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Half your wardrobe is already in your partner’s closet, your leases are almost up, and you look at each other and think: Are we ready for this whole living together thing? Say yes, and you’ll be joining the nearly 75% of young Americans who have shacked up with their significant other, according to a report from the CDC. In fact, cohabitation has become a natural, normal, and almost essential step for couples that are looking to take their relationship to the next level — whether living together is the ultimate commitment or they’re testing the waters before marriage. But there’s no doubt: Sharing a roof, bed, and toilet (gulp) is still a big step.
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Before you start picking out bedspreads, ask yourself (and, yes, your partner) these questions to determine if you’re ready.
What Is My Gut Telling Me?
You’re excited, you’re anxious, you’re a little bit all over the place. So it’s crucial to take a step back from the thrill of moving forward and do a gut check: Is this actually right for us right now? Why are you really doing it? “I don’t like to tell couples that there’s a right or wrong reason to move in together, but some motives — to ditch your annoying roommate or to save a rocky relationship — can backfire,” says Anne Barker, LCSW, a therapist who counsels same-sex and heterosexual couples in Omaha, NE. “Living together will bring more challenges, and you’ll need a solid foundation to make it through as a couple.”
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Nervousness is normal, too, so know that your relationship doesn’t have to be perfect. “Far more important is the feeling that you’re in it together,” Barker says. If you feel confident in that foundation and you feel like a team, give yourself the green light.
Who’s Paying For What?
Okay, talking about finances is hella awkward and boring. But just get it done. Since you’re both coming from different backgrounds and expectations — and you’re about to combine expenses — having an in-depth money talk before the moving truck arrives can prevent cash-related conflicts down the line, says financial planner Sheryl Garrett, co-author of Money Without Matrimony.
Besides discussing the way you’ll divvy up rent, your security deposit, and utilities, consider these follow-up questions: Who will buy the groceries and household supplies? How will we divide the costs of furniture and home decor? If one partner makes significantly more money, will she be responsible for paying more? One thing’s for sure: Sharing finances is hard, so working out a system you’re both comfortable with, whether it’s a joint account, specific expenses “assigned” to each partner, or frequent Venmo charges, can make it easier to deal with cash challenges as a duo.
Will We Still Do Our Regular Weekend Date Night?
When you live together, you’ll automatically see each other all the time, right? Many newly cohabiting couples are surprised at how little quality time they spend together if they don’t make plans (nope, side-by-side tooth brushing doesn’t count).
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“Living together doesn’t eliminate the need to plan things out,” Barker says. “It does the opposite. Now, more than ever, you’ll need to create time to connect outside the home.” Don’t be turned off to the idea of scheduling date nights; if you were an every-Friday-night kind of couple, keep it as a standing calendar date. If you normally just make plans on the fly, try to sit down on Sunday evenings and figure out which night you’ll reserve for each other this coming week. Finding time together — that doesn’t involve assembling Ikea furniture — will keep you close, connected, and anything but boring.
Should Both Of Our Names Be On The Lease?
Figuring out the legalities of what might happen if your relationship doesn’t end in a happily-ever-after is depressingly prenup-ish. But even if you think it’ll never happen to you, the question about what to do if you break up is essential so neither of you gets screwed over.
“Having both names on a lease means each person has equal rights to stay in the property — even in the event of a relationship breakup; one name means one party is responsible for paying the bills if his [or her] partner walks out,” says Diane Danois, a family lawyer who specializes in divorce and cohabitation. For couples that want to protect their assets in case of a breakup, a Cohabitation Agreement can help set forth understandings in “What if” scenarios. Think: If you put down the security deposit, but your partner furnishes the place, how will the property be divided?
How Will Our Sex Life Change?
The good news: You’ll be sharing a bed every night! (Bow chicka wow wow.) The bad news: You‘ll be sharing a bed every.single.night — not just after date nights or on weekends, when sex may be presumed, but also on nights when you’re dead tired, in a shitty mood, or just not feeling it.
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“Shacking up means it’s time to get comfortable talking about sex and not expecting our partner to read our mood or desires,” says Betsy Crane, PhD, professor at the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University. Before the move, talk about how often you both expect to do it, plus how much private time you need in bed to read and relax without the assumption of sex. One note: While there’s the whole mating-in-captivity worry that things will get monotonous, a new place makes for new rooms and new times of day to get frisky. Yes!
How Do We Feel About Dirty Dishes In The Sink?
Couples are happier when they share household responsibilities, according to a recent study in The Journal of Family Issues. “The imbalance of chores is one of the biggest sources of contention I see between couples,” Barker says.
Don’t be shy about discussing how you’ll divvy up tasks such as vacuuming, dinner planning, laundry, and dishes — whether you decide to each own certain ones, rotate tasks weekly, or do them together. Chores can always be negotiated as you go, but establishing some sense of who does what will keep you on the same page and can prevent resentments from surfacing if one of you feels like you’re doing more than your share.
Where Do We See Our Relationship When The Lease Ends?
Are you taking a wait-and-see approach to reevaluate your relationship at this point next year? Or if marriage (or a big commitment, like having a kid or buying a home together) is your end goal, maybe you’re moving in and expecting a proposal before you renew your lease next year.
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Either way, honesty is key: “I like to call this truth in advertising,” Barker says. Even if partners are on different pages, putting it out there before you sign the lease can prevent assumptions and disappointment, and keep you on the same page with how you expect your relationship to progress.
By Nicole Yorio Jurick
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