With the average rent in cities like New York and San Francisco skyrocketing, it might be tempting for couples to want to move in together to cut down on living costs. But while the financial convenience of sharing a domicile with a partner can’t be denied, the truth is that it’s not always the wisest choice, especially early on in a relationship.
According to a survey by Rent.com, 27% of respondents had moved in with their partner after less than six months of dating, even though only 7% of the survey’s respondents thought that was a good idea. The survey also found that 40% of couples who move in together eventually split, particularly if they took the leap too soon in the relationship.
How soon is too soon? “There’s no hard and fast rule, but more or less it takes a good six months before someone begins to show their true colors and it takes a year before you really begin to know someone,” Veronica Vaiti, LCSW, the executive director and co-founder of the New York City Therapy Group, told Mic.
Moving in with a partner before that six-month benchmark can create issues that shouldn’t be present early on in a relationship, said Vaiti. “You shouldn’t be handling finances and talking about bills … the courting stage is supposed to be fun and exciting,” she told Mic. That’s why some couples who move in together too soon ultimately decide to resort to extreme measures to save the relationship: moving out.
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The idea that creating space between you and your significant other can be beneficial to your relationship isn’t without precedent. According to a 2011 article in the Wall Street Journal, many marriage therapists recommend such trial separations as a way for couples to save their marriages. In fact, Sharon Gilchrist O'Neill, a marriage therapist in Mt. Kisco, New York who has recommended trial separations to at least 40 couples, told the Wall Street Journal that about half of those couples end up reconciling and moving back in together.
Rachel, 35, moved in with her boyfriend in 2011. They lived together for only four to six weeks before “some drama ensued on my part… and I knew it was healthy that I moved out and found a place,” she told Mic.
Rachel moved four miles away to a neighboring town in Virginia. She and her boyfriend lived apart for one year. “I moved back in after my one-year lease was up and we eloped in December of 2012,” she said. “If I had stayed living with him we might not have gotten married.”
“If I had stayed living with him we might not have gotten married.”
Sometimes, a trial separation can benefit couples even if they aren’t in dire straits. In an essay for xoJane, an anonymous writer shared her own experience moving out of the home she shared with her partner, who had moved in six months into the relationship. After they got engaged, they were briefly forced to live apart for work-related reasons.
“I threw myself unapologetically into work, where I find myself most content, while he had the chance to live completely on his own for the first time in his life and procrastinate as much as he wanted,” the author wrote. “We loved every second of it. After the stress of wedding planning, it was as if we both got our own, wonderful honeymoons.”
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Catherine, 33, an editor in Boston, had a similar experience one summer, when she moved in with her boyfriend during college. Although they had a two-bedroom apartment, which gave her enough room for her own physical space, she said that their living conditions didn’t allow for them to have any separate “social space.”
“I kind of got sucked into spending time with [his friends] instead of taking the time I needed on my own,” she said.
At the end of the summer, she moved into her own apartment. “I had time to myself. I started writing and making art again,” she told Mic. “And I was happier.”
If you realize that you’ve moved in with your partner too early, there’s no shame in moving out and retreating to your own space again. That doesn’t mean you’re taking a step backward; rather, it could mean that you’re actually making a healthy decision to save your relationship.
If you do decide to move out, Vaiti suggests avoiding the impulse to blame and accuse your partner for any perceived misdeed. Instead, she suggests telling your partner how beneficial such a separation can be and focusing on how much the relationship means to you.
“Approach the situation with care,” Vaiti told Mic. “It can be painful, but reinvigorating for the relationship.”