10 questions to ask before moving in with someone you’re dating

If you’re reading this you might be thinking about moving in with your significant other, which is awesome and amazing, so congratulations! But while contemplating a move in can be very exciting, it can also be incredibly scary. There’s definitely a lot to think about, and everyone will tell you something different. However, having taken the leap and done it myself (and a few years later undone it) I will tell you I have no regrets about the process. I jumped in deeply in love and with good intentions. And while I wouldn’t change anything about what happened, here are some things I wish I knew beforehand that I learned along the way.

Have you both had experience living alone?

Moving in together is one of the first big steps you can take as an adult person, so it’s important that you’ve both lived on your own, as adult people. Even though it might be tempting to move in together while you’re still in school or fresh out of school, it’s important to remember that doing so means that you might not have given yourself a chance to fully live on your own. Living with roommates counts, too, it’s just a question of whether you’ve both really had to deal with stuff like paying rent and keeping the electricity on and figuring out what the heck to do about the garbage disposal. You can figure that out together, of course, but it definitely helps if you’ve both got some experience dealing with the not-so-glamorous side of being a grown-up and living in a house or apartment.

Are you counting on moving in together to solve a relationship problem?

As much as moving in together feels like a step forward or a fresh start, it doesn’t mean that it’s a clean slate. Any sort of issues you two have are only going to get louder and more present, because you’re going to be spending more time together than you’re used to. It’s important to remember that just like any big step in a relationship, moving in together isn’t a fix. It’s OK to have problems and differences, but the most important part is that if you do, that you’re actively working through them together. If one or both of you isn’t doing that, it might be good to pump the breaks on moving in together.

Are there lifestyle habits the other person has that would be a big deal if you lived with them?

In the past you may not have cared about your boo’s daily routine, because you were too busy doing your own thing at your place. But when you move in together it’s going to be both your home, and you might find your lifestyles are at odds with each other. A few days of this might not seem like a problem, but months of it might make you feel a little grumpy. Do you like to stay up late and play video games? Does your partner love to get up early and run? Do these seemingly unrelated things suddenly interfere with each other? This stuff is strange to think about, because it’s definitely not a problem that comes up when you live apart, but when you live together it will be a bigger deal you think. Think about what your dealbreakers are in a living space, with a roommate. If you would never look at a roomie applicant who chain-smokes but your partner does, that’s a thing you really need to think about. It’s important to remember that there’s no right way to live, but if you guys have significant lifestyle differences it’s important to think about how that could wear on each other routines, and to move towards compromises that make both of you happy.

What are each of your finances like?

This is a sort of tricky subject, but it’s so important: You need to be upfront and honest about what both of you can contribute, and how you’re going to work that out. If you’re determined to split everything 50-50, that’s great. If one of you makes more than the other, and is willing to chip in more to get a nicer or bigger or more conveniently located place, that’s great to. But don’t leave those details to chance. Talk about what you can afford, how how bills are going to be paid—stuff like Internet and groceries. Think about having a joint emergency fund in case you need to call a plumber or pay for a big expense. Money doesn’t sound romantic, but it’s so much better to know early than be left in the lurch.

Is that person already a good roommate?

One of the things people seem to forget about moving in together is that you will become roommates on top of being lovers. And while things like splitting the bills, buying toilet paper, and remembering to get groceries may not sound romantic on paper, they soon will be. Because the truth is there’s no amount of love that will cover the frustration felt when one half of a couple isn’t pulling their weight around the house and letting the other person shoulder the brunt of the responsibility. Don’t be that person, and don’t let your partner be that person. Rule of thumb, if you’re about to do (or not do) something that would make a roommate mad, definitely don’t do it to your partner.

How much alone time do each of you need?

When you’re dating someone and live in different places, you may spend a lot of time together, but you still get a certain amount of alone time on your own, since you do eventually have to go home and be apart. Believe it or not this separation is really important, because that’s when you have time for your pursuits. It’s important to be mindful of this when you move, because this healthy separation can disappear when you live together. And it totally makes sense, if every time you come home your favorite person is already there, why would you want to go anywhere or hang out with anyone else?

It can be really tempting to spend most of your free time together when you move in, but it’s still incredibly important to allow yourself time for your own stuff when you live together, and to plan for that. Even though it might feel weird to work on separate projects in the same room, or stay home and chill while your partner goes out with friends, you both need a little breathing room, and your relationship will thank you for it later.

Do you have a back-up plan?

While this might be a totally horrible conversation that you have no interest in having, it’s still probably one of the most important conversations you’ll have as a couple. Like any other emergency like a fire or an earthquake, you need a safety plan for what happens if you break up when you live together. And while you probably don’t want to talk about it or even acknowledge that you and your partner could break up someday, if it happens and you don’t have a blueprint for what happens next, you’re going to really wish you did.

Things like who moves out and how long they will stay are important things to decide objectively while you guys are in a place where you love and care about each other, as opposed to if you’re in a break up situation where feelings are hurt and emotions are running high. If you can muster the courage to, even think about writing an agreement together and signing it. It might seem pessimistic, but it’s important to be on the same page in case you guys end up in a breakup situation and need protection.

How will you keep up with family and friends?

It’s hard to keep sight of this when you’re in love, but as much as your friends and family love your partner, they loved you first. And while you might want to do everything with your significant other, it’s important that you maintain relationships with the people who are important to you on your own time too. This is important advice even before you move in together, but it’s also important to be reminded of when you do. Be sure that you’re both being social individually, and not always just doing things together as a couple. You’ll both feel more healthy and fulfilled in the long run for doing so.

How are you going to make your own space when you need it?

Fighting when living separate and fighting together are completely different things. Be aware that you don’t get the luxury of storming off anymore when you live together, because you’re going to end up sleeping next to each other in the same bed at the end of the night. Whereas before you could easily have a night or two to cool off after a fight, when you live together you don’t really get to have that anymore. Know what you’re going to do when you need space—go for a walk, have a drink with a friend, or just take some time in the backyard. It’s good to know you have somewhere to go to just clear your head.

Most importantly: Are you both all in?

That being said, moving in together is a big step, and can be a very intense process, even with the best intentions in mind. So if one or both of you isn’t quite sure about it, what’s the rush? You don’t need to move in together until you are ready. In fact, you don’t have to move in together at all if you don’t feel like it. Relationships all work in different ways, so it’s very important to ignore outside pressure and truly do what is best for you as a couple. If you’re focusing on what’s best for each other, then nothing of good things will be coming to you in the future.

If it doesn’t work out, know that no one is to blame.

My boyfriend and I were very in love and very committed when we moved in together. I was nothing but excited and ready to make it work, and I saw no end in sight. However it still ultimately didn’t work out. That sucks, but it’s OK. I didn’t do anything wrong and neither did he. We tried our very best. It’s important to remember that if you move in together and it doesn’t work out, you didn’t do anything wrong. Just because you didn’t get your happily ever after doesn’t mean that the process wasn’t worth it. If you move in together and it doesn’t work out, it’s important to remember that you had good, completely valid reasons for doing so, and any sort of end doesn’t negate your amazing things at the beginning or middle.

Moving in together is a big adventure. And like any adventure, it can be exciting, scary, and you’re not really sure what’s going to happen or where it will lead you. Also like an adventure, it’s important to be prepared for what could lie ahead. Only you and your partner will know if you’re ready for this, and if you’re both feeling good about it, go for it. And if you’re not, remember that is perfectly okay too.

[Image via FOX]