Mazel! You've said yes to the key/lease/cohabitation. Break out the bubbly and toast to your new life together. But, hold off on the low-key housewarming get-together: Moving in with your S.O. is more than Pinterest boards and Trader Joe's dinner parties.
Trust me; I've done it twice and had to undo it once. The first time I moved in with a partner, I was 23, and we'd only been together (long distance!) for six months. We lasted three years until we decided to part ways (and apartments). The second time I was 28 and in a solid relationship for two years. I'd love to tell you how much easier it was the second time -- being older, wiser, and more experienced -- but that's just not the case. Merging two adult lives is never seamless, no matter how much the two love each other.
Take note from someone who has cohabitated in three apartments, in two states, with one dog and two cats (not at the same time), and survived a breakup that involved splitting all the stuff in the apartment via sticky notes.
While moving in together might not mean you've agreed to forever, you're definitely in it for the long haul -- or until the lease is up. And it's a big deal, whether you're cohabiting purely for convenience, making a financially prudent decision, or testing the waters of lifelong partnership.
No matter how much I potentially scared you, living with someone you love does create incredible closeness that can never be fully articulated outside your four walls. It's a next-level experience to make inside jokes with your best friend every day, fall asleep (watching The Americans) together every night, and knowing you've got a constant companion to make sure you don't die during a home invasion.
That said, the actual act of moving is overwhelming. Here's how to do it without losing your mind (which I did, over a Kraft Mac 'n' Cheese-colored accent wall).
In an ideal world, you'll leave your current living situations in a blaze of romantic glory and find a new place together, free from old memories, bad habits, and exes of whom we do not speak. While incredibly convenient, moving into an apartment where one partner already lives can be a tough transition both mentally and physically. Shifting from a "mine" to "ours" mentality can be more difficult in an existing environment. If you choose this route, take any money you save on moving expenses and really change the space with new furniture and decor that you pick out together.
It's also very overwhelming to go from having your own room or apartment to sharing everything. Don't forget that even though the two of you are living together, you're still an individual who needs personal space. No matter how small your new place is, make sure you create some space for privacy.
If you are moving into a new place, make sure you truly consider both of your needs when picking it. Does one of you work from home and need an office? Would a guest room be preferred? Is a single-sink bathroom a deal-breaker? Need an outdoor area for your morning meditation? While it's important to look out for your relationship in the move, it's equally critical to not lose yourself in the romantic rush, or you might regret it later.
You like to sit on the bathroom sink and pop zits one inch from the mirror at night? You can't go to bed until the utensils are lined up just so? You made it to 30 with no clue how to load a dishwasher?
We're all strange. Your partner is about to see more of your strange than they ever thought possible. This is what people call "intimacy." The thing about all our strangeness is, while some behavior can be changed or eradicated, a big part of it is just who we are. So, be self-aware and honest about it.
If you're not upfront that you hate screen time before bed, you're going to end up with a TV in your room, watching the horrifying imagery from Game of Thrones as your partner somehow blissfully drifts off to sleep. If you don't make it clear in those first days of living together (or before!) that you really need every appliance unplugged and lights turned off when they aren't in use, you're going to end up feeling super anxious -- and likely get stuck with a very high electric bill. Shit like that breeds resentment. And resentment is not a recipe for romance.
Passive-aggression is not sexy or productive. Vocalize your boundaries at the beginning, before all sorts of lines are crossed and bad habits develop. The longer you let stuff fester, the more difficult it becomes -- perhaps even impossible -- to change.
If money talks, it's important to talk about money. Period. If you're not ready to have some serious cash-flow convos with your significant other, it's a sure sign you aren't ready to pass GO on this big step.
I like to think of money as part of the Big Three pillars of a relationship foundation, the other two being communication and sex. You have to be on the same page with all three (or at least committed to getting there together) to have a solid foundation on which to build your relationship. (And moving in together means laying some new bricks.)
Living with a significant other can be a great way to save money. However, having two incomes will only make life simpler if you're transparent about how you spend. Otherwise, it can actually make everything much more stressful.
Moving itself is a black hole for unforeseen costs, and really the first of many conversations you're going to have about shared finances. Be upfront about how much money you have and how you're going to divide expenses. There's literally no right way to do this, but there are a lot of wrong ways -- many of which are rooted in NOT TALKING ABOUT IT.
No, you don't need all those skin care and makeup samples. You haven't used them in two years, and you won't use them ever. Is it really necessary to bring your DVD collection? Do even still own a DVD player? Honey, you haven't been in a Forever 21 in about a decade, so maybe it's time to part with some of those rayon minidresses, whose washing instructions you very adamantly ignored.
Your storage is about to be halved, so pack accordingly.
Carve out the time to properly walk down memory lane with all your shit and commemorate it with some well-timed #TBTs. Then say bye to a decent chunk of the stuff you never use anymore. Start KonMaring your closet before you cohabitate and decide what's bringing you Claire's-keychain levels of peace, love, and yin-yangs. Whatever doesn't ignite your internal light of love and smiley faces, sell it on Poshmark, donate it, or just plain toss it. If you're just not ready for that kind of life cleanse, get yourself a storage space -- that you pay for on your own.
However you do it, put your belongings on the chopping block so that you don't bring any literal baggage to the relationship.
It doesn't matter how much money you have or how Crate and Barrel (or CB2) fancy you are -- YOU'RE GOING TO IKEA.
Not to scare you or anything, but you're going to make more than one trip, and it's going to test your relationship in totally new ways. Both of you will walk in, hand in hand, eyes wide with lingonberry love. You've come for a trashcan and a few picture frames from the marketplace, but need to walk through the entire maze of the showroom first. No worries! You have all day, and please... You've seen 500 Days of Summer.
However, Joseph Gordon Levitt never shows up in your reality. You emerge on the other end tired, sweaty, tear-streaked, defeated, and pushing an industrial cart filled with broken down palates containing bookcases, dressers, and three chairs. You've completely forgotten the trashcan and the frames because you almost broke up somewhere near the rugs. And you honestly have no idea how you're getting all this shit into your Honda Fit.
What you don't know while standing in the half-mile long line is that your relationship will survive this test. You will get the unnecessary furniture home. You will build it together (which will be another test). You will not break up. You will be stronger and better than you ever have been in your relationship. And you've got no one to thank but the Swedish superstore.
Also, you will be going back for the trashcan and frames the next day.
This is something very few people talk about, and I have no idea why. It's such a huge and important shift in your relationship dynamic and, at its lowest, it can make you feel very alone, questioning your love, and severely affect your self-esteem. You'll find yourself asking, "Is this just me?" No! It's not just you.
Your sex life will be impacted by your cohabitation for better and for worse, and for better again, and then maybe worse for a little while. Especially if you stay together forever and ever, your physical relationship will ebb and flow and change. (Spoiler alert: So will your bodies!) But, what about living together will really mess with your sexual qi?
Constant proximity, availability, daily grind, and routine are elements that can dampen the excitement and spark you once had with spontaneous sleepovers. Your partner's daily frustrations become yours, and that never encourages sexy time at the end of a long workday. The bathroom door went from locked, to unlocked, to cracked, to wide open, and while it's intimate, it isn't always seductive. Your libidos fall out of sync. Yes, you will spend way more time together, but your partner will become a fixture in your everyday life, and no one is looking to have sex with the lamp.
It's all okay, normal, and happens to every couple. Don't be freaked out if it happens. As long as you communicate and practice patience, you'll figure it out together.
As with most good things, moving in together takes time, both logistically and emotionally. You need to put a time limit on your logistical move; but make sure to give yourself a little time to get used to the emotional adventure of living together.
The actual physical move requires a lot of stressful decision-making in a short amount of time -- everything from how to rent a truck to where to place the sofa. It can be so mind-numbing that you don't tackle it in a timely manner because it's all just too much.
The thing is, if you keep putting off unpacking those last few boxes, hanging all your artwork, finding window treatments, or painting walls, months will pass by and they just won't get done. Give yourself a time frame -- whether it's one week, two weeks, or a month -- to power through the to-do list so you can move on to bigger issues, like whose Hulu account you're going to deactivate. One of the best ways to push yourself to get settled is to schedule a housewarming party. You can't entertain your closest friends if your sneaker collection is still sitting in boxes in the living room.
Emotionally, take your time. It's hard to learn to live with someone you love, especially when your relationship dynamic is constantly evolving and growing. There will be fights and maybe even a few tears. It doesn't mean this was the worst idea of all time.
Children, and people who've blissfully lived alone for several years (both of which apply to me), pay extra attention to this part.
You will not always get your way, but it won't always be intolerable. This is because you will learn the art of compromise. It's a talent that requires LinkedIn-endorsed skills, like intuition, strategy, and careful communication. The two biggest things to bring to the compromising table are self-awareness and openness. Be ready to be honest about what you can and can't live with and then be ready and open to finding common ground.
Both parties should make a list of non-negotiables, things you'd prefer not to live with, and the things you don't mind. Have an open conversation about the lists. You'd be surprised about how many non-negotiables you're able to actually negotiate.
And remember, the world will not end if you can't compromise on the angle of the sofa. (It's very easy to slowly move over time without your partner noticing.) Choose your battles.
Forget the dumb old adage that you shouldn't go to bed in the middle of a fight. I much prefer this cliché: Sleep on it. Chances are, if you go to bed mad, you'll wake up at least a little less mad, if not totally over it. You'll even probably wake up a lot more rational and able to talk through the fight in a less emotional way.
In general, don't avoid conflict. Fighting is healthy and normal. Maybe it's because I'm from Southern California, but I think about it like earthquakes. Small tremors are not to be feared; it's just the earth's crust relieving tension so that it doesn't erupt. Be like the earth's crust and release the tension. Just because you don't have the fight doesn't mean the issue goes away. If you become too scared of confrontation, you'll eventually erupt into THE BIG ONE, and your relationship will have to declare a state of emergency.
At the end of the day, what you fight about doesn't matter; it's how you resolve it. Getting out of a fight is much harder than getting into it, and often the end result can be a stronger relationship. So if it's late and there's no resolution in sight, go to sleep. You'll really feel better in the morning.
Speaking of fighting: This is going to be one of the most mundane, frequent arguments you will encounter when living together because the universe is cruel, and it's pretty much guaranteed you'll end up with someone who is your polar opposite when it comes to cleaning habits.
If you're a clean freak about to embark on a new life with someone who doesn't know the difference between ammonia and bleach (and why you never, ever mix the two), you need to talk about it (see the recurring theme here). That schism in the way you approach keeping the house clean will start to grow as deep as your grout grime.
An important piece of advice I recently obtained at an organization seminar was to constantly push your tolerance levels. If you're the clean one, leave the piles of crap on the kitchen table a little longer than comfortable. If you're the one who can't tell which clothes on the floor are clean or dirty, maybe try tidying it up a little sooner than you usually would. It's important to meet in the middle!
When in doubt, there are only two real solutions. One: The messy person needs to take on other chores that have nothing to do with keeping things clean, whether that's grocery shopping, paying bills, or picking up your mom from the airport. Two: Hire a cleaning person. It might just be the best money you spend all month.
By: Heather Sundall.