With today's rising rent, the topic of cohabitation tends to swirl around quite a bit.
Sharing an apartment with your boyfriend or girlfriend combines two things we all love - our boo and saving money. But even if money is not the main driving force, taking this step can be life-changing and either be the beginning of something amazing or something you wish never happened. It's about building a life with someone, creating a home together, and starting off on a journey that very often leads to marriage, family, and all that other Happily Ever After stuff.
Last year, my boyfriend and I moved in together. It wasn't our first time around that block, each having been briefly married previously. But, despite what we knew about the process, we still had a lot to learn about each other. The dating process tends to create this lovely filter, catching all things deal-breaking and fear inducing. You put your best foot forward and then go home and return to the version of yourself that no one else sees. If you're thinking about taking this step, you should also be ready to pull back that filter and embrace what's real. My advice is to sit down with your potential new roomie and have a sincere conversation about the immediate future. Here are a few talking points to get you started.
Decide What Moving In Together Means
Straight out the gate, this should be the very first thing discussed. If it isn't already implied or clearly understood for both of you, take the time to do that. Does moving in mean marriage? Does moving in mean saving money and keeping things loose? Relationships come in all shapes and sizes and, therefore, so do relationship expectations. Leave room for change, because things will evolve along the way. Have this conversation often and openly. Living together takes dating into a space that will affect your very livelihood. Merging means change and change requires trust. Of all the many ways you'll have to compromise, this is not one.
What About Your Friends?
You're not just moving in with another person, you're moving in with another person's entire life. Their social circle is likely an important part of that life and one that very well may be at your doorstep on occasion. Its safe to assume that if you and your partner are already talking about living together, that you've met each other's entourage so take a moment to bring up any concerns therewithin. Do you have a friend who creeps him out? Does he need to vacate the premises when you host your bi-monthly brunch? How will your home be opened up to each other's circle of friends is important to discuss. This won't just be your space, after all, so the level of comfort you both have in your home is equally important.
Make An Agreement About Household Chores
My advice when it comes to household chores? Assign them like it's mama's house. Who cooks and on what days? Who does the dishes? Assuming that these things will work themselves out is the quickest way to play yourself. Sure, on a good day everyone offers to be as helpful as possible. But when life gets hectic, irritating, or strained, the volunteering tends to stop. Eliminate the guesswork by deciding in advance who will do what. Three days a week, I make dinner (because my partner gets home from work late). On those days, he does the dishes. I do most of the meal planning and he handles garbage and recycling. We've had arguments about a lot of things, but dinner and dishes has never been one of them.
Define Your Social Expectations
Moving in together should not be the beginning of your life as co-hermits - okay, maybe during the cold months. But in general, living together should be a way in which you both get to experience a new level of commitment. There are new requirements and new roles and one of those is the role of social supporter. Push each other to stay engaged in all the things they were before the move. Be each other's cheerleader when the energy to get up and go is low. Be each other's activity partner even if the activity isn't your fave. Coupledom slows life down a bit and brings you home when you otherwise would have gone out. Finding the balance is the difference between being a Netflix and Chill couple and a Power Couple.
Create An Emergency Only Exit Strategy
We can't talk about the beginning of something without talking about it's potential end. Things happen and sometimes relationships don't work out. The finger-pointing and back and forth that come with a breakup shouldn't have to muddle logistics. From the very beginning, outline who keeps the apartment, who keeps the couch, and who keeps the deposit. This also frees you both from feeling any uncertainty about your living situation should you feel the relationship needs to end. There's nothing worse than having to stay somewhere you don't want to, simply because you can't afford to leave.
Cleaning Under the Rug
Time to talk about that argument you had a few months ago that never got resolved. Or admit to each other what pet peeves have been driving you up the wall. It doesn't have to be serious, but take the time to air things out. Whatever isn't getting talked about now, can find its way back in later, possibly in the form of an eruption. You won't have the "safety" of retreating to your seperate corners now that all of your corners will be shared. So, bite the bullet and keep it all the way real in the name of love.
Have An Awkward Conversation About Money
Around the time we started looking for apartments, my boyfriend and I had an awkward conversation about credit. It was one of those, "Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine" situations where we both walked away knowing way more about each other than we had before. But in the end, being honest about finances has been a benefit to our growth. We also talked about how household expenses would be divided. It doesn't always have to be about how money is spent, you can also discuss how your money can grow together. Plan out an investment strategy so that even in the event of a break up, you both walk away winners.
Define Your Deal-Breakers.
Everyone has a line (or two) that absolutely cannot be crossed. Cheating, lies, bad habits that affect others - whatever it is, make it clear that a violation will result in the relationship ending. It's way too easy to feel a sigh of relief once keys have been exchanged and mail has been forwarded. It can give the false illusion that the relationship is permanent, when in reality, no relationship is permanent when it's mistreated. This might be a conversation you have with yourself before you have it with bae, but at some point, it's important to show your worth and lay out what won't be tolerated.
Featured image by Getty Images