You and your partner have been dating for a while, and things are going pretty well. You may even be getting those “this is the one!” feelings. Time to move in together, right? Not so fast. Deciding to cohabitate is one of those big relationship (and life) decisions requiring serious thought. Here are a few signs that it really is time to take the next step and move in together.
YOU’RE PRACTICALLY LIVING TOGETHER ALREADY.
You’ve stopped packing a bag. You have clothes at your partner’s apartment. Your toothbrush has a home in the medicine cabinet. Maybe you even have a drawer of your own or a key to the place. If you’re already spending several nights each week together, the transition to cohabitation will feel natural. After all, you have a good understanding of what life together will actually be like—TV habits, dirty dishes, and all.
YOU’VE GONE ON VACATION TOGETHER AND HAD A GREAT TIME.
Sure, vacations can offer a stress-free, idyllic week away, but they can also test your strength as a couple. From fatigue and hunger to sunburns and stomach ailments, there’s nothing like getting out of your comfort zone—and away from your daily routine—to leave you at your most vulnerable. Vacations are also a great way to explore how you make decisions together, whether it’s figuring out how you want to spend your trip budget or what type of cuisine you want to eat for dinner.
YOU WANT TO LIVE TOGETHER. YOU DON’T FEEL PUSHED.
According to 2010 Census data, 7.7 million unmarried couples were living together. As cohabitation increasingly becomes the norm, it’s easy to feel pressured to move in together simply because it feels like the next logical step. Don’t let the fact that all of your friends moved in with their partners after a year of dating stress you out. Each person is different and what felt comfortable for your friend may not for you. Similarly, don’t rush into living with your partner solely because it makes logistical sense: say, one of your leases is about to end, or you’re trying to cut down on expenses. Saving money on rent can be alluring, but if it doesn’t work out, breaking a lease and having to look for your own place can be financially (and emotionally) draining.
YOU’VE FOUGHT—AND MADE UP.
No relationship is completely free of strife. Make sure you’ve weathered a storm or two before signing a lease together. Do you know how to fight fairly? Are you able to listen to each other and come to an agreement? Can you repair hurt feelings? Being able to resolve conflict is essential when you’re roommates and partners. Remember: There’s nowhere to run when you are living in a tiny studio together.
YOU’VE DISCUSSED YOUR EXPECTATIONS.
“Communication” may be the most over-cited secret to a successful relationship of all time, but it is with good reason. Before you shack up, discuss what you both expect from the person you share your space with. Do you plan to spend most nights at home together? Do you want to entertain guests every week? Do you expect the dishes to be cleared from the sink each night? Be clear about what it is that you both need to feel comfortable and happy in your home. While it certainly helps when you want the same things, being able to compromise is just as important for successful cohabitation.
YOU’VE HAD THE MONEY TALK. …
Sitting down and talking about money can seem as appealing as a root canal, but it’s a necessary evil in any relationship. Is your partner a spender or saver? If you’re looking to buy a home or sign a new lease together, your credit scores will come into play, and it’s better to get any potential surprises out in the open. It’s okay if you don’t always have the same approach to money as long as you’re both willing to work together towards a secure financial future.
… AND YOU’VE MADE A FINANCIAL PLAN.
Sure, you’ve split the check after a nice meal, but do you know how you will handle larger expenses as a couple? Get off on the right foot and establish how you will divide bills early on. Will you be splitting rent evenly? Or will the person with the higher salary pay a higher percentage of the rent? Who will manage your utilities? Will you have a shared bank account for household expenses? Some couples opt to track what they each spend in detail; others are comfortable simply alternating milk- or toilet paper-runs. There’s no right way to divide it up—it’s whatever feels most comfortable.
YOU WANT THE SAME THINGS OUT OF LIFE.
If one of you thinks moving in together is the next step on the road to marriage and the other has no desire to tie the knot, living together isn’t going to end in happily ever after. Before you start packing up your stuff, be sure that you have similar goals for the future. That doesn’t mean you need to have a detailed five-year plan in place, but being in a long-term relationship means planning for a future together. Make sure you’re moving in the same direction.
Moving in together? We know it’s awkward, but you’re going to want to have The Money Talk. Know where you stand by visiting Discover’s free Credit Scorecard. You’ll be able to see your credit score, even if you aren’t a Discover customer. Visit Discover to learn more.