12 Tips To Mastering The Fine Art Of Living Together

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Deciding to move in with your significant other is kind of a huge deal. It means giving up your independence, potentially moving closer to that major commitment (*gasp* marriage?) and having to deal with somebody else’s laundry. Your socks will get mixed up with theirs in the washing machine, you may have to label your food to stop them from eating it, and … oh, yeah, you’ll be living with someone you have very strong feelings for. From deciding to move in together to deciding which battles are worth fighting, here are some tips and tricks for making the big move-in actually work:

1. Don’t do it just because you think you should.

Maybe you’ve been together for a long time, the lease is up on your apartment, and your significant other wants to move. All the stars seem to have aligned in favor of you two living together, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to pull the trigger. It shouldn’t be a decision based on convenience, thinking “it’s about time,” or feeling like all of your friends are doing it. You should move in together because you genuinely want to be with that person more. Maybe you are thinking about marriage, and want to make sure you can live together first. It’s also possible you both think it would be fun and bring you closer. But both parties need to be “into” the idea. It’s not about checking another box on your relationship “list,” or finding a new roommate. It’s about wanting to take the next step, together.

2. Try to find a new space.

Moving in together is less problematic when you find a brand new space to share together. If you move into his place, or he moves into yours, you could wind up feeling like someone’s encroaching on your territory. That bathroom that used to be yours needs to be rearranged to fit two people, and suddenly you have too much of your own stuff in the pantry with no room for someone else’s food. It’s easier to meld when you are both bringing in your things and finding new places for them.

3. Don’t get a roommate.

If you move in together, it should be to experience one another. It’s a great step in your personal relationship. Unless you absolutely have to, moving in with a third person (the “roommate”) alters the dynamic. Then, you’re learning what it’s like to live with two new people, which means even more compromise and sharing of space. It’s easier to experience life with your significant other when it’s literally just life with that one person.

4. Have many conversations.

There’s a lot to work out before taking this step. You’ll need to talk about who pays for what, what rent is affordable, where you can both live that will make you both happy, who buys groceries, etc. If these are intense conversations for you, and you don’t feel ready to have them, you might not be ready to move in together. If you’re happy to sit down and figure it all out together, then great! This won’t be as hard as it is for lots of other people.

5. Create ground rules.

It might seem unromantic, but you’ve never spent this much time together before. You should talk about what you will, and will not need from the other person. If you have to be a little bit brutally honest, go for it, because this is far better than getting mad at her when she tries to have a heart to heart with you right when you get home from work. Explain that when you first come home at night, you will need to be alone for half an hour. Make it clear that you hate when people make bacon for breakfast because of the smell. And say these things before they happen, so your significant other understands what you need from the person you live with. These aren’t trivial matters if they’re going to bother you, so lay the groundwork for getting along in the future.

6. Don’t think of this as a new roommate.

From square one, this is not going to be like living with your best friend from college. You’re not gonna have someone who wants to gossip with you every night, share a beer with you, or go on impromptu shopping trips. This also isn’t someone you can just go into your room and ignore. This is someone you love (presumably), so you should set your expectations accordingly.

7. Have alone time.

At first, living with your boyfriend, girlfriend, fiancé, or maybe even wife/husband is going to seem like a lot. Someone you used to see a lot will become someone you see all of the time, or at least a lot more. Don’t lose yourself in the process. Make sure that you each have a space within your new place to get away, be it the apartment gym, a nearby restaurant, the rooftop pool, or your buddy’s apartment down the hall. You need space too.

8. Get a DVR.

Sounds trivial, right? Well it’s not. A lot of people are very sensitive about their TV shows, which means that they may not want to miss the latest episode because someone else is watching football. You’ll save a lot of conflict by having a DVR, or at least a Netflix, HBOGo, or Hulu Plus subscription, so everyone can watch their shows on their own time.

9. Buy cheap furniture.

If you are buying your furniture together, buy items you aren’t overly invested in. Not to be a pessimist, but if this all doesn’t work out, you may have a hard time deciding who gets the $5,000 couch and who gets the $200 lamp. Sure, you can pay the other person their share of the item, but if you buy something fancy that you both love, you both may want it. In the beginning, get things you aren’t super-attached to, and save yourself the heartache of surrendering your favorite desk. You can just buy yourself another one at IKEA if you really loved it so much.

10. Let them be messy/clean.

It’s hard to surrender yourself to other people’s cleanliness habits, but generally speaking, they don’t change. If she always leaves her shoes in the hall, and you always have to remind her to pick them up, don’t count on that going away. You might have to learn to step over the shoes, or put them away yourself. If it drives you nuts that he needs everything in the dishwasher to be arranged just so, let him just rearrange everything. It’s no skin off of your back. These are the kinds of things that generally speaking, are very engrained in people. The best you can do is offer reminders to clean up, or if you’re the messy one, try to keep your mess confined to your own closet/office/desk drawers.

11. Tell them you need a puppy (or new bed, or new refrigerator, or whatever).

A lot of couples that move in together want to test out their “parenting” techniques with a dog or cat. This is great … if both people want one. But what ends up happening is, one partner wants a pet way more than the other. They will hint at it, stare for long periods of time at dogs in the hallway, and send you pictures of kittens while you’re at work.
The person who wants the pet needs to come out and say it, and there will need to be a very real discussion of whether or not this is a viable choice. Be honest about your concerns/reservations, or why you feel that you really want/need a pet. Just lay it on the line, instead of having endless, cyclical conversations about it. That will only frustrate both people. This really goes for anything you feel you want/need in the apartment or house, from a treadmill to a new couch to a bigger TV.

12. Have guests.

This is a great way to increase your appreciation for each other. When you have other people over, you might realize how relaxing and comforting it is to just be alone (not to diss your guests). You will also entertain your guests together, which is a fun way to bond and share the life you’ve built together. It’ll make you all the more proud of what you’ve created in the home you two share.