So you’re thinking about moving in with your partner. After all, you are already practically living together and the idea of splitting bills overrides your fear of long-term compatibility. Taking the plunge and making it official is, naturally, the next step.
There are a tonne of benefits of moving in together: You no longer have to spend half your Friday evening commuting to see your loved one. You can now take advantage of the nice coffee machine their parents bought them for Christmas and you can say goodbye to the spare knickers in your bag that have a habit of falling out when you’re on the bus.
In the face of the skyrocketing price of food, energy and rent, the pressure has never been higher for finding someone to cohabit with. One 2021 survey found that 18 percent of cohabiting couples moved in with their partner mainly because it was “financially beneficial” (and they say romance is dead).
In 2022, there were more than 28 applicants for every available rental property in the UK, with prices going up more than 10 percent since the end of pandemic restrictions. In the US, annual rent growth hit 11.6 percent at the end of 2021 and start of 2022, about three times what it was in the five years prior to the pandemic, according to the Harvard Joint Center for Housing Studies. With many landlords more likely to choose couples as tenants, moving in together is, by all accounts, a smart money-saving move.
One thing’s for sure: You do not want to go through all the effort and expense of finding a place together just to realise you can’t stand the person you are now contractually obliged to live with. I spoke to cohabiting couples and a relationship expert to find out their best advice for making that next step a success.
1. Don’t fool yourself into believing that nothing will change
“You no longer can only think about yourself,” says Brad Thomas, a 28-year-old business manager from Manchester who moved in with his girlfriend earlier this year. “When you finish the last of the milk, or use up the loo roll, you’ve got to be considerate of the other person and remember to communicate because you are in it as a team. You have to change your way of thinking quite a bit.”
If you’re staying for a few drinks after work, or if you want to have a friend over for dinner, you now have to factor in another person’s wants and needs. When you eat, what time you wake up, what time you go to bed, weekend plans – all are no longer only your decision to make. It can take a while to figure out what’s right for your relationship, but you’ll get there eventually. Or break up.
“Spending more time together and adapting to each others’ habits obviously requires compromise,” says relationship consultant Ellie Turner. “It’s important to communicate and to set healthy boundaries from the beginning as it’s harder to change behaviours further down the line.”
You know that thing that once made you fall in love with them? The cute noises they make when they sleep, their obsession with The 1975. Yeah, just be aware you might start to hate that.
2. Set boundaries
When you move in together, you will most likely cross each other's boundaries and piss each other off without even realising. If you don’t discuss it, your partner might not know that you need time to yourself when you get home from work or that a heads up is required before hosting the afters.
“Be open and honest in your communication without being accusatory,” says Turner. “ If things aren't spoken about then resentment can build and partners can sometimes end up being passive aggressive if they're unsure of how to bring up the conversation directly.”
She adds: “We can't expect people to live in the exact way we do so, it's important to be respectful of each other and communicate needs rather than expectations of how the other person should behave, as well as being careful with how you communicate these to your partner to avoid triggering a defensive response.”
3. Decide how you want to split finances
When it comes time to pay the bills, don’t be surprised if you find yourselves arguing about money in ways you never did before. Remember, moving in with your partner isn’t just a personal commitment – it’s a financial commitment, too.
“My partner had a certain budget which she was happy to spend per month,” Thomas explains. “I was previously living on my own and so moving in together was going to be more beneficial for me money-wise, so I was happy to cover the difference and pay more for rent. Bills we split 50-50, but we definitely took into account the differences in our income to make it equitable overall. For example, if I pay for dinner, she’ll pick up the snacks after.”
Decide how you’re going to split the rent, bills and shared expenses, ideally before you get the keys. Are you going to combine your finances? Are you going to invest in furniture or kit the whole place out in IKEA? Setting up a budget and being honest can help keep arguments about money from spiralling.
4. Decide how you want to split chores
The likelihood is you won’t agree on how long is acceptable to go without changing the sheets or leaving dishes in the sink. Compromise and communication will save you here: Maybe one of you really loves hoovering, or the other gets a secret thrill from cleaning the hair from the drain.
When Abi Herbert, 25, moved in with her partner two and a half years ago, they had an early conversation about which household chores the other hated doing most. “[We] identified that a lot of the ones one of us hated, the other really didn’t mind doing,” the PR specialist from Birmingham explains.
“Rather than taking it in turns, we are just solely responsible for things and that helps to minimise bickering because there are fewer opportunities for forgetting whose turn it is or one person doing a certain chore more than the other. Never having to take the bins out is a godsend, to be honest.”
5. Take alone time
Just because you live together doesn’t mean you now have to be glued at the hip. You don’t want all this togetherness to lead to codependency. Commit to a night or two where you see your friends for dinner or simply watch TV in separate rooms. Remember, absence makes the heart grow fonder.
“We’d been long distance for a year beforehand so moving in together, the honeymoon period was so real,” says Herbert. “Lots of eating pizza on the floor in those first few months and just being obsessed with each other.”
Once lockdown eased, though, Herbert and her partner started doing more of their own thing again. “At first it did feel a bit like we should be doing everything together, which was definitely not healthy – but I’d say we’re getting closer to nailing that balance,” she says, adding: “I wouldn’t be able to be with someone who’d feel insulted that I don’t want to be with them 24/7.”
Even if currently you can’t bear being apart from your partner for longer than a 24 hour period, don’t be fooled. It is quite remarkable how quickly you can grow to hate someone if the only time apart you have is when you shit.
6. Have an exit strategy
If you’re planning on moving in together, the last thing you want to think about is the prospect of your relationship ending. Unfortunately, not all relationships stand the test of time (or the test of moving in together), and many couples are increasingly finding themselves trapped in housing situations they are unable to pay their way out of.
“It's about having emergency savings and options to rely on should things not work out,” Turner says. “When you're moving in together and perhaps going through a rental agreement, if there's something that's worrying you - for example, no break clause or hefty deposit fees - then it's important that you feel comfortable enough with your partner to discuss these things."
Being upfront about what will happen if things don’t work out may not be a bad idea when so much is at stake. It’s not romantic, but it might save you some stress down the line. So go ahead, pop the question to the person you started dating three months ago. Smouldering resentment is a small price to pay for half-price rent, right?