Dear Wendy
Dear Wendy

What We Wish We’d Known Before Moving In Together

The New York Times published two articles recently about moving in with a significant other. “Tips for Living Together Without Going Nuts” has some great practical tips to avoid pricey and emotional mistakes, including my favorites:

1. “Reveal your student loan debt, credit card balances and other obligations. Create a plan to reduce these debts over time.”

2. “If buying a house, consider how you will divide mortgage, property tax, maintenance, homeowner association fees and insurance payments. Decide how, and under what conditions, the house would be sold, and if one party would have the right to buy out the other. Come up with a backup plan should one partner be unable to keep up with payments.”

3. “Do chores together and put on music or a podcast. Tie something positive to a chore you might not be looking forward to.”

4. “Pare down possessions. Try to make sure you’re not holding onto a ton of stuff that isn’t meaningful to you anymore.”

5. “Figure out who’s going to shop, cook, clean and pay the bills, while striving to keep it as fair and balanced as possible.”

In “What I Wish I’d Known Before Moving in Together,” various couples discuss what surprised them about moving in together and what they wish they’d have been better prepared for. I’ve moved in with boyfriends twice — once when I was 24 and my then-boyfriend and I moved together from separate apartments in Missouri to a shared apartment in Chicago, and, of course, when I was 31 and moved from my own place in Chicago into my now-husband’s apartment in Manhattan. The things I wish I’d known are different for each situation.

The first time I moved in with a boyfriend, I wish I’d known better what my feelings were, what I wanted for the future of our relationship, and what our plan was if we decided to break up. The “terms of our agreement,” as it were, as well as my own feelings, were so ambiguous that it took a while for me to realize that I needed out of the relationship and then it took much longer than it should have to actually get out because I didn’t have a plan.

Things were different several years later when I moved in with Drew. I felt much more serious and certain about him, for one thing. And we were closing the distance in a long-distance relationship, so we were very hopeful and optimistic and excited. There wasn’t too much that surprised me about moving in with him. After a year and a half of spending lots and lots of weekends together, we knew each other pretty well.

The things I wasn’t so well-prepared for had much less to do with him and our relationship than it did with the logistics of moving across country and looking for a job just as the economy was collapsing (it was the fall of 2007). I had about $5k saved, which I thought would be plenty to get me through the few weeks I anticipated it would take to find a job. Instead, it took months and months to find even a part-time job relevant to my interests and experience and what I wanted to do, and several more months after that to make it full-time. I did some temping and worked at a friend’s coffee shop a couple days a week, but after I went through my savings, I had to rely on Drew to help support me, which I had not been anticipating. It also took much longer to make my own friends, so I was relying on Drew more than I expected I would be, for my social needs, too. To be so dependent on a partner took a toll — on me, personally, and on our relationship — but that hiccup only lasted a couple months and we moved past it. I’m not sure knowing ahead of time what the specific challenges were going to be would have changed much, other than maybe lowered my anxiety level (but knowing me, I’d have found something else to be anxious about).

What about you? Anything you wish you would have known before you moved in with someone you were dating? How do you think the knowledge might have changed things?

20 comments… add one
  • bondgirl May 1, 2017, 12:45 pm

    Regarding 2): Get it in writing. As I go through the house hunting process myself, I’m learning that it’s quite commonplace these days for attorneys to write up an agreement that can be equated to a house prenup since many unmarried couples are purchasing homes together. And 100% agree with financial transparency. Don’t want to end up like Marshall and Lily in How I Met Your Mother where she hid THOUSANDS of dollars in credit card debt from him and it didn’t come out until they went to buy a place. No bueno.

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  • ktfran May 1, 2017, 12:59 pm

    How timely. I’m moving in with the fiancé today! I’m literally sitting on my couch, reading DW, waiting for my mover.

    I’m sad to be leaving my neighborhood. I’m a little frightened to be living with someone after being on my own nearly my entire adult life. Seriously. I’ve lived alone 12 out of my 14 years since college. But I’m oh so excited to start this next phase of my life with the fiancé.

    The last time I moved in with a man, it was my ex fiancé. Our relationship dissolved pretty quickly once I realized this was forever and forever with him was wrong for us both. So, we lived together about 5 months while our relationship was ending. Then I moved out and in with a friend for a few months before I moved 1800 miles away.

    This time around, I’m not scared about forever. I welcome it and I’m ready and I can’t wait to see how our lives unfold.

    Although I still feel a twinge of apprehension. I’m one independent person. Thank goodness he know that!

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      Juliecatharine May 1, 2017, 1:34 pm

      Happy moving Kt!

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      • ktfran May 2, 2017, 7:49 am

        Thanks. It was a success! I’m beat today.

  • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 1:20 pm

    My LDR and I are about to close the gap on the distance THIS MONTH!!! OMG!

    We had many of these talks very early on since we were at a distance. If you read the forums you know I recently purchased a house. We’ve already discussed division of cost some. He has to job hunt, I think the unknown of no job yet wiggs me out. We have our plan, so here’s to happy job hunting for him!

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    • MissDre May 1, 2017, 1:48 pm

      How far apart were you guys?? I’m kind of freaking out because I really like my long distance bf a lot but we are REALLY far apart so I feel like it’s going to take longer than average to get to know each other properly.

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      • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 1:59 pm

        1000 miles and two time zones.

        We were fortunate to have a string of cheap flights to see each other frequently. We’re talking Spirit airlines $80 fly in late Friday and out late Sunday trips. The first four months were once a month (30-40 days between visits). And then American and Southwest had a slue of cheap flights and we saw each other almost every other weekend for two months. Now we are back on 30-40 days.

        We talk on the phone every night or text in the evening. I’m two hours ahead of him so that part kind of blows. We spent a lot of time early on having those hard talks of money, desires, aspirations, what a partner looks like, what we need emotionally. It’s been tough but I feel like our constant communication let us grow together super well.

        Most people who talk to us are shocked we haven’t been together as long as they assume.

      • MissDre May 1, 2017, 2:09 pm

        Thanks for the info! My bf and I are 5,000km apart (I think that’s around 3,000 miles) and it’s a 5-hour time difference. Flying there is definitely not cheap. I spent 5 days with him in April and I’m going back this month for 10 days, but moving forward I doubt we’ll be able to see each other as often as I’d like. We’ll definitely have to come up with a plan.

        We talk every single day. Either by text, phone call or video chat. But I feel like I learn so much more about him when we’re in person. So I’m really looking forward to my 10-day trip 🙂

      • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 2:15 pm

        What about you guys meeting halfway? My boyfriend and I looked into that a couple times. There was a website where you could do a search. Granted you then have to pay for a hotel but it was nice to get out going to the others city. We did a trip like that for a wedding by me, and travel with him when neither of us knew the area was wonderful and was great for our relationship.

        Join all the mileage and reward programs you can. It also helped us knowing an end date pretty early on. That way we knew we wouldn’t be spending a ton of flights come June. We spent over $5,000 on flights for this relationship.

      • MissDre May 1, 2017, 2:58 pm

        Meeting halfway isn’t really an option since the vast majority of the distance between us is ocean. No matter what, one of us would have to cross the Atlantic. I’ve been collecting Air Miles for years but now that I actually want to use them, I’ve discovered that the program is useless. Anyway, my hope is that we can see each other 6 times throughout the year. Some longer stretches, some shorter stretches. And maybe by Christmas this year we can have a serious talk about closing the distance (I don’t want to rush into a decision just because we miss each other and want to close the gap, I want us to be sure so I think giving this another 6 months is the smart thing to do).

      • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 3:51 pm

        Yeah, by the time he moves it’ll have almost been a year since we started dating.

        If we had to go another year distance I’m not sure I would have done it. I’m glad our lives allowed for us to close it sooner.

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        kare May 1, 2017, 5:17 pm

        @MissDre I’m not sure exactly where you guys are located, but WOW sometimes has good deals to Iceland from Canada and Europe. That’s​ not really halfway though.

      • MissDre May 1, 2017, 5:22 pm

        @Kare we’re actually planning to go to Iceland together maybe later this year 🙂 He’s in the UK so it’s not that far from him. I’ll look for seat sales and subscribe to a few lists. Thanks!

      • ktfran May 2, 2017, 7:52 am

        Dre – use the site skiplagged to search for flights. You can find great deals.

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    Juliecatharine May 1, 2017, 1:36 pm

    When my now-husband moved in it was pretty easy. The only thing that sucked was our first fight and then it really hit home that I no longer had my own sanctuary (and neither did he). I never wished for a bigger house so much before that day lol.

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    • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 1:41 pm

      That was a big cause of the move. He’d come to visit for several weeks at a time and my large apartment never felt so tiny.


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    • girltuesday May 1, 2017, 2:45 pm

      That’s when I take off and wander at Target for two hours.

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  • anonymousse May 1, 2017, 3:38 pm

    Side note: does anyone else put a podcast on their phone and walk around doing chores? Right now I’m into S Town.

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    • TheHizzy May 1, 2017, 3:51 pm

      I listen to a lot of NPR to do chores and get ready in the morning.

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  • Ange May 1, 2017, 9:56 pm

    I must admit I did it all wrong and my husband and I basically lived together from day one. Yes we had separate places but we spent every night together at one of them except when one of us was away for work. In some respects it was good, we nutted out how we were going to live together as we were doing it so the big conversations weren’t always necessary but on the flip side we also didn’t realise which conversations we needed to have. That definitely led to friction once we did our first interstate move and our status quo changed. Now we’re a lot better at seeing what we need to discuss and getting ahead of it but there were some shitty days in there.

    In short: don’t do it how I did it lol.

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