“Did you hear that Tim* and I are moving in together?” my friend Sarah* revealed to our friends over tacos one night. Everyone immediately bombarded her with questions: “Where will you live?” “One-bedroom or two?” “Will you still split the rent evenly?” “What will he do with all his Star Wars action figures?!” Yet Sarah had no answers, saying that she and Tim hadn't had any logistical conversations about moving in together just yet. "But it'll be fine," she assured us.
A few months later, they'd broken up — in part, at least, because most of those important talks didn’t actually end up happening. When issues inevitably came up — like how they’d divide the rent and who’d cook dinner each night — Sarah and Tim found that they disagreed on pretty much everything. If they'd talked about things prior to moving in together, though, they might've been able to resolve those problems and find common ground; and while there still would've been struggles, of course, nothing would have come as a surprise.
“Moving in together is obviously a major step,” Josh Klapow, Ph.D. clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Mic. “You may love the person dearly, but you still have to prepare yourself for some basic challenges.” When you live with your partner — like approximately 64.5% of U.S. adults aged 18 to 44 have done at some point, according to The Institute for Family Studies (IFS) — you’ll discover "their habits, quirks, fears, oddities, and everything that had been covered up while you could each retreat back to your own private location,” explains Dr. Klapow.
That learning process is unavoidable, but it doesn't have to be overwhelming if you get a sense of how living with your partner will be prior to taking the plunge. Right now, you might discuss where to go on dates and what movie to watch on Netflix, but cohabiting requires deeper conversations about dividing chores, spending money, and much more. The more prepared you are before signing a lease, the better. As Dr. Kaplow advises, "Open the lines of communication and have the hard conversations before you move in together."
Here, he and a relationship expert reveal the top conversations you and your partner should have now if you're planning on living together soon.
1. How you'll take care of your home
When it comes to your new home, it’s important to plan out how you'll care for the space, in regards to both cleaning and decorating. Whose responsibility will it be to take out the trash? Will you vacuum every Sunday? Will you cover the living room with your partner's movie posters, or your framed artwork? “Get specific — about chores, cooking, cleaning, decorating, arranging, and so on,” Dr. Klapow says. “Do not assume that because you are both adults you will be responsible and it will just happen — it won’t.”
Julie Spira, online dating expert and dating coach, agrees about making rules early on, even about seemingly minor things such as keeping the toilet seat down and making the bed in the morning. “Little things matter and can fester if not addressed in advance,” she tells Mic.
When having these discussions, it's OK to compromise, but make sure you're fully on-board before saying yes. “There is nothing worse than saying you can compromise and then feeling uncomfortable in the space you are cohabiting in,” says Dr. Klapow. “You need to have conversations not just about what you like, but about what you need emotionally when it comes to your environment ... which sets the stage for the overall relationship moving forward.”
2. How you'll divide expenses
Spira says it’s crucial that you and your partner discuss money before living together. “Nothing is worse than someone feeling their partner isn’t doing or contributing their fair share,” she says. “Are you splitting the rent, or is one person continuing to pay their rent while you pay the utilities and buy groceries?"
When it comes to figuring out how to divvy up expenses, money guru Suze Orman recommends focusing on "equal percentages, not equal amounts of money," according to an interview with Marlo Thomas, so that you're paying what's fair based on your salaries, and no one gets resentful. Other money advice from Spira includes agreeing to have a joint checking account for household items that both of you contribute to monthly, or take turns paying the rent. Whatever works for you is fine, as long as you discuss it in advance of paying that first bill.
3. How much private time you’ll each need
Just because you’re moving in together doesn’t mean you need to spend 24/7 by each other's sides. “Allowing the other person to have space is healthy in a relationship," says Spira. After all, the last thing you’ll want is to feel smothered by your partner and not get the solo space you need. Before moving in, Dr. Klapow says couples should ask each other: How much space do you want or need? Do you like to spread out? Do you need your own private place in the new location, and where will that be?
“Adults forget that, despite their desire to be with one another, privacy, quiet time, and their own independent space is critical for the relationship,” he explains. “So you must talk about what you want and need for yourself.”
4. How often you’ll have people over
In addition to having alone time, you’ll also want time with your family and friends, sometimes by yourself and other times with your partner there, too. To avoid anyone’s feelings getting hurt, it’s good to discuss logistics in advance. "I suggest talking about ... how often you’d like to get together with others (with and without your partner),” Spira says.
Things to consider include how often you each want people over, and in what context — to come watch TV or to have dinner? Also — how late will people typically stay? And when it is just your friends hanging out, does your partner need to be there too?
At the end of the day, says Dr. Klapow, all these conversations are just about ensuring that living together goes as smoothly as possible. “The novelty of moving in together lasts about a week," he says. "Once the logistics kick in, it becomes about compromise, desire, individual needs, wants, fears, and habits.” Bringing up potential issues can be scary, but if you don't have those conversations beforehand, it could hinder or even end your relationship. “Talk now and be honest and authentic versus what you think your partner wants to hear,” says Dr. Klapow.
Remember, though, that while the idea of living together may seem romantic or like the logical next step of your relationship, you don't have to do it if you're not ready. If, in your pre-moving-in talks, you and your partner find that you have very different opinions and expectations about living together, it may be best to put the event off awhile until you can figure out some compromises.
Even if you can't, though, it’s not end of the world. “Give it a shot, but this might not be the time or this might not be the person that is right for moving in with,” says Dr. Klapow. “Instead, it might be better not to live together and to continue to grow as a couple and try it again later down the road — or not.”
*Notes names that have been changed for anonymity.