I have moving on-the-brain this week (since I’m moving into a new house myself) so wanted to write about the practical issues around moving in with your partner. For insights about how to arrive at this important decision (or not), and an overview of some of the issues involved, you can revisit some of my previous blogs (Cohabitation #1 and #2 for starters). But read on if you are looking for a step-by-step survival guide to shacking up. (Not to put too fine a point on it.)
Below are tips (in the 3 most important categories) for making this awesome plan to move in together with the person you are in love with go smoothly. You want the love part to be what you remember, not glitches, bumps in the road, or procedural or relationship horror stories.
Money. This is a conversation, and it comes, if not first, then really close to the beginning. Agree to speak openly and respond without judgment. Communication around money can be one of the biggest pitfalls in a relationship, especially if you actually do not communicate at all. Address your fears and make a plan.
Research (mine and plenty of others’) indicates that the following are good rules of thumb.
- Keep your finances separate. No need to merge your accounts, and don’t apply for a joint credit card. This is not about trust, but about empowerment and keeping yourself in charge of yourself.
- Make a plan about who pays what. If you make $30,000 a year and your girlfriend makes $140,000 a year, guess what? Maybe you won’t go 50-50 on every little thing. (Which, though not “equal” is totally fair.) But be clear on what the arrangement is and stick to it. Resentment and money fear are really hard on love.
- Be sure all your purchases are documented. If you both pitch in half on a couch, keep the receipt. If you buy a lamp, keep the receipt. Again, this is about clarity, not being suspicious.
- Put both your names on the lease. This protects everyone and is easy to do. Two applications. Bam. Done. Also: think long and hard before investing in real estate together. It’s a huge commitment and can bog you down in the future, even if you stay together (which is what we hope!).
- Put your arrangement in writing. Because sometimes people forget. Tuck it away in your file cabinet or sock drawer and go make love.
Stuff. You are both adults and have had your own space for X number of years. That means you have two of most everything. Think about how to merge/combine/start over. If you are not in a position to buy literally everything new (and would you want to? You probably don’t want to get rid of your favorite colander or that brand new set of high thread-count sheets), make a list of what you want to keep, sell, donate, or ditch. What are your non-negotiables? Your grandma’s tea cart? The desk your dad made you in his shop?
Take turns labeling the things you must have, the things you’d like to keep, and the things that, quite honestly, you don’t give a darn about. Look at the quality of each item. Is it new, worn, decrepit? Even if you loved it once, it might be time for farewell. And remember: be nice. Stick with “I” statements. You may have to say b’bye to that Barcalounger or the bubblegum pink beanbag chair, but I bet you love your lover more than you love that whatever-it-is.
Place. The rule of thumb (in the ideal universe most experts think we live in) is to sell/move out of both your places of residence and start over in a new place that has no associations and that you can both feel invested in. This does not always work. The realities of your town’s real estate/rental market, the practicalities of finances, and the fact that one of you may have literally the coolest apartment within a thousand miles already…these things factor in. So if you can’t start from scratch, that’s okay. But you can make your old place feel new. Redecorating (new paint, new rugs, new pictures on the wall), merging styles and stuff (see above), and turning a guest room into an office and an office into a den—these things can help establish “ours” out of what was once “yours” or “mine.”
If you are looking for a new place, be smart and be ready. Have everything you need (both of you so you can both be on the lease), maybe at the drop of a hat to get the “perfect place.” So have your bank statements, paystubs, credit score, and references on hand.
The above three basic categories should cover the truly pragmatic issues of moving in together, but the theme that connects them all is one very important concept: COMMUNICATION.
- Stay open.
- Be kind.
- Don’t take anything personally.
- Remember that people can become attached to stuff, have fears about money, and be anxious about losing their autonomy—all issues that may come up at this time.