Relationship advice: Are you ready to move in together?
You’ve found someone you might want to spend the rest of your life with, but are you really ready to take the first step and move in together?
Not so long ago, the idea of a couple living together before marriage went against the grain of many societies. Tradition held that a young woman would remain under her father’s roof until a proper suitor came by to ask her for a date. Only after a suitable amount of time had past would a young man dare to ask her parents for their marital blessings. A young bride-to-be would NEVER suggest a ‘trial marriage’ through pre-marital cohabitation. Traditionally, the newlyweds would move into a new home after the honeymoon, or perhaps live at his place until a suitable house could be found.
Obviously, times have changed and the traditions of courtship and marriage have changed right along with them. It may still be ‘boy meets girl’, but today that girl and boy have a few more options than their parents or grandparents. One of those options is the decision whether or not to move in together before marriage. This can be a very difficult decision to make, and the consequences can prove to be treacherous for those who haven’t considered the pros and cons of this matter carefully. Moving in together is a tremendous step forward in a relationship, so if you’re considering it you might want to ask yourself the following questions:
1. Before you commit to anything, can YOU see potential in this relationship? There is no right or wrong answer, just an honest one. If the general history of your time together shows a pattern of true growth, then living together might be a positive next step. It demonstrates a level of commitment on both sides that strong marriages and long-term relationships are built on. Couples who have already discussed a future together can benefit from living together as a more permanent couple. It gives them the opportunity to learn the unique interpersonal dynamics of a committed couple.
But if you honestly wonder about the potential of your relationship in the long-term, it may be best to remain in separate quarters. Moving in together isn’t a geographical cure for underlying issues. A relationship that feels too casual or undefined as singles is still going to feel that way as a live-in couple. If the relationship is still brand-new or the conversations to date have not included the prospects of long-term commitment, then you are most likely not ready to move in together.
2. Will I hurt other relationships if I intensify this one? Living together without the benefits of marriage may have become acceptable for society at large, but it isn’t always accepted in your much-smaller circle of friends and family. There may be some members of your family who would be honestly distressed by decisions you make, even as a seemingly independent adult. Living together can be seen as a flaunting of society’s rules or a disrespectful attitude towards marriage. Some rude outsiders may approach your parents with comments like ‘I hear your daughter is shacking up with someone.’ Some relatives may embrace the idea of a decent couple living together while planning a wedding, but don’t count on universal approval.
If your relationship with family is a vital part of your support structure, you’ll have to break the news of your living arrangements some time. If this idea doesn’t scare you to death, you may be ready to pursue that move. If you know in your heart that a lot of people will be hurt by this decision, you may want to wait until the relationship is better defined before moving in together. Once your family has become more comfortable with your significant other, they may be more understanding of your decision to move in together.
3. Am I financially or geographically prepared for the move? At first moving in together may sound like a great financial benefit- shared utility bills, phone bills and groceries. Two people can almost always save money by no longer duplicating those expenses. But you must also consider some nuts-and-bolts financial situations that may come up. Who’s responsible for paying which bills? Are you willing to share your credit card with someone whose credit may not be as good? What about large purchases (furniture, car, appliances)- are you in a position to share those costs? Without the financial protections of a legal marriage, you may find yourself liable for debts you wouldn’t have incurred as a single entity. Before moving in with your significant other, you may want to have some serious discussions about your shared finances.
Another concern would be geography. Are you prepared to increase your commuting time to work or incur the expenses of moving your belongings from one city to another? Do you have other commitments that would be affected by the added distance? Perhaps you’re only moving three blocks away from your current apartment, but you’ll also be starting a new life at a different address. Your apartment may be rented within a few weeks of moving out. If the relationship doesn’t work out for whatever reason, are you prepared financially to find another place? Unless you know you’re moving into a stable, mutually-beneficial situation, you need to keep one eye out for unexpected changes.
4. Am I truly attracted to the entire person, or just one element? Again, there is no right or wrong answer, just honesty on your part. Many relationships start out as a fascination or infatuation. You like music and now you’re dating a musician. Is that enough to sustain a long-term, live-in situation? Maybe, but most likely not. Seeing someone in an ideal situation-a musician at a club or an athlete at a game- may only offer a small glimpse into their true lifestyles. The most admirable people you know can still be grouchy or sloppy or self-absorbed away from the spotlight. Interesting people can still be hiding habits that would offend you if you knew. If you decide to move in together, you moving in with the WHOLE person, not just the parts you’d like to see. In return, that person gets to see you at your worst as well. Are you prepared for the brutal honesty moving in together can bring?
As you can see, there can be a lot of unknowns when trying to decide whether a live-in arrangement would work. It ultimately comes down to the relative maturity of the couple involved. Are they taking this step as a natural progression of their relationship, or are they simply wanting to play house? Is this a mutual decision, or is one side so desperate to get out of their present circumstances that moving in with ANYONE sounds like a good idea? Beware of anyone who tries to pressure you into making such a serious decision in a unnaturally short time. If you’re not comfortable with the idea now, you’re not going be comfortable after your belongings have all been unpacked.