How to know if you’re ready to live with your partner.

There’s no escaping the milestones of love. Although romantic relationships develop uniquely for each couple, the pressure to meet set milestones can be intense. You know the ones: making it official, saying I love you, moving in, getting married, having children, living happily ever after. Out of all of these milestones, moving in together is the biggest transition. It’s the point in a serious relationship where commitment levels up, and sharing a life together becomes a reality, not a platitude.

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Choosing to live with a partner is a big decision. It’s not something to be rushed into. And, despite all the Hollywood cliches, love alone isn’t an indicator that you’re ready, or whether cohabitation would benefit your relationship. With an increasing number of couples choosing to live separately, more people are starting to question how soon is too soon to move in — or whether to live together at all.

Moving in Too Soon Can Have a Negative Impact

couple arguing in a house

As recently as the 1960s, cohabiting with a partner before marriage was called “living in sin.” Thankfully, the approach has relaxed a lot since then, but that doesn’t mean the additional freedom equals long-term success. When love is in the air, it’s tempting to follow your heart, be a little reckless, and act now, think later. If you’re considering living with a partner, you may think, what’s there to lose? The answer to that rhetorical question is: a lot.

According to research, on average, couples who live together before marriage are 33 percent more likely to divorce — although that number is said to be decreasing over time. Galena Rhoades, Ph.D., a Research Professor in the Psychology Department at the University of Denver, argues that moving in too soon can be a hindrance, not a blessing. She argues that it can make it more difficult to know if your partner is the one.

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Many couples fall into what she terms “sliding, not deciding.” In other words, blindly following each milestone because they feel they should, not because it’s the right choice. Rarely does moving in, by itself, positively influence a relationship. Rhoades writes:

“My research with more than 1,200 people in their 20s and 30s shows that moving in together increases your chances of staying together, but it doesn’t increase how committed or interested you feel. It increases the number of constraints in a relationship—things that may make you stuck or make it hard to disentangle—like pooling finances, adopting a pet, co-mingling kitchenware, or buying furniture together. But there isn’t a corresponding increase in how much you want to marry your partner.”

How Long Should You Wait?

time tracking is key to time management

With the above in mind, considering how soon is too soon to move in starts with being honest about the health of your relationship. Living together isn’t a magic fix; quite the opposite. It will test the foundations of the way you relate, requiring you to communicate openly, work through issues, and respect each other’s boundaries. Developing this level of mutual understanding takes time. There’s no set duration in terms of what works and doesn’t. Each relationship has its own pace.

To give you an idea of the typical timeline, however, research by Stanford University revealed a quarter of couples moved in after four months, while after two years, 70 percent of couples lived together. The data doesn’t give much about the reasons behind that, though, or the success of the couples involved. For example, some couples may fast-track living together to save money, while others may be more precious about holding on to their own space.

5 Questions to Consider Before Moving In

Happy couple cuddling in bed

How soon is too soon to move in? Before knowing for sure, there are more questions to consider. Rather than look for definitive answers, see this as an exploration. The answers to these questions will direc you toward knowing whether now is the right time, or if things can wait. Use these questions as journal prompts or, even better, work through them together with your romantic partner:

  1. Have you lived with a partner before, or will this be the first time? The experience of living with a partner will depend on the person you’re with. But if you have done it before, it will give you a better idea of what to expect.
  2. Are you and your partner on the same page? Does the conversation feel balanced when discussing living together? Is one of you more enthusiastic than the other? It may be impossible for both of you to feel exactly the same, but a similar level of commitment is needed for things to work out.
  3. How do you respond to conflict or disagreement? Conflict isn’t bad, in fact, it’s expected in an intimate relationship. The true test is how you respond. Do you do your best to communicate openly, respect, and listen to each other? Or do you suppress, deny, blame, or avoid difficult conversations?
  4. What are your expectations? You’ll never fully know what it will be like living with your partner until you’re living the experience. But you can avoid any surprises by getting clear on what your expectations are. Are you on the same page in terms of cleanliness standards, sleeping arrangements, socializing, and time alone?
  5. What are the practicalities? What can you both budget for? Do you agree on which area you’d like to live in? Are your lifestyles compatible? Is one of you making more compromises than the other?

Take time to reflect on if living together is what you really want, or something you feel you should do. It’s not easy to reverse the decision, and unless you’re in extraordinary circumstances, taking extra time to decide doesn’t have many drawbacks. In the meantime, consider what the ideal living set-up would be for you and your romantic partner. 

Use this as an excuse to get to know your partner even more, and to start creating a shared vision that inspires you both. Dare to dream, and be honest about your wants and needs. If you decide it’s best not to move in yet, it was worthwhile. And if those discussions bring you closer together, it’ll increase the likelihood of your very own happily ever after.


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