When should you move in with your significant other? Since it became widely acceptable for unmarried couples to live together, this question has perplexed adults with no clear answer in sight. Over the last two generations, divorce has become increasingly common. Some experts have proposed that since many millennials grew up in split households, they’re more apprehensive to get married to a partner without living together first. Others have speculated that millennials are simply opting to live together without getting married at all. Whatever the reason, the number of unmarried couples living together is up 41% since 1995 and rising.
There are a slew of emotional and financial benefits (and risks) to consider. When an unmarried couple separates, there are markedly fewer legal protections around their finances and personal property than there are if they were to divorce. Far too many couples move in together out of convenience rather than out of a shared commitment to building a life together. There are also quite a few logistic differences between living with a roommate and living with a significant other. We’ve compiled a list of questions to ask yourself, your partner, and your landlord before shacking up.
What are your financial expectations and obligations?
This one is the big kahuna; financial disagreements are the leading cause of distress in relationships in the United States. Even without getting married, it’s hard to avoid combining some finances when living together. Things like renters insurance, wifi, cable, and toiletries are commonly split between partners. Partners will have to decide if they will split everything down the middle or if one takes on the renters insurance while the other does the wifi. Here are some shared items that should be well hashed-out before signing your lease:
- renters insurance
- WiFi/cable/streaming services
- cleaning supplies (detergent, soap, vacuum, etc.)
- appliances (Keurig, toaster, microwave, etc.)
- large furniture (couch, TV, bed, etc.)
What are your and your partner’s future expectations?
Are you moving in together because you want to get married or because you don’t want to get married? If you and your partner haven’t clearly defined the future of your relationship, it is almost definitely not time for you to move in together.
Are you and your partner willing to support one another financially?
Is one of you thinking about going back to school? Maybe one of you is still in quite a bit of debt from school. It is important to honestly evaluate the stability of your career and income with your partner. For some couples, one supports the other while they are in school or paying off debt, and this can work beautifully if you have the same expectations of what the other is contributing to the relationship. If one of you is not willing to support the other in the event of changing career paths or getting laid off, this is something that needs to be discussed.
How much time do you really spend with one another currently?
Do you schlep a backpack of clothes and toiletries to your partner’s place twice a week? Chances are if you live anywhere from 30-60 minutes away from your significant other, but you spend a lot of time together, you’re probably getting sick of the commute. Maybe you’ve begun to think about how convenient it would be to start keeping some things at their place… Talk about it with your partner and maybe try spending a whole week living together. Remember, moving in with your significant other is not going to feel the same as going on vacation with them. A trial week could even turn into two, but this way you can have a more informed discussion with your significant other about moving in together.
If you break up, could you have a roommate move in?
You would think this would be obvious, but actually, it may not be that easy. You should make sure that there’s language in the lease that allows you to swap one tenant out for another. Sometimes, the landlord or management company will want to vet this person as they did you when you originally signed your lease. This may include a credit check, background check, or employment verification. They may also make you sign a new lease entirely, which means running your credit again and possibly, staying in your apartment longer than you had anticipated. Check out our article, What Every Renter Should Know, for more insights into protecting yourself when signing your lease.
Should we have some sort of formal agreement between the two of us?
This can be a good idea, especially if one of you is not going to be named on the lease. You can draw up free legal documents using LegalZoom or FormSwift. If you do choose to draw up some sort of written agreement, it should include:
- How much of the rent each of you is responsible for paying
- How much of the utilities each of you is responsible for paying
- Who is responsible for buying furniture/appliances
- In the event of a breakup, who stays in the apartment?
- Which of you is putting down the security deposit?
- What are the circumstances in which a person can be asked to move out?
- How much notice must you give to the other if you are to move out?
Of course, if you feel that you absolutely must have a formal agreement with this person, you may want to reconsider whether or not moving in with your significant other is a good idea. But all couples are different, and a formal agreement certainly can’t do any harm.
Are you a spender or a saver?
Do you like to have a nest egg or do you ball out every other week when you get paid? Do you know if your partner tends to be a spender or saver? This tends to be the biggest point of contention when it comes to finances. Your partner might perceive that you’re spending money foolishly while you think that your expenditures are a part of a normal lifestyle. Before you live together, having the spender or saver discussion will certainly and help to establish some groundwork for a smooth transition into cohabitation.
Does one of us move in with the other or do we get a new place?
While it may be more convenient to move in with your partner, it might not be the best option in the long-run. It can be difficult to feel like it’s ‘your home’ when it was their home first. If you truly want to feel like you’re building a life with someone, it can be better to move into a new place and make it your own, together. Check out our article, 10 Things to Check When Apartment Hunting for more tips and tricks.
Are you prepared for the consequences if it doesn’t work out?
Getting caught up in the excitement of moving in together can make couples forget to think about the what-ifs. Perhaps the most important thing to grapple with is that if you move in with your partner and it doesn’t work out, where do you go from there? Do you break up? Or does one of you move out while you continue the relationship? For most couples, when living together doesn’t work out, it almost always means a breakup. But if both partners realize their responsibilities, moving in with each other can be one of the most exciting steps in creating a life together!
Deciding to live with one another can be an exciting time in your relationship. The commitment to building a life together and sharing your home with someone can be one of the happiest times of your life. Although this process can be fraught with complications, open communication and shared expectations will enable you to navigate this exciting time in your lives together!