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?