If you’ve hit the “moving in together” phase of the relationship, congratulations! Our advice? Take time to mentally prepare. A little prep goes a long way.
Living together represents “the next step” in developing your intimate relationship into a deeper and perhaps lifelong partnership. Like other milestones in relationships, this stage is filled with excitement. But we all know it can be fraught with difficulties.
Here’s how to smooth it out.
People are Different
Do not assume your partner feels the same way as you about moving in together. Everyone has different associations, hopes, expectations, assumptions and worries about living with another person.
There may be parts of you that are excited, but other parts that feel worried. You may be longing for a deeper connection, but also worried about losing your independence from your partner. Some folks have been waiting their whole lives to live with a partner, so moving in represents the Holy Grail. Try to not make the mistake of attributing your fears of or need for intimacy as being about your partner. It is about you. And about what moving in represents for you.
The Epic Moment
While it is an important and epic moment to decide to live together, it is still just the first step on the process of closer connection and joining of lives. It is not the end of the road.
For some people, having a settled life together means you have “made it” or represents a success. There can be a tendency to want to have it all figured out because of that. But there are so many changes taking place in the time that you move in, so don’t make it overwhelming by setting things in stone or feeling that everything needs to be determined right away. If you find yourselves arguing about where to put that painting or whose jacket goes where, take a step back. You can decide one thing for now and re-evaluate later. Living together is a process of discovering each other and discovering what works over time.
Again, moving in is a step. You or your partner may be terrified of intimacy, viewing it as representing a slow erosion of a loss of self, even though it is also exciting. No problem, take it slow.
If you decide a week, a month or a year later to get rid of that second toaster that you are keeping “just in case things don’t work out,” you can always make that decision then. Those extra things may be an important symbol of independence that is essential to hold onto as you are moving forward in a new and unfamiliar direction. That doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with you. It may be that you find in a year, you can’t remember why you needed to keep your old bachelor mattress in the basement. There are no hard and fast rules here.
From “Yours” to “Ours”
Whether you are moving in together to a new home or one of you is moving in with the other, there are both losses and gains. The gains are perhaps easier to notice and talk about. You are getting closer, you get to spend more time together, you get to know each other in different and often more intimate ways, you are creating a new identity for yourselves as partners who live together. It is great!
But don’t forget to talk about the ways in which it is also hard, otherwise you are only seeing half of the picture. And you may be shocked or disappointed to learn that you or your partner has other, more difficult feelings that are equally as valid about the change.
If you are the partner who is “giving up your own place” to move into someone else’s already-established home, you are making a huge leap out of your comfort zone and leaving behind what you know. If your partner is joining you in your home, you are having to let go of old ways of doing things and sacrifice what is yours to make room for them. If you are both moving, it may be an exercise that breeds more togetherness as you decide together on a suitable new space for the two of you. But you are also different and are having an experience of your reality shifting. What is true for you may not be true for your partner. If you expect both happiness and disappointments, you will be better prepared for what comes up.
Plan Ahead by Talking
The decision to live together is not just about living well together. It is about talking about living well together. There are not many things in life when it would be smart to just jump into a life-changing situation without first talking about doing it; yet, many couples do precisely that with jumping in to living together.
Try not to slide into just “figuring it out along the way.” Talk about what your priorities are, and what is important to you and why. Set aside time to check in about how you are feeling about moving forward, what is good, what is scary or confusing. Try not to gloss over your worries, even if they are unrealistic. If you can share about what you are worried about, you are growing your toolbox of communication of how to talk about important things with your partner.
A lifelong skill and when done well tends to help us to feel less stressed out. How you talk about what to talk about, whether it is giving orders to the movers or settling who will pay the energy bill is more important for the health of your relationship than actually settling that decision. Remember, how you talk to and treat your partner on your moving day is often more memorable than anything else that happens on that day. Talk and be good to each other.
Be Realistic About the Stress of Moving
Plan for stress: it is a stressful day/week/month. It is not just the moving day that is tiring. It is the planning beforehand, the boxing up and packing, the inevitable process of getting rid of old things you may no longer need. It is the organization and sorting out of the moving process. The arranging, logistics and business of the day. It is the aftershocks of unpacking, sorting, more arranging and negotiating.
This may be the first or the biggest joint project that you and your partner have worked on together. Maybe it’s also the most stressful thing you have experienced together. Expect it to be stressful for at least the month before and the month after. Plan ahead. Try to make it easier on yourselves. Add elements of fun. Take breaks throughout. Bend your own rules abit. Give yourself time. Be responsive to the level of stress and take care of yourself even better than you normally do.
And remember, most couples don’t say the best part of living together was the move in day. So try not to make snap decisions or judgements about how you feel on the day as being some kind of “sign” or omen about how the relationship will be. Most of what is fantastic about living together comes later. After picture frames are up and the couch is in place.
[image: via shutterstock]