You’ve been dating for a while. Maybe you’re already spending a few nights a week together. And the topic of moving in together has recently come up. You realize it’s a big step and you’re not sure if you’re ready, but you think you might be.
You’re not alone. Cohabitation, or living together, has increased more than 1,500% since the 1960s according to a survey from the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia. Another study from Rutgers University shows that nearly 50% of all couples getting married have already lived together.
This increase may be attributed to several factors from the economy, to the availability of birth control, to changing cultural attitudes about sexuality. Whatever the cause, making the decision to move in together is a big one. One that you should take some time to think over. Here are 6 questions to get you started as you consider the pros and cons.
1 – Why do you want to move in together?
Oftentimes moving in together just happens gradually over time. It wasn’t intentional, there was no real thought put into it. One day you both just realized you were basically living together and decided to give up one of your leases. That’s not the case for you though. You and your partner are talking about it, being intentional and want to make the best decision.
Maybe one of the reasons you are thinking about moving in is you aren’t ready for the commitment of marriage. Maybe you’ve seen the divorce rate. Or maybe you come from a family that has experienced divorce and you know the pain involved, so you don’t want to experience it yourself.
Maybe you are thinking about marriage and think a “test drive” would be good. This is a line we hear from guys more than girls. They say, “You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it out for a test drive. Why would you get married without living together first?” Really, a test drive? So what’s the return policy if the drive doesn’t go well? The problem isn’t just that a “test drive” communicates a total lack of commitment, it’s that studies show that married couples who live together before the wedding are actually more likely to get a divorce than those who don’t. So, if divorce is one of your fears, living together actually increases your chances rather than decreasing them.
2 – Do you have realistic expectations about moving in together?
We know, you’re madly in love and your partner is amazing. They probably are. But once you move in together, you will see another side of them. You just will. Up until now you’ve probably seen them at their best. Hair done, makeup on, clean shaven. But reality hits when you move in together because you can’t always put your best foot forward. You need to talk about it before moving in together and have a plan so you don’t become frustrated when your expectations aren’t met. Things like who’s going to do the dishes, take out the trash, do laundry, clean the toilet.
And it goes beyond household chores. Sure the first few weeks you may love spending all your time together. But eventually you are going to need some personal space. Maybe it’s a time home alone, or a night out with friends. Whatever it is, you need a plan to spend some time apart. This is especially true once you begin to discover each other’s annoying little habits that we all have.
Having some clear expectations going into a situation are better than waiting until feelings are hurt and emotions are running high.
3 – What about the finances?
Splitting rent is a great deal and a way to save some money, but finances are also the #1 source of conflict in most relationships. Setting clear expectations about who’s paying the bills and managing the money is essential. Are you splitting all expenses 50/50 – rent, utilities, groceries, date nights, vacations, or do you have another plan? Whose name is on the lease? Which leads to our next question.
4 – Where will you live when you move in together?
Your place or theirs? That’s usually the question. Maybe yours is bigger, but their rent is cheaper. You have more space, theirs is closer to work or campus. These are all important things, but maybe not the most important.
Having to share “your” space with someone can present challenges. Are you ready to give up half of your space? What happens when your workspace becomes their home office? Sometimes finding a new space is the easiest solution, but that presents its own set of challenges if things don’t work out.
5 – What if things don’t work out?
After all, it was just a test drive, and it just didn’t work. Better now than after we got married. Easy to say, but still painful and not so easy to work out most of the time. The expectations for moving in together are different than marriage, the commitment is lower, and easier to walk away from. Not only is the commitment lower, but usually the standards are also lower when considering someone to move in versus marriage. While that makes it easier to get into a live-in relationship, it doesn’t always make it easier getting out. Remember that new place you got with both of your names on the lease. Which one of you is homeless now? All the things you purchased together, who gets those? And the pets? All of this can lead to an even uglier breakup. And what about kids? We’ll talk about that in the next question. If the relationship doesn’t work out, things can be more heartbreaking after moving in together. We know, none of us ever imagine it could happen to us, but statistics say it is probable.
6 – Are you ready for children?
“Slooooooooow Dooooooooown” is probably what you’re thinking. We get it. You haven’t even talked about where you’re going to live and if you’re thinking about marriage yet. Well, you better add talking about children to the list of things to talk about, especially when you consider that around 20% of women who are cohabitating will get pregnant within the first year of moving in together. Yeah – probably not what you were wanting to hear, but you need to know and talk about it first. It’s a fairly big decision and you’ll want to know if he plans on sticking around or leave you with a baby or facing an abortion alone.
It’s a Big Decision
While on the surface it might seem like an easy decision, maybe even a “no brainer”, moving in together is a big decision. There are many factors to consider beyond the six questions we raise in this post. If this is something you’re considering, we encourage you to take some time to think it through, to weigh the pros and cons and even talk it over with someone who isn’t invested in your relationship. If you need someone to talk with, we’d love to sit down, ask questions, listen and help you work through what is going to be best for you.
If you’ve already made the decision to move in together and are having second thoughts, or are facing an unplanned pregnancy or the possibility of a STD, we’re here for you as well.