Imagine having your girlfriend there to fall asleep with every night, wake up beside, and eat meals with, every day. This thought can make you want to call her to tell her to pack her bags and move in with you, or shudder with fear. But if you venture into this unprepared, you’ll want to ship your new roommate out with the empty boxes.
Living together as a couple is one of the big steps of any relationship, right up there with marriage and starting a family, only your commitment isn’t bound by vows, nor are you bringing another human life into the picture.
As well, moving in together shouldn’t cause the same cold feet as marriage — it can be an excellent experience, making every day feel like a honeymoon. You just need to make sure you’re ready.
While living together can reap some of the advantages of marriage, it also packs in some inconveniences. Forget about going out without telling her who you’re going with, where you’re going and when you’ll be home. Think twice before you grunt, scratch and burp after every meal and during football. And hockey. And baseball. And golf. Oh yeah, while we’re at it, forget about watching only sports. You’ll also need to make time for figure skating, prime-time dramas and the soap operas she records every day.
So how can you tell that you’re ready to make the big move? A good start is by considering the following points:
How long have you been together?
How long you’ve been together isn’t the most accurate gauge of whether or not the move should be made, as time is relative to the point of your life in which you find yourself. A year together for a thirty-something couple is probably not equivalent to a yearlong relationship for 22-year-olds. As well, the decision should be based on how much you want this person to be a part of your everyday life — literally.
How much time do you spend together?
If you find that you’re with your girlfriend seven nights a week, at one of your apartments, and even spend every waking hour with each other, then perhaps living together is worth it. But keep in mind that those seven nights of “sleepovers” are not necessarily equivalent to actually living together. No matter how much time you spend with one another, the precious moments you have at home, on your own, might be enough to give you the breather you need. When you live together, there are few places you can escape to.
Are you ready to live with someone?
You might feel that you’ve lived on your own for enough time already, and are prepared to share your living space with that special someone. If you’re simply tired of being alone and want someone to come home to — and luckily for you, that someone is your girlfriend — then maybe the time to share a space has arrived.
Do you know who you are?
Speaking of having lived on your own, it might not be a good idea to go from living at home with your family to moving in with your girlfriend, unless it’s against your family values to live on your own until you’re married. It’ll also be a shock to your system when you learn that your loving roommate does not intend to do your laundry, fold your underwear and socks, and cook you dinner every night, just like mommy did. But once you’ve lived out on your own for a while and know how to fend for yourself, it might be an easier transition to make.
Are you eventually going to marry her?
If you know this is the woman you want to spend the rest of your life with, why not start out by living together to get a feel for what lies ahead? If you’ve discussed marriage with each other and you know she’s the one, then there’s no better time to call the movers.
Are you doing it for the rent?
If you spend countless hours at each other’s apartments and figure that you may as well cut your rent in half by living together, eventually you’ll probably want to cut your time spent together in half. Saving money on rent should be considered a result of moving in together, not a motivation.
race to one space
You might be elated to move in with your sweetheart, and as long as the two of you are ready, it can be a great step. Whoever said that you don’t know someone until you live with them must have lived with his girlfriend, and even if you’ve been an item for years, the little things you’ll learn about each other will surely surprise you. Traveling together is one of the “relationship tests” every couple should endure, but a vacation is a walk in the park compared to sharing the same living space.
While getting a dog together to test your ability to care for another life form as a team and traveling overseas can serve as wakeup calls, living with your girlfriend can be a rude awakening to say the least — so make sure you’re ready. Do not live together if one of you is being pressured in any way; you must both be prepared to go into this head first, because if you approach the move prematurely and it doesn’t work out, it could mean the detriment of your relationship.
I may have already talked you out of moving in together, but I hope not because I do believe that it’s a necessary step in a serious relationship of long-term capacity. And if you go about it the right away and with the right attitude, you might never want to leave home at all — that is, when she’s there.
Sacrifice and compromise
If you’re a neat freak who can’t stand your girlfriend’s tendency to leave plates piling up in the sink, don’t wig out on her if she waits until the end of the day to do the dishes, and by the same token, she should make a concerted effort to clear the sink. As well, if you’re an early bird and your girlfriend has lunch at dinnertime, let her sleep and don’t be noisy in the morning. Make some sacrifices just to put her at ease, and make sure the effort is reciprocated — this is your roommate with benefits, after all.
Speaking of making compromises, a good way to ensure that you both fulfill your end of the bargain is by scheduling each other’s duties. It doesn’t have to be carved in stone, but at least a schedule can outline what each one should do to make sure they’re pulling their own weight in the apartment. You can divide everything from doing the groceries and taking out the trash to vacuuming, and no, performing a sexual favor or two won’t get you out of toilet cleaning detail (okay, maybe just once).
Outline details immediately
Making schedules of household chores is nowhere near as important as outlining the “contract” of your living arrangement — the lease. It is imperative that you both understand and agree to the terms of the lease and however it is split. The same goes for house or condo ownership, if you decide to purchase. Of lesser importance but key nonetheless, are the terms of your living arrangement. Make sure you’re on the same wavelengths where your budgets and social lives are concerned.
Get your own life
Speaking of social life, it’s important that you each maintain your own lives outside of the apartment walls. You should understand if she wants to go out with the girls or have them over for dinner, and she should equally understand that you could go out with your buddies, without feeling guilty if she’s staying home alone watching reruns. And don’t feel guilty for having your own plans once in a while — you each need your separate lives, so that you don’t reach the point of total dependency.
Set up alone time
By the same token, make sure that you each have time to chill out on your own, apart from socially. Even if you don’t have separate rooms, your own space doesn’t need physical walls — establish that you might just sit in the kitchen reading the paper or want to watch TV alone in the den. She should do the same, and make sure to respect each other’s “me time.”
It might also be a good idea to split up your large purchases. Rather than dividing the cost of the couch and fridge, I recommend splitting up the actual purchases, such as furniture vs. electronics, or bedroom vs. kitchen. In the case of an eventual breakup, it might be hard to split the bed down the middle, even if it is a king size.
call the movers, we’re coming
As you can see, there’s more to think about and work on than simply finding a place you both agree on and calling the movers. Make sure you establish all the details of your living arrangement, and understand that there is nowhere to run and hide if you get into a fight and can’t get away with bringing a new girl home.
But don’t get scared because although this is a huge step in any relationship, it is worth taking if you love spending time together and want to share more than memories — the good and the not-so-good.