'Tis the season for chocolate, champagne and beautiful bouquets — romance is in the air and Valentine's Day is right around the corner. If you and your significant other are thinking about moving in together, now might be a perfect time for the two of you to communicate what you're looking for as you take this next step.
We talked to 25 relationship experts about what they recommend couples should know and discuss before signing a lease together. Here's what they had to share and reveal about moving in with your significant other.
"Communicate your truth. Not your opinion," says life and relationship coach Lisa Panos. "Pretend your partner or roommate never empties the dishwasher. Your opinion might be that he/she is lazy. You might say something snippy like, 'You are so selfish. I do all the work around here.' But your truth is that you feel disrespected, unappreciated and unloved (or fill-in-the-blank) when your partner/roommate doesn't empty the dishwasher."
"In this case, you would own your feelings and express yourself accordingly: 'When you don't empty the dishwasher, I feel unimportant to you.'"
"See the difference here. When you state your opinion (how you feel about someone or something), you blame the other person (which starts arguments). When you state your truth, you take ownership of how something makes you feel. It puts the responsibility and ownership on you (which starts an honest dialogue and doesn't set the other person up for defensiveness)."
"For couples who're moving in together but one person is moving into the other person's apartment, make sure that the home is balanced and includes the styles of both people," says conscious breakup coach Nancy Deen, owner of Hello Breakup, "You want the home to feel like both of you share it, so if needed — rearrange the furniture and give the apartment an energy lift. It's a simple and free way to start the new chapter together."
"Moving in together is a big decision. Set aside sometime before the move-in to talk about what your dreams, expectations and roles will be to keep the household going," says Sonya Jensen, LMFT. "Put on your calendars once a month for you two to check back in with one another and make any updates to original plans based on each person's needs!"
"Be ready for the relationship to change. You may think you know everything about each other," says the Baltimore Therapy Center, "You may think it will be an easy transition. But it rarely is. Living together puts you into a new situation that changes the dynamics — not in a bad way by any means, just in a different way. Being aware of that and ready for a shift will help you weather the transition."
“Just because you enjoy each other's company doesn't mean you'll be happy cohabitating. What is your intention? Do you think this is heading towards getting engaged or married? If that's your expectation you better make that clear. Breakups are significantly harder if you gave up a home you loved for a relationship that didn't last. Moving in together frequently does destroy couples. You don't know what you don't know. It's helpful if you have taken a few vacations together but frequently having sleepovers at each of your places is more important so you know each other's cleanliness style and personal hygiene quirks. If you've only been staying at one of your places that could be a huge red flag that they will be a horrible roomie. Make sure you have deep and honest discussions about everything you're expecting financially, romantically, sexually, housekeeping, chores, lifestyle, etc. Now is the time to be an open book," says Donna Barnes, The Love Coach.
"Take some time to discuss the details of your living arrangement even though it may be uncomfortable. Get a solid understanding of each other's expectations — responsibilities, finances, chores and everything in between. When merging two lives, it's imperative to discuss your needs and boundaries. Remember: your partner only knows what you share with them," says Connecting Hearts Counseling in Austell, GA.
"Be proactive and get some relationship counseling before you move in together," says Theresa M Benoit, LMFT, owner of The Relationship Therapy Center. "Every couple is different and you can learn a lot about your living styles and anticipate some of the problems that are likely to arise, making agreements ahead of time to reduce conflict down the road."
"Have the money talk before you move in together. Finances are one of the most significant hot-button topics for couples, and if you don't set clear expectations of how you're going to handle your shared finances, then you're setting yourself up for failure before you begin," says sex and relationship coach Jordan Gray.
"When asking how do you know if you should move in with someone, remember to not decide because of financial incentives or saving a flailing connection. Do make the decision from a place of this relationship makes each of us that much freer to be our truest selves."
"The leading cause of stress in a relationship is finance, so you need to discuss it. You and your partner must take care of your individual part," says Carla Romo, a certified life coach, author, speaker and host. "For example, no one wants an unwelcome surprise that you or your partner owes the IRS a couple thousand. Have the conversation about finances proactively!"
"As a relationship coach often dealing with the end of a relationship, I urge young couples who are discussing moving in together to park the romance and open up about the practical, day-to-day life. Openly discussing and agreeing on how to deal with the household bills and chores, before moving in together, will increase trust and in turn, will keep the romance alive," says Sarah Geraghty, relationship coach and founder of SaTree Coaching.
"First of all, are you doing or deciding? Avoid the sliding, not deciding effect," says Rachel Eddins from Eddins Counseling. "What do you expect will change when you move in together and what are your reasons for moving in together? Ask what will it mean if you live together. Are you hoping to save some money on your bills and share in the chores or are you hoping that this will be a first step towards marriage? Be clear about your own expectations. Then, be deliberate about your decision. Research shows successful long-term relationships are those made by choice vs just falling into the next step without fully considering the choice."
"Further, commitment at this stage is more likely to predict success in later marriage (vs. divorce). Have you talked about your relationship vision? Where are you heading? You know you like this person right now, but have to talk about what you both want long-term? On the other hand… you may very well be avoiding this conversation due to fear of what it would mean if you don't both want the same thing. Will you have to break up? Or, are you thinking that maybe things could change if you lived together and showed your partner how great that life will be? While it is anxiety-provoking to have the conversation, statistics show you are much more likely to stay together if you do."
"Ultimately, once you invest in the relationship by moving in, it becomes much more difficult to choose to break up. To help you ease into it, practice communicating and learning less serious things about each other first. Make moving in together an intentional step forward towards marriage vs. a test and you are more likely to stay married. Unless that's not the path either of you wants to take!"
"Additionally, some of the best advice is to communicate more. Spend time talking and learning more about each other. Ask about your preferences, romance styles and needs, work and career goals, money, personality preferences, family, etc. You can make a game out of it, or even enlist a therapist to guide you. Getting to know your partner in this way is fundamental to creating deeper friendship and intimacy. Do this a little bit every day with easy and light questions that still help you learn about each other and eventually lead to deeper questions to articulate where you are heading as a couple. Consider questions like:
"Take a look at what your routines look like, as well as your energy levels. One person may need more downtime than the other to recharge. What will that look like as a couple?"
"Disagreements are inevitable in any relationship. Instead of fearing conflict, learn how to communicate more productively and healthily. It's important to focus on listening, mirroring, validating and empathizing," says Imago Relationships. "You and your partner can develop a closer and deeper relationship this way. Ultimately creating a healthier and happier home."
"For couples that are planning to move in with each other or are already living together, we recommend a fun card game from The Gottman Institute that consists of 52 questions that will help you determine your compatibility, encourage open discussion and tackle issues before there is an emotional charge," says the Couples Counseling ATL.
"We have listed a few of those questions for you to start. You can go through these questions at once, or spread them out throughout time while you and your partner are spending time together in your home. One important note: Don't argue if your answer is different from your partner's, discuss it, move to the next question."
"Before a couple moves in together, it's critical for each person to list three non-negotiables for living under the same roof. For example, no smoking or no TV in the bedroom," says relationship coach Kathy Dawson. "Also, it's important to plan ahead if something doesn't work out. Proactively agree on an exit plan ahead of time for what you'll do if you or your significant other don't like the arrangement.
"There is a notion in psychology that investment fosters commitment. In this regard, some experts believe that cohabitation can become a significant enough investment to persuade couples to marry, regardless of their initial intentions and despite a higher risk factor for poor marital outcomes," says Giden Hanekom from The Relationship Guy blog. "The point is that moving in together for any reason other than committed love can unintentionally open other doors that you would have preferred to remain closed."
“Take three emotions — i.e., fear, hope, excitement — around moving in together, imagine them in boxes for you to unpack together, allowing each of you a chance to speak to those feelings and to how you can navigate together. Let moving in be a place for you to embrace and expand upon your interior space — together," says Juliet Heeg, LCSW-R from Park Avenue Relationship Therapy..
"Consider not just the positives of moving in together, but the negatives, as well. One negative I see frequently in couples counseling is that moving in together too quickly inhibits the development of the foundation necessary for a healthy, happy and long-lasting relationship," says Kurt Smith, Psy.D., LMFT, LPCC, AFC, the clinical director, at Guy Stuff Counseling and Coaching.
Additionally, Smith points out, "Being around each other all the time is going to mean having to work through issues. Think about where you as a couple struggle to communicate and proactively do something to strengthen those weak points before moving in together."
“My absolute best tip for couples considering cohabitation is the theory of sliding v. deciding created by Dr. Scott Stanley," says Becky White MFT, the Founder, Director and CEO of Root To Rise Therapy, a boutique psychotherapy practice that provides individual therapy and couples counseling in Los Angeles. "There are many reasons that a couple might “slide" into moving in together as a matter of convenience, like saving money or a commute time. Deciding to move in together is an intentional choice made by both partners as a next step in their relationship, showing a level of commitment, security and investment in the future of their partnership."
"When you move in with someone, you get all the joys of sharing a living space with them — and all of the annoyances. It's wise to be prepared for the fact that living with your partner will be a mixed bag!" says relationship coach Marie Murphy, Ph.D., "It will be great at times, but there will also be times when they drive you crazy — and that isn't a sign that anything is wrong with your relationship!"
"Moving in together will mean more opportunities for conflict, miscommunication and generally being annoyed. It's important to remember why you're with each other, and why you moved in together in the first place. Use this as a guide when things get stressful— how do you solve the problem while you keep moving toward your mission as a couple? Was your goal to argue? I doubt it," says Anna Kim, an associate social worker at ASWK Kindman & CO.
"Now that you're living together, there are lots of opportunities to create rituals that support your relationship. Try inventing a routine of connection when you return home or a nighttime check-in. Remember that you still have to put active work into your relationship even when you see each other all the time."
"Unless it was your taste in art that brought you together, you and your partner are likely going to have different preferences for what to hang on your wall and how to decorate your new home," says Lauran Hahn, LMHC at Mindful Living Counseling in Orlando. "Try a wine and paint class or pottery painting class so you can create your own art. These activities are great for date night and your creations can represent the beginning of this phase of your relationship."
"When moving in with a partner, be prepared for some of your natural polarity to decrease," says Madelyn Moon, a polarity & feminine + masculine embodiment teacher. "While relationships need sameness to thrive, polarity needs opposition (differences). Create a plan for ways you can create natural opposition in your household so that you continue to keep your polarity alive."
"Some creative ways to create polarity include having your own separate spots in the house for "me time" (meditation, reading, spiritual practices) and having monthly rituals together where you both bring something different and unique to the ceremony. Continue to surprise each other with gifts or acts of service, while engaging in spontaneous date nights."
"Space is always very helpful for creating polarity, too. Don't be afraid to book a two-day solo trip so that you can return home and bring all the love and adventure back to your partner!"
"There are many things to consider when moving in with a significant other. Be respectful and give each other the space after arguments," says Lisa Strube LPC, CRC. "Know what makes each other laugh because you need a good sense of humor to get through the day."
"Don't be afraid of moving in too early if you're 30 or older, better the devil you know! Living together will show if you are built to share your lives together long term," says Katherine Winny, a dating and relationship coach. "Ideally, get somewhere new together, or if one of you is moving in, consider redecorating together so the place feels like it's both of yours."
"Celebrate this milestone with your partner by investing in identifying something that will represent the value and commitment you are adding to your relationship by living together," says licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Dana McNeil. "Honor that you are both creating your family of choice versus the one you were born into. Symbolize this connection by taking some time to identify if there is an activity like painting walls together, choosing a signature piece of art or even refinishing your first piece of furniture that will solidify a shared sense of meaning and that represents who you both are and the values you bring to the relationship. Enjoy your new home!"
Whether you want to move in together because it feels like the next step for your relationship or you're thinking it financially makes the most sense, the decision to move in together is something only you and your partner can decide.