It might feel like you already live together anyway, but make no mistake, moving in with a significant other is a big step. Cohabiting with a partner is like having a roommate without all the boundaries (unless you’re the kind of roommate who secretly spoons your other roommates at night, in which case you might want to read an entirely different article). Sometimes having no boundaries is great. You can be yourself. You can say what’s on your mind. Other times, it’s slightly less awesome. You see each other’s dirty laundry, and not in the fun, scandalous way but in the actual, gross way. In order to enjoy living together and get through the inevitable challenges without killing each other, you need to start with a few simple ground rules. Consider this your what not to do guide.
1. Don’t let one person do all the cleaning. If your significant other is always picking up the towels you left on the bathroom floor, it’s easy to get used to the perks of a live-in maid. However, when one person does all the cleaning, resentment builds and suddenly a sink full of dirty dishes isn’t just a sink full of dirty dishes; it’s the start of a fight. Avoid this by dividing cleaning duties equally.
2. Don’t think that you can’t discuss money. When you live together, your joint financial situation goes a little deeper than deciding who’s going to pay the next time you go out to eat. Discussing money might feel awkward, especially if one of you makes a lot more of it than the other, but having an honest conversation about your individual budgets and spending habits will help you determine what you can afford as a couple.
3. Don’t crowd each other. At first you’ll want to spend every second together, but once you settle into your shared home, learn to respect each other’s personal space. Do you like to take some time out of the day to be alone with a great book? Does your partner prefer to do yoga in the living room without an audience? Make sure you say so.
4. Don’t hibernate in your apartment. You may not be giving out your number at bars anymore, but that doesn’t mean you have to stay in all the time. Whether it’s going for a hike, hitting up happy hour or even just taking a stroll through the neighborhood, make plans to ditch the sweatpants and Netflix routine at least once a week.
5. Don’t get rid of all your stuff. You can’t both bring all of your furniture into that tiny apartment, but that doesn’t mean you have to get rid of everything. If you’re willing to part with it, donate it or sell it, but if you absolutely love it, find a place for it in your shared space or get a storage unit.
6. Don’t refuse to compromise on decorating. It’s not a dealbreaker if your significant other doesn’t share your love of fur pillows and leopard print furniture. If your decorating styles are different, compromise by investing in pieces that you agree on and try to have a part of the apartment (like a home office) that you can make all yours.
7. Don’t assume that you have the same conflict style. Spoiler alert: You will argue at some point. Discuss what the words “fighting fair” mean to you before you move in that way your partner knows whether to leave you alone after an argument or stick around and talk it out.
8. Don’t have additional roommates. You wouldn’t invite some random stranger from Craigslist to join you on dates (unless you have a very specific type of relationship), so don’t invite some random stranger from Craigslist to share an apartment with you and your partner. Relationships are intimate. You’re going to fight, you’re going to make up, you’re going to want to enjoy a romantic candlelit dinner without hearing your roommate binge watch The Walking Dead. Ditch the third wheel and your relationship will be better off.
9. Don’t forget to compare schedules. You’re not total strangers, so you already know the general stuff like who works at night and who works during the day. Take the time to talk about how your daily obligations (work, school, etc.) and habits (staying up late to play video games, getting up early to work out) with affect each other.
10. Don’t do it for the wrong reasons. This one’s easy. Do you love each other or at least really, really like each other? Then move in together! Are you doing it to save money, save yourself from a terrible roommate or to save your relationship? Pump the brakes and wait until the time is right.