So you are considering moving in with your partner. After all, you’re practically already living together, and the prospect of splitting the bill outweighs any potential fears about long-term compatibility. The next step, of course, is to make it official.
There are many advantages of living together: you no longer have to waste half of your Friday night traveling to your loved one. You can now use the nice coffee machine that his parents gave him for Christmas, and you also don’t have to worry about extra underpants that sometimes feel like falling out of your bag when you’re on the bus.
With the prices of food, energy and rent exploding, the pressure to find a roommate has never been higher. A 2021 study found that 18 percent of cohabiting couples have moved in with their partner because it’s “financially beneficial” (who said romance is dead?).
In 2022, there were more than 28 applicants for every available rental property in the UK, with price increases of more than 10 per cent since the corona measures were lifted. In the United States, rent growth was at 11.6 percent in late 2021 and early 2022, nearly three times what it was in the five years before the pandemic, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. Given that landlords are more likely to take on couples as tenants, cohabitation is increasingly proving to be a good move if you want to save money.
One thing’s for sure: You don’t want to spend all your money and effort finding a house only to find out you can’t stand the person you’re now contractually obligated to live with. I spoke to cohabiting couples and a relationship expert to find out their secret to a successful next step.
1. Don’t tell yourself nothing will change
“You can’t just think about yourself anymore,” says Brad Thomas, a 28-year-old business manager from Manchester who moved in with his partner earlier this year. “When you have finished with the milk or the toilet roll, you have to take the other person into account and not forget to communicate, because you actually have to function as a team. You really have to make some adjustments to the way you think.”
If you’re going for drinks after work or if you want to invite someone over for dinner, you should also think about the other person’s concerns and wishes. What you eat, when you get up, when you go to bed, what you do at the weekend – it’s not just up to you anymore. It may take you a while to figure out what works well in your relationship, but you’ll get there. Or you don’t care.
“Spending more time together and adjusting to each other’s habits naturally requires some compromises,” says relationship consultant Ellie Turner. “It is important to communicate and set healthy boundaries from the start, as it is much more difficult to change one’s behavior over time.”
Do you remember the thing that made you love your partner so much in the first place? The sweet sounds they make in their sleep or their obsession with The 1975. Yes, you can start to hate it.
2. Set boundaries
If you move in together, you’ll likely cross each other’s boundaries and annoy each other without realizing it. If you don’t talk about it, your partner can’t know that you need some alone time when you get home from work, or that you need to let them know when the kids move into your house.
“Be open and honest in your communication without blaming the other person for things,” says Turner. “If things remain unspoken, bitterness can arise; partners can then become passive-aggressive if they don’t know how to start the conversation directly.”
She continues: “You can’t expect someone to live exactly the way you do, so it’s important to have respect for each other and discuss each other’s needs rather than setting expectations for how the other should behave. Also, be careful how you discuss this with your partner to prevent them from suddenly becoming defensive.”
3. Decide how you want to distribute the finances
When it comes time to pay the bill, don’t be surprised if you find yourself arguing like you never have before. Remember – living with your partner is not only a personal commitment, but also a financial one.
“My partner had a specific monthly budget that she could use,” explains Thomas. “I used to live alone, so it would be more financially beneficial for me to live together; So I would cover the difference with love and pay more rent. We split our bills 50/50 but considered our different incomes to make it fair overall. For example, if I pay for dinner, she will buy some snacks later.”
Decide, preferably before you get the keys, how you want to distribute rent, bills and common expenses. Should you combine your finances? Will you buy furniture together or will you get everything from IKEA? Setting a budget and being honest with each other can prevent money-related conversations from getting out of hand.
4. Decide how you want to divide the tasks
There’s a good chance you won’t agree on how often to change the sheets or how long the dirty dishes can sit. Compromise and communication are also your best friends here: maybe one of you likes to vacuum and the other is secretly quite good at getting long hair out of the shower drain.
When Abi Herbert (25) moved in with her partner two and a half years ago, they initially had a conversation about which household chores they found most annoying. “We realized at some point that a lot of things that one person really hates for the other person are quite fine to do,” explains the PR specialist from Birmingham.
“Instead of taking turns, we are just individually responsible for certain things; it limits the amount of arguments because there are few times when you have to decide whose turn it was to do something or if one does something more often than the other. Personally, I love that I never have to take the trash away.”
5. Take time for yourself
Just because you live together doesn’t mean you’re inseparable. You don’t want the constant togetherness to lead to codependency. Plan an evening or two to hang out with friends or watch TV in separate rooms. Remember, distance makes love stronger.
“We were in a long-distance relationship for a year before we moved in, so things went really well at first,” says Herbert. “Eating pizza on the floor together a lot for the first few months and just being completely obsessed with each other.”
But when the shutdown eased, Herbert and her partner started doing their own thing again. “In the beginning it felt a bit like we had to do everything together, which was definitely not healthy – but I’d say we’ve got that balance better now,” she says. “I couldn’t live with someone who would be indignant if I didn’t want to spend every moment with them.”
Even if you cannot currently be separated from your partner for more than 24 hours, you must be very careful. It’s pretty amazing how quickly you can start hating someone when the only time you don’t see them is when you take a shit
6. Have an exit strategy ready
If you’re planning to move in together, breaking up is the last thing on your mind. Unfortunately, not all relationships stand the test of time (or the test of cohabitation), and many couples are increasingly stuck in a life situation that has no affordable way out.
“You need to have some savings for emergencies and some options for when things don’t work out,” says Turner. “If you’re moving in together and you’re going through the lease and you see something that kind of worries you — say no break-in clause or a large security deposit — it’s important that you feel comfortable discussing these things with your partner.”
Being honest about what will happen if it doesn’t work out might not be such a bad idea when so much is at stake. It’s not exactly romantic, but it can save you a lot of stress later on. So go ahead, ask that question to the person you’ve been dating for three months. Half the rent is worth your partner’s smoldering bitterness, right?
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
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