So, you and your boyfriend are considering moving in together? Congratulations! This is an exciting time in any relationship — a big step with a lot of fun moments along the way. (Shopping for new art and eating Chinese food on the living room floor? Yes please!) My boyfriend and I have lived together for about three years, and in that time we’ve learned a lot about each other and our relationship. We’ve dealt with my messy habits, different levels of social needs, and limited closet space. We’ve also had countless jam sessions, “Arrested Development” marathons, and a “Titanic” reenactment party that no one will ever forget.
While we’re certainly not perfect, we have figured out — through trial and error — how to make the cohabitation thing work. The big secret? Don’t leave your hair in the shower drain. The second most important thing? Talk about things before they become major problems. It’s easy to think that just because you love each other, living together will come naturally, but in reality, sharing a space with someone always requires some planning and negotiation. Here are five things to talk about before, during, and after you move in together…
1. Cleanliness: Are you and your guy both neat freaks? Or do you both enjoy a messy, chaotic lifestyle? If so, good for you, but if you don’t match up on your preferred level of cleanliness, you must figure out a way to deal with it or you will end up resenting each other. It might sound juvenile, but make a chore list and split up the tasks. Talk about which chores are non-negotiable and which ones can be overlooked during busy weeks. The good part about living with your significant other is that you can share and trade the most unpleasant chores. For example, I actually really like folding clothes, but I loathe doing dishes. My boyfriend doesn’t mind doing dishes but hates folding clothes. Voila! He takes the kitchen, I take the laundry. Figure out what you want your shared house to look like, and what each of you needs to do to make it a reality.
2. The Rent: Paying the rent in full and on time is a pretty simple transaction, but if you’re not careful, it can make your romantic relationship feel like a business deal. It’s never fun to have to ask someone for money, or to be asked for money, so figure out the details of how and when you’re going to pay rent long before that first check is due. And then stick to it.
3. Alone Time: As exciting as it is initially to spend every waking moment together, at some point you’re going to want a little space from your significant other. How much space you each need and how you ask for it is important. Understand that when your guy wants some solo time it’s not a personal insult–we all have different ways of recharging our social and spiritual selves. Make sure he understands the same about you. Be grateful for the time you spend together and respectful of the time you spend apart.
4. Houseguests: Some people love having friends come and crash on the couch for days or even weeks at a time. To others, this arrangement sounds like the definition of hell. Make sure you see eye to eye on this issue before you move in together, and especially before you invite all your college roommates over for a week-long slumber party.
5. Quality Time Vs. You Know, Just Time: A trap that’s really easy to fall into when you move in with your boyfriend is thinking that every minute spent together counts as “relationship time.” This is not true. While you may be closer in proximity, you can actually become more distant emotionally unless you make a point of spending quality time together. Don’t fall into the trap of watching TV in silence every night and calling it good. Cook dinner together. Give each other massages. Have random dance parties. Drink wine and talk until 2 a.m. Be proactive about your relationship. Keep things exciting. Don’t stop going on dates. Don’t ever take each other for granted.
Do you live with your significant other? What advice would you give other couples who are about to sign a shared lease?