So you’ve made the decision to move in with a partner – yay! There’s a lot to be excited about, and especially if you’ve been together for a while and spend a lot of time at each other’s places, this might not seem like a huge transition.
But moving in together can sometimes come with unexpected bumps in the road, from sharing your space to getting your schedules in sync. We asked Zencare couples counselors to recommend their top tips for moving in together. With these simple strategies in mind, you and your partner can get ahead of potential tensions—and save time and energy for the fun stuff!
Tip #1: Be intentional about quality time
Once you move in with your partner, you’ll see each other so often that you won’t need to worry about making time to hang out—right? Well, yes and no.
On the one hand, living together does give you bits and pieces of togetherness that you wouldn’t otherwise have. Think making coffee together in the morning, or talking over your days as you get ready for bed – these times can be wonderful parts of your relationship.
But on the other hand, being around each other all the time can make you mistake casual living time (e.g., sitting on the sofa while one of you watches TV and the other scrolls through Instagram) for quality time—that is, time in which you’re actively and intentionally engaged with each other.
Casual living time is wonderful and exciting, but issues can arise when that becomes the only kind of time you spend together.
“Because couples who cohabit are around each other a lot, it can be easy to fall in the habit of not prioritizing special time together,” says Kara Lissy, a therapist in NYC who often works with couples. “It could lead the couple to feeling more like roommates than romantic partners at times.”
To make sure that you still get plenty of quality time together, consider building one or more of these habits:
- Schedule a weekly date, even if it’s just a weekend walk around your neighborhood
- Establish little routines to connect at home, like doing a crossword puzzle together over breakfast
- Commit to actively asking each other how things are going on a daily basis—and make sure you actually listen to each other’s answers!
Tip #2: Plan for your expenses
There’s no one right way to manage your expenses as a cohabiting couple. As long as it works for you both, there are a wide range of financial arrangements that can make for a positive partnership.
But couples counselors agree that there is a wrong way to approach your expenses: not planning for them at all! Though it might sound surprising, it’s common for couples to avoid discussing how they’re going to manage paying their rent and other household expenses, like utilities and groceries.
After all, talking about money can be awkward, and living together brings your finances together in a new and unique way. To get ahead of this issue, Kara recommends reviewing your own boundaries and values around budgeting, saving/spending habits, and sharing accounts before engaging in a discussion with your partner.
“Not only can it be revealing and self-affirming, but it also prepares you well for the conversation,” she says.
Here are ways to make the money talks go smoothly:
- Make sure you’re both open about your needs and preferences (financial and otherwise!) early and often. This article on navigating different desires can help.
- Familiarize yourself with different options for splitting rent and other expenses. For instance, some couples split expenses down the middle no matter what, while others are more comfortable paying different amounts based on each person’s financial means.
- Use tracking apps to keep an eye on your spending and any money you might owe each other. Splitwise is a helpful basic option, and it’s free!
And remember to approach the conversation open-mindedly and without judgment.
“It helps to have an attitude of flexibility and willingness to reconsider some of your own values and habits when it comes to money,” adds Kira. “At the same time, be mindful of areas where you’d be less likely to compromise.” That might be preferences like keeping separate bank accounts, or splitting the rent evenly regardless of income.
Tip #3: Set your space up for shared success
Whether you’re sharing a house, a studio apartment, or anything in between the way you use your space can make a big difference in your experience of living together.
But you don’t need to be enthusiastic interior designers or Marie Kondo devotees to make your space work for you! Couples counselors suggest keeping these basic tips in mind:
Make your big decisions together
When it comes to arranging furniture, choosing art, or painting a room, team up! If one of you doesn’t like one of these major features of your home, it can make living together a little less comfortable for both of you. Even if one of you doesn’t have strong opinions about these kinds of choices, be sure to talk the decision over at least briefly before making any big changes.
But let the little things go
No, your partner shouldn’t paint the living room without asking you. But buying a pillow you think is ugly, or a spatula you don’t need? Do your best to brush off these smaller things; you’re bound to disagree sometimes, and remember that living together usually means tolerating a few little things that you wouldn’t have chosen yourself.
Remember to maintain some independence at home
To the extent that you can, try to set aside a bit of space that each of you can call your own. This might be a closet, a desk, or a whole room if you’ve got the space.
And then comes the tricky part: leaving the other person’s space be! Your girlfriend’s closet might be a total mess, but if it’s her space, she gets to decide what to do with it—even if you can’t stand to look inside.
Moving in together is an exciting step in your relationship, but don’t be surprised if some curveballs arise along the way. Kara recommends being gentle and compassionate with yourself and your partner as you navigate this transition.
“There will be arguments, tension, bad moods, and bad days – and it’s important to remember there is a learning curve whenever you’re living with someone new,” she says. "One big fight doesn’t mean the relationship is doomed – it simply might mean you have more to learn about your communication styles." Happy moving!