Here are a few things to sort out before you sign the lease.
Moving in with your partner is almost as big a leap as getting married—though people tend to jump in with a lot less preparation, says Jennifer Kromberg, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Torrence, California. “With marriage, couples often attend premarital therapy, which addresses important issues like money, lifestyles, plans for the future,” Kromberg says. “Moving in together doesn’t usually entail as much thought about such issues, and often—but not always—is a result of convenience, when, for example one partner's lease is up and they need a place to live.”
But the fantasy of waking up happily gazing into each other’s eyes every morning can go south quickly when you’re faced with the reality of merging two separate lives, two quirky sets of personal habits, and two sets of expectations. Here are five things you should discuss first to keep your happy home from becoming a battleground.
Do you know how to use a vacuum? How about a sponge, a dishwasher, or washing machine?
When we asked Real Simple readers what they wish they had asked their partner before becoming roomies, the response was overwhelmingly about household chores. “Do you throw your dirty clothes on the floor in piles all over the bedroom,” wondered Sally Sea; Julia Kelly wished she had asked, “Do you put your dishes in the dishwasher or on the counter above the dishwasher, and hope that the dishwasher fairy magically puts them in there?” All kidding aside, the divvying up of cleaning duties may not sound like the most romantic way to start your life together, but it can save you from endless fights.
How are we going to share expenses?
Chances are, you discussed how to split the rent check before you made that duplicate set of keys. But what about groceries? The Netflix account? The new sofa? “It is of utmost importance to discuss budgeting issues before moving in together,” says Kromberg, who suggests you sit down and make a list of all shared expenses you may incur that first year, such as going out to dinner, decorating, and vacations. You don’t have to split the tab 50-50 (especially if one of you makes a lot more money than the other, or one partner is still paying off student loans), but setting guidelines early on can help avoid misunderstandings.
What is your morning routine?
If one of you prefers to sleep until noon on the weekends, while the other springs out of bed at 6 a.m., ready to go for a run and knock off half the to-do list before the sun fully rises, that’s absolutely fine. It’s just best to discuss these things before someone gets a rude awakening by the alarm clock at the crack of dawn.
How do you feel about friends and family coming over?
There’s nothing like coming home from a long and exhausting day at work, only to find your partner’s pals sprawled all over your living room eating the lasagna you planned to heat up for dinner. Setting boundaries about privacy and personal space are key from the beginning of your life together, says Kromberg, who says this goes for family as well as friends. “Many people feel comfortable with family members having a house key and a standing invitation to come over anytime,” she says. “The involvement or lack of involvement one expects from family is a very important topic of conversation for any couple considering sharing a home.”
Is this a step toward getting engaged?
In can be surprising how many couples enter into cohabitation without having a clear picture of the next move. If one of you thinks sharing bath towels means the next step is setting a wedding date, make sure the other feels the same way before you agree to be roommates. “And if this conversation feels too difficult to have, then perhaps the relationship isn’t ready for such a serious step as living together,” says Kromberg.