That moment when you and your partner decide to move in together is likely bliss. You’re both feeling confident in your relationship, and the time feels right to take that step forward. That, or, you live in a city that’s too expensive to live in on your own, and you’re basically never at your apartment, and you’ve decided you don’t want to pay rent for it anymore.
Whichever reality is yours, the prospect of living with your partner is exciting in the beginning. A rush of opportunity and closeness will encircle you both. You’ll get giddy making plans to go to IKEA, and you’ll go HAM on your Pinterest board looking for neutral decor inspiration that will help combine your styles. You’ll send each other links to rugs and lamps and duvet covers. You’ll fantasize about having breakfast routines with kitchen choreography and get giddy over saying “ours”.
And then the moving day will come, and you will freak the fuck out. You’ll both be highly stressed, emotional, nostalgic for a single life you’re leaving behind, worried about the future, and feeling the impending pangs of claustrophobia. Maybe the first night you’ll put your worries behind you with a bottle of wine and some Chinese delivery food that you'll eat on milk crates like in the movies, but when you wake up in the morning, and the towers of boxes hover over you and you get a notification from your bank app that your account balance is dangerously low because you underestimated how much those Craigslist movers would charge you, you might find it hard to muster excitement.
And the truth is couples who move in together before marriage are actually statistically more likely to get a divorce than couples who wait. So how do you do what feels right for your relationship in the moment, while fighting against a statistic of the future? And, more importantly, how do couples even know they’re ready to move in together in the first place?
I talked to psychologist Dr. Alex Lash, who works with young couples, about what couples can do to increase their chances of a successful relationship after moving in together. Here’s what she had to say about that nagging statistic and knowing when the time is right: “When you’re considering most things in a relationship, there is no set of universal rules. There is no universal right time to move in together. However, there are some factors that indicate a strong and healthy relationship. Without that strong base, it is hard to succeed.”
Some things that Dr. Lash suggests couples consider before moving in together are:
1) How well do you know each other?
Are you aware of each other’s fears? Do you know how to take care of each other when you’re having a rough day or sick? How aware are you of all the little attributes that make you who you are? Additionally, a couple should talk about the bigger decisions you’ll have to make, before making this commitment. Have you discussed kids? Do you each believe in marriage? Where do you see yourself settling down in the future? What is an acceptable income for the two of you? Some of this may seem preemptive, but if you cannot talk about these things and find equal ground, a move-in may not be a wise next step.
2) Do you really like each other?
When you think about how you feel for each other, do you truly think this person is the most awesome person you know? Would you consider yourself on the same team? Do you enjoy being around them for long periods of time? If you are considering moving in with your partner, it should be because you think you have hit the jackpot and want to hang with this person 24-7, because they rule! Not because rent is cheaper, and your friends are all getting married.
3) What are your problems?
Every couple has their problems, and every couple fights. It is how they handle these problems and how they fight that matters. Make sure you understand your problems, your recurring issues, and know how to address them in a communicative, healthy manner.
And as far as the nitty gritty unromantic aspects of moving in together, Dr. Lash recommends:
Discuss the boundaries and expectations before the big move. Who is going to pay each bill, or are you each going to take turns or pay certain ones? What firmness of a mattress is ideal? How long does each of you take to get ready for work in the morning? Who cooks, who grocery shops, who sends in the rent check? Understanding and planning are very helpful when making these transitions.
And when the reality of taking that step forward sets in and tensions become high, Dr. Lash suggests that couples deal with cohabitating-related issues by doing this:
Be realistic. Transitions are hard! Changes take adjustment periods. You’re not doomed if it’s not smooth sailing from the start. Be forgiving—after all, this is your teammate, and both of you will make mistakes. Take each other’s perspectives instead of getting angry, try to always understand where your significant other is coming from, and ask them to do the same with you.
But all the heady psychology aside, these are some of the most important things that a couple should factor into their moving expenses:
A good bed. Sure, the idea of going to a mattress store together and testing out all the different kinds sounds fun, but the more options, the more stress. Make your life easier and order a delivery mattress like Casper or Eight (we raved about it here). There are no options other than size which makes the process that much easier. If you truly have different sleep needs, opt for a Helix bed; you personalize the mattress for each of you, and you can still do it all online and order it in the mail.
A cleaning service. Ideally, you’ll both clean up after yourself because you’re both adults and care about the space you live in. But in reality, your schedules won’t line up, there will be dirty dishes in the sink for days, and the combined collection of hair in the bathroom will make you both gag every time you shower. I asked dozens of married couples what the most important thing to spend money on as a couple, and they all told me a cleaner. Don’t play the blame game, avoid a chore wheel, have someone else do it.
Noise-canceling headphones. Particularly if you live in a small space, these are clutch. The classic Bose headphones take you away to another place that’s quiet, and you're the only one it in. Don’t get mad because your partner wants to watch TV late, just put on your headphones. Don’t argue with your partner about how loud you have to play Lana Del Rey while you get dressed, just put on your headphones. Even if you’re not listening to music, but don’t want to be bothered, put on your headphones.
Closet organizer. If there’s a closet in a metropolitan apartment that has enough space for two people’s wardrobes and doesn’t overflow on a daily basis, don’t ever let it go. But if your closet is just like everyone else’s, go to an organizational store like The Container Store or IKEA and get closet organizers so you can keep your clothes separate and organized.
Take a class together. With all the chaos associated with moving in together, you might forget to focus on why you moved in together in the first place. And without the need to make plans anymore, you might quickly go lax on your efforts to spend quality time with each other outside of the house. Sign up for a weekly yoga class together. Use it as a time to check out and check in with each other. Or, try something a bit outside of your comfort zone, like a glass blowing glass or helicopter flight lessons. Just make sure you have enough money at the end of the month for that cleaning service.