How to Move In Together Without Breaking Up, According to a Relationship Expert

How to Move In Together Without Breaking Up, According to a Relationship Expert
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Moving in together is a relationship milestone that comes with obvious benefits like closeness to your partner and splitting rent, but the decision comes with common relationship problems as well. We spoke with therapist Minaa B., eharmony’s relationship expert, to break down why these problems happen and what you can do to solve them.

Choosing how to divide labour with your partner

If you think the divvying up of chores suddenly becomes easier now that you live together, the reality is that it often gets harder. According to B., when couples move in together, some common issues that they encounter can be a mismatch in beliefs around household responsibilities and the distribution of labour. “Commonly, in heterosexual relationships, traditional gender norms might be upheld for either one partner or both partners, and this creates an unequal dynamic to begin with,” she says. “A male partner might expect his female partner to sustain all the cleaning, cooking, and anything related to caring for the home in general.”

To find a solution to this, B. recommends that couples have conversations in advance before moving together regarding who will take the lead on each domestic labour. “For example, if only one partner knows how to cook, the discussion might be on nights when that partner is too drained or tired to cook at home, the other partner will take the lead on ordering out.”

Another solution could be helping your partner with prepping ingredients, so that all they may need to do is cook the food without all the additional labour.

In regards to cleaning, B. suggest having discussions around a chore schedule. “How often do you imagine needing to clean your house or how much time do you have on your ends to get this done? You both might consider outsourcing help by hiring a cleaning service either weekly or month.”

How to handle your finances with a partner

Money is a common source of conflict for many relationships, so it’s not surprising that it rears its head once you decide to move in together. Some issues can be disagreements about who is responsible for paying what, decisions around a shared bank account, or having adequate finances to cover costs in general. And in some heterosexual relationships, a woman may expect her male partner to take on more of the financial responsibilities.

B. says it’s helpful to have a clear understanding of what each other earns, and how much each other can afford to contribute to different expenses. “You might decide that based on your combined income, it’s best to split everything equally, or you might find that if one partner significantly out-earns the other, they may take on the heavier bills like rent or mortgage, while the other partner covers utilities.” You could also set a ratio, where one partner contributes, say, 65% towards each major bill, and the other partner pays 35%.

Having a shared bank account may not be a necessity for living together, “but you might find it easier to have an account that is specifically allocated for house funds that both parties contribute to and there are clear rules regarding what that money is used for — which is typically used for things that benefit the home.”

Don’t take sex and intimacy for granted

You might think living together automatically means more sex, but that’s not necessarily true. “There may be a request for too much sex, or there may be conflict over too little sex,” B. says. “When issues around intimacy arise, it’s important to communicate your need to your partner. Maybe there’s a lack of sex because one partner is always working long hours and comes home drained and ready for bed. If this is an issue, remember that pleasure and intimacy does not always mean sex.”

Instead, B. recommends considering ways you can engage in acts of foreplay or consider ways you can make sex exciting in a way that benefits the both of you. “Do you have time to book a hotel near your partner’s job so that they can meet you after work? When your partner comes home, how can you create a pleasurable environment that invites sex and intimacy? Most importantly, despite living together, are you still dating each other? Dating creates room for more physical, emotional, and sexual intimacy. Don’t neglect date night just because you’re cohabitating.”

Have a plan for accommodating alone time

Even if you spent a lot of time with your partner prior to moving in together, if you were used to living alone, your new “roomie” might interfere with your beloved alone time.

“It can be hard going from living alone to always having someone in your space. If you are the type of person who needs to take breaks away from people, or gets overwhelmed being in small, crowded spaces, one thing couples should be considering is the type of home they live in,” B. explains. “It’s possible that a one-bedroom apartment may not suffice, especially if the square footage is on the tight side. When thinking of moving in together, consider if a two-bedroom would better suit your need for separation and quality time better than a one-bedroom.”

If that’s not feasible for you, B. suggests finding ways to make your space suitable for your needs, whether that means taking breaks outside your home by going to a coffee shop, for a walk, or hanging with a friend to get some space. Talk through your expectations and have a plan for how you want to handle your alone time.

Define what “quality time” means

At the same time, living together with your partner doesn’t mean you’re always spending quality time with each other. You might scroll on your phones during dinner together or chill on the couch watching Netflix, which might be ok things to do sometimes, but aren’t what brings couples closer together — which is typically the whole point of living together.

“Being intentional about quality time is also important, just because you live together does not mean you are spending quality time together,” B. says. “Making quality time for each other can look like having dinner together instead of in two separate rooms, or setting a boundary, such as no phones at the table during dinner. It can look like choosing to cut off Netflix and going to bed at the same time to be intentional about more sex or even having pillow talk.”

Above all, communicate with your partner so you make your living situation a place that feels good to both of you.

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