This week, let's
explore the issues involved in moving in with your significant other.
Some people view
this as a prelude to getting married; others see it as a natural "next
step" without a further goal. Either way, this is a big commitment on the
part of both parties. Of course, I'm talking about setting up
house as a couple, not simply sharing housing costs as roommates.
Before you just
jump right in and set-up house, you'd better consider what you're really doing
here. Moving in together is just like getting married without the format
commitment. This is a big step - one you shouldn't take lightly. Just like you
shouldn't jump into a marriage, you shouldn't jump into living together.
There are many good
reasons to move in together - security, finances, emotional support, etc.; but
the primary reason should be to take your relationship to that next level. Many
couples do this as a precursor to getting married - something of a "test
drive". In fact, I can't imagine why anyone would get married to someone
that they haven't lived with first.
that statistics show there is a slight increase in the likelihood of divorce
among couples that live together before marriage. I believe that this is
because many couples find that they aren't as compatible as they first thought,
and go ahead with the marriage anyway because that was the goal of moving in
together in the first place!
If a couple's
goal of moving in together is to test a possible marriage, this should be a
clear understanding up front. There should be goals and each partner should
have the freedom to say that they are or aren't comfortable getting married.
This doesn't mean that the relationship has to break up however! Many relationships
work just fine when they aren't constant live-in's. This needs to be understood
up front. Just because you can't live with someone doesn't mean that you can't
love him or her - and continue seeing each other from different residences.
[How to Get Started]
So, how do you go
about setting this up? First - TALK! I've seen too
many couples that just agree to move in together like roommates and then try to
work out the details after the move. Don't do this! Both you and your lover
deserve the luxury of having the details worked out in advance. Spend some
time, and commit your agreements to paper (see below for some links that may
help here). This doesn't have to be a formal, notarized document - just
something you can refer to now and in the future when questions arise - and
they WILL arise!
your present situation. If one or both of you own a home, you may want to rent
one or both of them out and establish a "neutral ground" for the new
relationship. On the other hand it may be preferable to move into one home and
sell the other. Consider all the factors in making this decision:
length of time left on the mortgages or leases, the monthly payments, upkeep
costs, taxes, size and age of the home, condo or apartment, and of course;
location, location, location!
your possessions. If you're moving into one partner's place, it isn't
reasonable for the partner moving to just throw everything away and move in.
There is going to have to be some type of "merger" of property. What
isn't brought into the new home may be placed in storage. Further, things that
were there before the move-in may also be put in storage to make room for the
new things. The key to making this work is
compromise from both partners. Few people want their things removed, or to have
to do without things they are used to. So, find a balance that works before the
Before all this
happens, both partners should mark their things so that they know who owns
what. I recommend that you both create written inventories of what you have -
including what is going into your "love nest", what is going into
storage, and what is being sold or given away. Yes - I know this isn't very
romantic, but consider what you're really doing here - you're creating a business
relationship as well as an emotional one. Both things that will be brought into
the house as well as things that will be stored should be marked. If you have
duplicate things (which is quite likely), you may want to have a garage sale or
simply give them away. Remember however, that if things don't work out, you're
going to want to have them back or replace them.
are too many other possible issues to consider than can be listed in a single
article. However, some of the things you should decide up front include:
* Who is
responsible for what chores?
* What about kids
- those that live with you and those that visit?
* What about pets
- if both people have pets, are they compatible?
* Who decides on
* What about space
and closet needs?
* Will you have
separate telephones, computers, etc?
* What about
office space? If one or both of you work from home, you may need to separate
* What about
privacy? Moving in together doesn't mean that you have to open up every
possible aspect of your life.
* What about
solitude - most of us need some "alone time" just to remain sane.
together is as much a financial consideration as it is an emotional one. One
partner usually earns more than the other, and may be expected to cover a
larger share of the expenses. This is fine, but there is likely to be some
expectation of return from the partner contributing less - usually in household
What about bank
accounts? You might want to check with an accountant and/or attorney to decide
what works best for your particular situation. However, I strongly recommend
that you don't merge all of your accounts into joint accounts. If one or more
joint accounts make sense for your particular situation, you may want to keep
your existing accounts and create one or two others: a checking account (for
paying bills) and a savings/investment account. Then both partners contribute
their share into the account(s) from which bills are paid, investments made,
assets are purchased, etc.
Oh brother! This
is much more difficult than making the initial
decision to move in together! Thus, it is much better to have not done it in
the first place. Of course, that piece of wisdom doesn't help you much if you've
already done it. So, let's look at the things you need to know:
Moving out can be
just as traumatic as getting a divorce - especially if you've been together
awhile. Consider, that you've probably purchased things together, have joint
bills, and possibly joint bank accounts. All of these have to be split.
Further, at least one partner has to move (possibly both partners), and set-up
a new home elsewhere. And, of course, there is all the emotion involved.
During the time
you've been together, you've both enjoyed a number of benefits - probably two
incomes, two people supporting the household, two people paying the bills, etc.
Usually, one partner makes more than the other and contributes more
financially. Sometimes, the other partner makes up for this by performing
additional work. Sometimes however, this isn't the case - and most times, both
partners feel that they have contributed more than the other.
I recommend that
you forget all of this and concentrate on the process of the splitting up the
household. Consider that the person moving is going to need funds to get set-up
again. How you split your assets is up to you, but I suggest this: be generous
in the giving, meager in the expecting, and appreciative in the receiving. Yes
- easier said than done, but it will go a long way to getting this split
finished. If you're still going to stay together as a couple after all this, it
will probably be much simpler than if you're breaking up the
relationship. Remember: you got together in the first place. There was
something you saw in the other person. Concentrate on the benefits you've both
gained and try, try to make it easier on your partner - they deserve at least
Also, don't bring
friends into this breakup. They will be traumatized by it all anyway. There is
no need to make it more difficult for them (and ultimately for yourself). You
may want to ask them to help you move, but don't expect them to hate or dislike
your (ex-)partner. They will have probably established a relationship with this
person, and deserve the same respect for it, that they have given you. In
short, don't try to pit your friends against your ex.
Moving in with
your lover is a tricky, problematic event. Unfortunately, love isn't enough to
make it work. Consider my 7 "P's": "Proper, prior planning
prevents piss-poor performance". I know it isn't romantic, but I strongly
urge you to create a "Cohabitation Agreement". This doesn't have to
be 50 pages long, nor cost you thousands in attorney fees. Here are links to a
couple of simple ones on the Internet: (you can do your own search if you
You may want to
download one or both of these documents and modify them to suit your needs.
After you've set the "ground rules", you might want to have a lawyer
review it to make sure that it will continue to protect you and your partner.
There is a wealth
of information on the web about the issues I've discussed in this article. You
might want to go to your favorite search engine and look for web pages that
discuss "Cohabitation" or "living together" and see what
you can find. As long as both partners have a good understanding of the other's
goals and expectations in moving in together, the possible pitfalls, and the
benefits, this can be one of the most wonderful experiences of your life.
Copyright (c) 2005, Dr. Dennis W. Neder
All rights reserved.
For more information about my book, "Being a Man in a Woman's World", visit:
P.O. Box 10702
Glendale, CA 91209-3702
Fax (818) 246-5431
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