cost. You'll be in so much less of a pickle should you decide to part ways.

Now quick, back to the romance. (You're moving in together!)

For more information on relationship and related topics, look over the links on the next page.

Related Articles

Sources

  • Eckel, Sarah. "Are You Ready to Live Together?" My Lifetime. July 7, 2007. (Sept. 20, 2010)http://www.mylifetime.com/lifestyle/relationships/dating/are-you-ready-live-together
  • Muller, Heidi. "Living With Your Girlfriend." Ask Men. (Sept. 20, 2010)http://www.askmen.com/dating/heidi_60/66_dating_girl.html
  • Palmer, Kimberly. "Are You Ready to Move In Together?" U.S. News & World Report. July 22, 2008. (Sept. 20, 2010)http://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/alpha-consumer/2008/07/22/quiz-are-you-ready-to-move-in-together
  • Triffin, Molly. "Should You Move in With Your Guy?" Cosmopolitan. (Sept. 20, 2010)http://www.cosmopolitan.com/sex-love/relationship-advice/moving-in-together
  • Voo, Jocelyn. "Moving In Together: What To Do First And How To Make It Work." The Huffington Post. Aug. 18, 2008. (Sept. 20, 2010)http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/08/18/moving-in-together-what-t_n_119641.html
  • Wish, LeslieBeth. "Should My Partner and I Move in Together?" Quality Health.http://www.qualityhealth.com/relationships-articles/should-my-partner-i-move-together

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