My 7 Best Tips for Couples Moving in Together, as a Relationship Therapist
Home is the most personal space we have, and sharing it with someone special can be intimidating and richly rewarding. Most couples, however, have to work through some difficulties before they make it to happily ever after.
Even if you stay with each other most nights and are practically living together already, there’s a difference between having your own space to return to and only having a shared space. If you don’t adjust properly, you may experience frustration or resentment. In my years counseling couples on cohabitation and intimacy as a certified sex and relationship therapist, these are the seven best pieces of advice I give to couples who want to move in together.
Decide for yourselves, not for convenience.
It’s easy to look at inflation and rising rent costs and think that living together just makes sense. Economically, it does — but that shouldn’t be your sole reason for living together. Any steps you take with your partner should be based on the strength of your relationship itself, not circumstance.
It’s okay to decide that it’s not the right time to live together. It doesn’t mean your relationship is failing or going nowhere. It’s far worse be rush forward than it is to move slowly and surely.
Make time for intimacy.
When people go from dating to cohabiting, sometimes sex lives can fall by the wayside. Even if you don’t want to sleep together often, it’s important to set aside time to be intimate with each other in and out of your home.
While there’s no one-size-fits-all answer for a good sex life, couples who sleep together at least once per week are often happier with themselves and their relationship. When people date, being together is an occasion. They put more effort into appearances, activities, and physical contact. When they live together, this dynamic can change. Instead of being an event, being together is the norm. This can take some getting used to, but it’s important to nurture intimacy with your partner.
If you can, find a new space.
While it may seem simple to move into your partner’s place or have them move into yours, it’s important to remember that you both have memories and expectations about what a home should be. No matter how close you are, you’re different people who will sometimes need different things.
If your partner moves in with you, for example, you’ll quickly have less space, less privacy, and likely a different level of cleanliness than you’re used to. On their end, the home might feel less comfortable because it’s already been yours and they have less opportunity to make it their own.
On the other hand, moving into a new place allows both of you to build that space together. The decorations, appliances, furniture, and atmosphere will represent your relationship instead of just one of you.
Keep time for yourselves.
Everyone has different ways of relaxing, recharging, and enjoying their free time. Even if you and your partner enjoy the same things, there will be times when you want to do those things alone. This does not mean that your partner doesn’t love you or is losing interest. It means that no matter what, everyone needs some time to themselves. If your partner wants to play video games, paint, quietly watch TV, read a book, or just sit and look at their phone, let them!
A healthy relationship respects the individuality of both partners as much as the bond they have together. If you find yourself wanting to spend more time with your partner while they need alone time, try to find activities or hobbies you can enjoy by yourself while they’re recharging.
Set standards for your home.
No one grows up the same way, so people have different ideas about how clean a home should be, when to do chores, and how to do them. If you leave dishes in the sink, don’t replace the toilet paper roll, or go two weeks without washing your sheets, it doesn’t mean either of you is lazy. It just means you prioritize things differently. You’ll need to agree on common standards to get along.
You may want to divide chores on a schedule, giving yourself a few days a week to handle housework while your partner takes the others. You may also find it easier to divide by chore, handling the laundry while your partner handles the kitchen.
There’s no right or wrong way to divide housework, but it should be as fair as possible and you should write down whatever you agree on. Above all, try to be understanding with each other if something doesn’t get done — no schedule is perfect, and sometimes both of you will have off days.
Agree on a budget.
Money is one of the main causes of fights in any relationship, but you can avoid this by agreeing on how much to spend on what. Even if you have separate accounts, you’ll likely be splitting the cost of rent, groceries, and bills. It’s important to set a budget where prices are flexible.
For example, my previous partner and I disagreed on groceries often. I’m a budget shopper — I buy the cheapest ingredients and snacks and turn them into meals. My partner, on the other hand, was a culinary graduate and restaurant manager who had high standards for ingredients. I did most of the shopping, so you can imagine he was a little upset with my purchases from time to time.
After a few disagreements, we decided to make a list of things that needed to be “fancy.” We couldn’t only buy expensive food within our budget, so we decided on a few ingredients where quality was important. I’d buy expensive versions of items like honey or parmesan and cheaper versions of other things. It was a compromise, but in the end, we were both happy and stayed within our budget.
Be patient with conflict.
There’s no way around it — eventually, you two will fight. The key is not to avoid fights, but to approach them with patience and understanding. Your relationship is not you versus your partner, but both of you versus the situation. Explain your feelings respectfully (i.e. “when you do this, it makes me feel this way”), and realize that sometimes it’s best to wait a few minutes or hours until you’ve cooled off before addressing what makes you upset.
This is the one thing I counsel my clients on before they move in together: Is your partner willing and able to solve problems with you? If they are, the rest will fall in place over time. Expect conflict and don’t be afraid to address it. Every relationship has problems — this doesn’t mean you’re failing, it only means you’re growing as a couple.