Recently, in my personal and professional life, I have been confronted with questions from individuals who struggle to know when is the “right time” start the “moving in together” stage of their relationship with their significant other. Many view points informed by judgments in culture, family relationships, and religion have dictated for centuries how to view individuals who move in together before marriage or commitment in comparison to those who do not. Perspectives I’ve heard have included: “Wait until marriage – it’s what God intended!” “You need to live with someone to really know how life will be like on a daily basis… what if they have weird habits?” or “You should not move in until you’ve experienced every season together.” For me, a strong determining factor involved whether or not I would feel comfortable having my partner see “the good, the bad, and the ugly” sides of me.
No matter your view point, it is important to consider what is in the forefront of your decision? For instance, are you primarily concerned about finances? Are you worried about living alone? Are you ready to make a long-term commitment with your “roommate” in question? These questions might be difficult to answer as it is often hard to identify what is the biggest priority at the time, but being grounded in what is really at stake in making this decision is key.
My suggestion would be to back up and be mindful of your own individual daily habits and try to imagine adjustments you would need to make to routines or how much you would need to adapt to the needs of the other person? How would adjusting impact your emotional well-being? Would feelings of anxiety, frustration, control infiltrate your relational intimacy?
These are all questions I had to ask myself when I decided to move in with my boyfriend, now fiancé. Knowing that I tend to like things a certain way and get anxious when situations do not go as expected, I had to approach this idea with hesitance. As both of us are methodical people, I knew devising a mental checklist would be a good approach. Are we both the same level of messy? – Check; Can we navigate our early-bird/night-owl lifestyles? – Check; Will we feel comfortable hosting events together? – Check. I thought about a typical day for me from the moment I wake up, to the moment I go to bed. We discussed our own potentially strange habits, routines we needed to follow, those we could alter, what needs we had, and how we could support each other. I asked myself, “How would all of these be different if I lived by myself, or with a friend versus with a significant other?” “Am I okay with that answer?” When the conversation went well, I felt more comfortable about the “moving in together” process.
My point is that we were able to have the conversation about our concerns. It took courage for me to say certain things out of embarrassment. I had to listen to things I did not want to hear. But, we were not afraid to argue or negotiate. I was able to make a case for why we “needed” to keep my beautiful bedframe instead of his less-than-beautiful one. He made the case for having a stationary bike that I felt was superfluous when we had a gym close by. We both compromised. Having healthy fights is important to any relationship. It’s crucial to know whether you can fight and resolve it, so that when neither of you have an alternative place to sleep (because you live together), you can get through the night without wanting to kill each other.
So, first I think the decision requires for each person to be emotionally honest with themselves and understand what they need at their particular point in life. Second, being able to communicate needs, even if they are uncomfortable, strange, or embarrassing is absolutely imperative. Third, the process of moving in together is a perfect time to practice compromising, which can make or break a relationship.
Viewing the situation according to too early or too late is all relative. What is early for some couples, might be about right for others. It’s not about the number of months or years you’ve been together. It’s about whether you are ready to incorporate your partner in aspects of your life that you don’t share with others – the hallmark of intimacy.