After you have been in a relationship with someone for a while, you may consider taking it to a more serious level. One thought that many couples begin to entertain during the course of college or graduate school is moving in together. Some couples think through it deeply before deciding to move in together; other couples do it on a whim. There’s no hard and fast rule for determining when a couple is ready to move in together, but every couple must do a lot of thinking to make sure that the benefits of living together would outweigh the potential pitfalls. It’s a serious change to your lifestyle, and can put unfamiliar strains on your relationship if you’re not ready.
Living together is a serious commitment. You consent to tearing down one last wall of privacy between you and your significant other. When you’re living apart from your significant other, you have your own place that you can always go back to. If you’re annoyed with them for any reason or just want some time alone, you can just go home.
Before you move in with a significant other, know that you’re giving that up. You will no longer have a place alone, a place to truly disappear from everyone-including your “other half.”
You may think that this won’t be a big deal or a big change since you already spend so much time at your significant other’s apartment, or vice versa. But this is a common misconception. If you’re staying at their place but not living together, you’re not squabbling over rent and bills. You’re not divvying up who does the chores. You retain the right to ask your significant other to leave your apartment if you need some time alone if they are getting on your nerves.
When you move in, it’s different. Instead of leaving all of the annoying minutiae of housekeeping to yourself or to platonic roommates, those issues enter your relationship with your significant other. Sometimes it works out well if you are mature enough and compatible enough to deal with them smoothly. However, it may cause significant conflict, and you need to be ready to talk over the conflicts and decide how to resolve them.
If you are not good at talking out your conflicts and communicating openly, you are not ready to live together. Since you are sharing the same space, it becomes impossible to ignore issues when things go wrong. If you are comfortable pointing out and discussing issues clearly when they arise, then you have the best shot of solving them before they start to erode peace in your now-shared home. If not, then they will snowball into more conflict and make success as a cohabiting couple unlikely. And if you’ve never had a conflict, that’s probably a sign that it’s too soon to move in together, too.
You should not move in with anyone until you know them well enough and trust them to respect your bounds of privacy. Even though you lose a lot of your personal space when you share a roof, you don’t have to lose every shred of privacy. Make sure to have a conversation with your significant other about your privacy expectations in the apartment you would share. Agree that you will give them space to store things they want to keep private, and make clear you want that in return. Even more importantly, agree to respect each other’s need for private time.
And to consider a worst-case scenario: Living together makes breaking up far more complicated.
Clearly, you can’t predict when or if your breakup is going to happen, especially if you’re in a good stage now and are considering moving in together. Think about it, and make sure that you are willing to deal with having to move out and find another apartment quickly if you break up. Ending a relationship is complicated enough, and you need to be aware that if the relationship goes bad while you’re living together, someone is going to have the stress of moving to a new apartment on top of the stress of breaking up and staying current with school work despite the emotional trauma.
Living together can sometimes be very successful. It can be a great way for each of you to develop in the relationship. If you are considering marriage and your religious beliefs don’t prohibit living together, it is a very important step to take. It’s good to know whether you are compatible living together, especially before considering a lifelong partnership.
Sometimes living together works, and sometimes it doesn’t. Like everything in a relationship, you never know for sure until you try.
But this new step cannot be taken lightly. Unless you have thought through all of the bad things that could happen as well as all of the good things, you won’t be able to make an educated choice of whether that’s a good place to take your relationship.
As you would do any time you consider letting someone into your household, think carefully.
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