Let’s say you’re ready to take your pandemic situationship to the next level, give your quarantine turbo relationship a real shot, or simply move forward with your long-term partner by deciding to live together. In the midst of a global health crisis or not, deciding to share your home with your significant other is a big deal, and it’s an even more delicate one when the space in question is where your partner already lives.
When you’re moving into a partner’s existing space, many factors are at play: boundaries, responsibilities, courtesies, finances, emotions, expectations. So, how can you navigate entering and sharing their space without feeling like an intruder and also feeling comfortable enough to make it a home of your own? Below find six expert tips for moving in with your partner to their home without compromising the quality of the relationship or the comfort of everyone involved.
6 tips for moving in with your partner to a space where they already live
1. Aim to create a new space out of an old space together
“The challenge in moving into a partner’s place is for the couple together to create ‘our space,’ despite the space historically belonging to one party,” says psychotherapist Emmy Crouter, LSW. In time, she adds, the “new” space will ideally house a mixture of both of your respective belongings so that it truly feels like home for both of you.
To streamline that consolidating process, consider designating closet space for each person, figuring out what to do with duplicate items (think beds, toasters, and couches), or donating or selling all your old stuff in favor of purchasing new, mutual furniture and home goods. And even though you may be itching to buy new bedding and shower curtains ASAP, Crouter warns not to redecorate without your partner’s consent. Instead, she suggests redecorating together as a means to create a feeling of a shared space as a couple.
2. Verbalize your expectations prior to moving in
Who puts away the dishes? Who cleans the toilet? Who pays for groceries? “Realistic expectations are helpful while discussing who does what, when, where, and why,” says therapist Jacob Kountz. “Identify what expectations you have…and let [your partner] know by sharing this information with them.” Rather than leaving each other guessing and then, ultimately, arguing over preferences and assumptions that hadn’t been communicated, he recommends starting a dialogue.
“Sharing your hopes and expectations with your partner prior to moving in together will help them begin to make the adjustment,” says Crouter. “Make sure to ask how you can respect their existing space and routine. Simply asking your partner about their feelings related to the transition relays a sense of empathy, which can go a long way in making them feel understood and validated.”
3. Get clear on finances and expenses
Are you expected to split their current rent and utilities? How much money can you realistically afford to contribute toward living expenses? To avoid tricky situations, it’s important square away any and all financial matters before you move in—and that starts with open communication. Scheduling a regular “money date” with your partner can help facilitate this.
4. Establish ground rules and boundaries
This can be something as minor as being okay with peeing while the bathroom door is open or as major as needing alone time on the couch every single day. No matter what it is, how you approach setting boundaries in what was once someone else’s space may is crucial—especially if you’re both spending most of your time at home in quarantine.
“Asserting boundaries in the situation of moving in is technically a tilted process,” says Kountz. “Whoever is the one moving in may have to follow the rules of the head of household before negotiating what it is they’d like to see going on in the home.” To avoid a tilted situation like this one, the best tip for moving with your partner is to openly negotiate rules and boundaries ahead of time and then consistently discuss them, because things may change as time goes on.
5. Practice regular check-ins
Checking in with your partner during and after the move-in process is both helpful and necessary to ensure you’re both on the same page. “[It’s] a polite way of asking how the process of the move in is going without having to necessarily say ‘how is it for you with me here?’” says Kountz.
However you have the conversation, though, just make sure you’re showing kindness and being courteous of their feelings and thoughts when they share them with you.
6. Maintain your own lives
Of all the tips for moving in with your partner, this is perhaps most crucial: Just because you’re living together doesn’t mean you have to compromise your individuality. No matter whose space you’re in, you’re each still independent people with personal interests and goals in addition to mutual ones.
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