Times have changed and more and more couples are opting for a joint bed, fridge and electric bill before saying their "I dos." Cohabitation is a momentous step in a relationship and it is essential that couples truly consider what to expect from living together before taking the plunge.
Are you both ready to commit?
Since new relationships
tend to be intoxicating, with emotions running high, it's important to have been dating for "at least six months to a year" before flirting with the idea of living together, says Kimberly Moffit, a Toronto-based psychotherapist and the founder of KMA Therapy. "You must ask yourself if there is security and stability in your relationship," she says. "A best predictor is past behaviour."
She also recommends considering whether your motivation to move in together is something more than just convenience. Are you considering cohabitating because it will be more affordable or because you're desperate to get away from your family? Is your motivation that you do not trust your partner and desire to be together 24-7?
Cohabitation is not a Band-Aid for relationship troubles. The decision to move in together should be made for the right reasons: because you are both ready to take the next step in your relationship together.
You can't teach an old dog new tricks
While your partner may whip up some mouthwatering pancakes
on Saturday mornings, his other less pleasant habits, such as leaving the toilet seat up or ignoring the mountain of clean laundry on his couch, may also be here to stay. Having had your fair share of sleepovers, you've likely had a glimpse of the good, the bad and the ugly.
Whether domestic chores will be divvied up equally or not, "the most important thing is making sure you both have the same expectations," says Moffit, who stresses the importance of having these types of conversations before moving in together. His inclination to leave shaving cream all over the bathroom counter and his love for vacuuming should be old news by the time you move in together.
Remember, while you can make tiny adjustments to your partner's routine, you should not expect to change all of the ways of your Mr. Not-So Perfect.
Find common groundâ€¨
By moving into a place that's new for both of you, you can avoid some ugly territorial disputes. The search for a new humble abode can be a fresh start and a milestone for the relationship.
"It can definitely eliminate stresses if both parties are moving into a new place," says Moffit. "He or she won't feel like someone else is intruding on their territory and the person moving in will not feel guilty about bringing in their things."
Consider both your financial situations
â€¨Some say that money is the root of all evil, but you can avoid any monetary mishaps by ensuring that both you and your partner are on the same page regarding your financial arrangements. Will you divide your rent and living expense payments according to how much you each earn? Is it worth setting up a joint account to cover bills and household costs?
Moffit stresses the importance of having conversations about your finances
before moving in together, as there are legal aspects to common-law relationships. Moving in together should be less about cuddling on the couch and playing house and more about planning for the lifestyle you want to live.
Do a test run
Going on a vacation together (as opposed to simply having date nights and weekend sleepovers) is a good way for couples to get to know each other better – and we're not talking vacations at five-star resorts or laying around on a lounge chair all day.
Things are not always so happy-go-lucky when you're catching flights, travelling uneasily on trains, struggling with a new language or losing your way around a new city, says Moffit. "Travel is a great way to understand how your partner copes with uncomfortable situations," she explains. "When a vacation is not so five star, how do you and your boyfriend work through conflict?" she asks.
How do you fight?
Sometimes our mushy feelings for one another can turn into white-hot rage, which explains why even the happiest of couples are destined to experience some of those fingernails-on-the-chalkboard-of-life moments. When you're living under the same roof you literally have nowhere to hide. Being able to crack the conflict code is a must for a cohabitating couple.
Do you and your mister have the skills and tools required to fight in a healthy way
? This means swapping the name-calling, stone-walling and silent treatment for long, meaningful conversations, patience, compassion and a willingness to explore your disagreements.
A night owl is not likely to mix well with an early bird. While you may prefer to spend a quiet evening in, your partner may desire to be surrounded by friends. Work schedules, friends, partying into the wee hours and bedtimes are all factors that can wreak havoc on your relationship if not discovered – and discussed – early on. Discussions about the tiny details of a relationship can save you from having to lug all of those boxes back down 12 flights of stairs.
Keeping the romance alive
While dating, couples often make that extra effort to go for a walk (hand-in-hand) after dinner, to snuggle on the couch and to add that extra va-va-voom in the bedroom. When living together, however, it is easier to neglect quality time
. You may find yourselves slipping into your sweats the moment you get home from work and sitting on opposite sides of the couch. Because you're no longer just dating, it's crucial that you maintain the relationship's fun factor.
"With your everyday schedules, interactions are not so lovey-dovey anymore," says Moffit. "The most successful couples are the best planners."