I know you – you’re young (or young at heart), in love, and you and your significant other decide to take the “next step” and move in together. You see this as a golden opportunity to test drive your relationship to see if marriage will work. The good news is, you’re only half right: living together does offer a glimpse into “married life”. The bad news is that if it doesn’t work out, you’re stuck with a person you can’t stand, or even worse, stuck in a lease that you can’t possibly afford by yourself.
Living together is a fairly new concept. While it is still frowned upon by most parents, grandparents, and older folks in general, it is quickly gaining acceptance as the new step to take before getting married. Seeing your sweetie every day is great, but things could turn sour before you know it. If you’re considering moving in with your girlfriend or boyfriend, please consider these options before taking the plunge.
This is the BIGGEST problem you will worry about. I can guarantee you this. Before you even start looking at places to live, decide what your budget is. Factor in not only the rent, but also utilities such as heat, electricity, water, trash, cable, internet, etc. It is an unwritten rule that you are expected to pay half of everything. You two are still roommates no matter how you slice it. Do research on the place’s leasing terms, including length of lease and options in case the lease needs to be broken. Make an informed decision.
I would advise against getting a joint checking account just in case things go south. Your money should be kept separate from his or her money, at least until you get engaged. Even then, sharing money is hard! I have been living with my fiancee for three years and it still irks me that some of my earnings go to his cigarette habit, just like I’m sure it ticks him off that some of his money goes to my obsessive candle buying. Compromise, compromise, compromise!
If you can, work out a budget that you both agree with. Allow money for going out on dates, picking up dinner when you don’t feel like cooking, or even just for saving toward something bigger (like a wedding or a house!)
If your honey has an apartment already, be careful to notice how clean it is. If he or she is a slob, chances are that they won’t do their fair share of cleaning. They can promise you they’ll be Mr. Clean til they’re blue in the face, it still doesn’t mean they’ll empty the dishwasher when it’s their turn.
I would try making a chore schedule. Alternate days and chores to make the job easier on both of you. Pick up after yourself (and your sweetie) as you go along to make the place seem less like a sty and more like a liveable space. Take the trash out as often as you can. Wash your dishes after you use them. Your place can go from fantastic to a total pit in the blink of an eye. If you both do your part to keep things neat, the chores won’t seem that much of a burden.
If your significant other STILL won’t clean anything up, you can be a total jerk and only clean up your stuff. Do your own laundry, wash your own dishes. They’ll hopefully get the point real quick. Which brings me to:
Pick Your Battles
Getting upset over every little thing is not good for your sanity or the health of the relationship. Yes, there are things that your significant other will do that will drive you up a wall, but you have to ask yourself, honestly, is this worth fighting over? If he won’t make the bed, if she leaves her underwear on the bathroom floor… none of these things will matter in a few days, so why make a big stink about it now? Pick your battles. If you’re the type that gets angry over every little thing, then it might not be a good idea to move in together.
Before going off and screaming at each other, it helps to just sit down and talk about things calmly. My fiancee and I are the type of people that start out calm, start screaming, then calm down again before becoming best buddies. You’ll soon learn your couples’ “fighting style” after living together for a few weeks.
Think you love the idea of seeing your sweetie every day and every night? Think again. As much as you love him or her, seeing them all the time will eventually burn you out. Try to schedule some “alone time” or time out with your friends. Going on “double dates” is nice but you have to maintain your own individual personalities. You can’t become that “one couple” that is attached at the hip all the time. If people start calling you by an annoying combination of both of your names (Brangelina, Benifer, etc), then maybe it’s time to start doing things separately.
A lot of people are treating their pets like children; I know I do. It might seem like a great idea to get that little doe-eyed puppy at the pet store together but you have to remember, this is a living thing, not property that you can just divide. It’s a possibility that one or both of you will become very strongly attached to this pet, and if you two decide to break up, this is going to be a difficult decision of who “gets custody”.
Moving in together is a much bigger step than most people realize. Remember that the first year will always be the hardest. You are learning how to live together in harmony and make things work. Luckily, with some practice and patience, you two will be living happily ever after.