Moving in with a romantic partner can be a really exciting step in a relationship as it typically means things are going well and you’re ready and excited to take it to the next level.
Chances are if you’re reading this you’re wondering whether you and your partner are ready to take to make this big decision or if things are moving a little too fast and wondering if this is really the right thing for you and your partner. We understand that sometimes moving in with someone isn’t so much about the stage of the relationship but more about necessity or timing — so we’re here to help you walk through the crucial questions you need to ask yourself and each other before making this decision. We’ll also provide some red flags and signs that maybe you’re not ready to move in together, and lastly, we’ll discuss how to plan an exit strategy if you do move in and things aren’t working out.
While we can’t recommend signing a lease together after a first date, there’s no golden rule for the amount of time you should wait before moving in with a significant other.
Relationship experts have given various answers from 6 months to 2 years, but the right time for someone else’s relationship could be totally wrong for yours. It all depends on the people involved, your feelings about the relationship, finances, and what you’re looking for out of life. So, rather than giving you a set number of months or years to wait, we’re going to focus on what’s more important: the quality and strength of the relationship.
Whether you’ve been dating this person for years or it’s a new relationship, the quality of your partnership and being on the same page about this decision is what should truly determine whether or not you should move in together. Even if there is another reason prompting both parties to talk about moving in (such as financial reasons, leases expiring, or getting a job in a new city), there are questions you can ask and things you can do to prepare, set expectations, and communicate boundaries.
Moving in with someone is a big relationship milestone and it can put a lot of pressure on you, your partner, and the relationship which can have implications on other parts of your life. While saying yes to moving in together is the first step, there’s so much more to think about!
The idea of moving in with someone can be exciting and you may be ready to jump at the chance, but remember that this is a big step for both of you, so slow down and think about these important questions before you make a final decision.
People move in together for all sorts of reasons, but at the core of it all: you and your partner should want to move in together because you love each other and want your relationship to continue progressing. Saving money by splitting rent or a mortgage is an obvious bonus, but it can be difficult if that’s the main or only reason you’re moving in together. If you are moving in together for financial reasons, it’s critically important to have the legal paperwork and rental contracts in place to ensure you protect yourself.
Speaking of money—money is consistently listed as one of the top reasons couples argue so making sure you’re on the same page about the financial details of living together is crucial. We all know talking about money, credit scores, and salaries can be an uncomfortable subject, but addressing it head on will save you from arguments and disputes.
You should both agree on a budget for rent or mortgage payments that you’re comfortable with and decide who will be paying for what (groceries, utilities, etc.) before you sign any papers. Moving in together is so much more than rent payments — you will be sharing shampoo, Hulu accounts, and so much more and you need to have a clear outlined plan in terms of how you both are coming together financially for this.
Be very cautious about getting into a situation where your partner handles the majority or entirety of the expenses—this could quickly lead to a financially abusive relationship. If you are a bit nervous about their ability to pay or they have other bad habits (such as gambling or don’t have stable employment) but their name is on a bill, you can make them put the receipt of payment in a shared online folder for record keeping purposes which helps to ensure they’re not just telling you they’re paying bills.
A lot of couples decide to move in together because they’re basically already living at each other’s houses.
If this is not the case for you and your partner, then you should definitely have a trial run before you commit to moving in together. Spend a few weeks at your place or their place to truly get a feel for what it’s like to live together. Bring a big suitcase, all of your personal care items (they’re going to see you at your worst when living together, so prepare for that!), and if you have an animal, you should definitely see how they interact together in a living situation.
This will give you a lot of insight into how the other person lives and whether or not it agrees with your lifestyle. Traveling with someone for a week or more is also another good trial run to see how someone lives, their daily habits (the good and the bad), and how they treat their spaces which can help inform your decision or at least set expectations (like if they’re messy you need to be clear about who is in charge of cleaning what).
Let’s be honest — sometimes we do things in relationships to try and save them. Moving in with someone, getting a pet, moving across the county, etc... are all things we can sometimes do out of desperation to get the other person to stay. If you’re feeling like moving in together is coming from a place of wanting to save the relationship, you may want to evaluate the deeper feelings.
On the flip side, moving in together can also truly bring two people together and is often a step people take before getting engaged or married. If you don’t think this person is truly right for you and you’re interested in a long-term relationship, you could be setting them up for a lot of pain rather than taking this big step and then backing out later.
This is obviously the worst case scenario, and we know it’s not a fun exercise to think about what happens if you and your partner end things, but it is something that should be discussed. No matter how impossible it might seem right now, no one knows what the future holds and the relationship ending is a possibility. You and your partner should talk through how you would handle a break up while living together prior to moving in.
Who would stay and who would go? Would you break the lease? Could you share a living space respectfully and amicably until your lease ends? It’s going to be a bit uncomfortable at first but a conversation like this will show you their true colors and really can bring you together in the end by showing how much you do care about each other.
We want to start with the positives - so here are the top signs you’re ready to take your relationship to the next level and move in together.
This is a green flag in any relationship - and it’s even more important when you live with your partner as it can be easy to get stuck inside the bubble of your love. If you have hobbies, passions, and connections outside of the relationship, then you’re less likely to lose your sense of self and you’ll both have a healthy dose of alone time, which everyone needs.
Every couple argues, but the important part is whether or not you’re able to resolve these arguments in a healthy way. If you can battle it out with respect and then come back when you’re cooled down to talk through the issue—that’s a good sign that you can share a space even when your partner’s on your sh*t list.
A big part of living together successfully is going to require sharing a lot of different responsibilities, like household chores, paying the utilities, etc. If you and your partner have a healthy balance of give and take this will go a long way. Be sure to talk about this prior to moving in and ensure that responsibilities are divided evenly.
The AC breaking when it’s 100 degrees outside, a rodent problem, having to put together furniture with no instructions—there will be situations that test you when you move in together. Having already successfully made it through one or more stressful situations with your partner is a good sign that you two will be able to handle any hurdles ahead.
As we’ve mentioned many times, moving in together will present new things to fight about and disagreements you did not foresee. If you and your partner have strong communication and you’re both good about addressing what’s bothering you head on, then this will prevent you from resenting each other down the road.
No one’s a perfect roommate. Maybe you leave clothes on the floor and your partner forgets to turn off lights. If you know about these quirks already and they’re not dealbreakers for you, then you’re in a good spot.
Another green flag in itself, but it will also make sharing a home much more enjoyable. You’ll be able to host events together and make memories in your new shared space with the people you love. This will also help prevent that relationship bubble we mentioned earlier.
You’re well past the “honeymoon phase” and fights feel like bumps in the road rather than the end of the relationship. That’s a good sign that you feel secure with your partner and you two can handle any obstacles that may come.
Often times those outside of the relationship can see things that we can’t. If your friends and family members think it’s a great idea for you two to move in together, then that’s a good indication that they’re not seeing red flags in the relationship.
Might seem obvious, but we’re talking beyond crafting your moving in announcement for social media. If you’ve considered the potential challenges ahead and you’re still feeling very optimistic about moving in with your partner, this is a great sign.
Cohabitation comes with its own sets of challenges, so it’s important to evaluate whether you’re in a healthy relationship before you decide to live with this person. While we understand that sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do, there are things you can do to help create safety even if you aren’t fully trusting of this person if you do move in together.
Deciding to move in together is not a choice that should be rushed into. If your partner is pressuring you to say yes, that’s a bad sign. This could be an indication of love bombing which is a larger red flag of an abusive relationship.
If you can’t be your unfiltered self around your partner, then you’re probably not ready to live with them. Sometimes this means you just haven’t spent enough time together. But if you’re in a very long term relationship, and you still feel like you have to act, talk, or dress a certain way around your partner, it’s not a healthy relationship and moving in together is only going to exaggerate those feelings.
If there’s trust issues in the relationship, you might be secretly thinking moving in together is a good way to keep tabs on your partner. This is not healthy, and ultimately, living with someone won’t stop them from hurting you. You should feel confident in the trust you and your partner share before you move in together.
Also, once you move in together this person will have access to way more of your life including your devices, your important documents (like your social security card, passport, or birth certificate), and journals you write in, etc... If you think they could hold this information against you or open credit cards in your name for example, you should definitely be careful and think about leaving this information with someone you trust like a friend or family member.
If there’s already a lot of arguments in your relationship, moving in together is only going to give you and your partner more things to argue about. If your partner doesn’t fight fair and you two haven’t figured out a healthy way to communicate about the things that bother you while living apart, it will be 10 times harder when you’re in a shared space. People can have really bad living habits or just ones that are different than yours which can seem small at first (like leaving dishes in the sink or towels on the floor) but these small things can start big fights when living together.
This is just a bad sign on its own, but it will make living together pretty miserable. You should both feel comfortable inviting loved ones over and not have to deal with a side eye from your partner. You want your friends and family to be able to come over and feel comfortable - and if they can’t, it can be a real red flag.
Whether it’s unpredictable behavior, out of control spending habits, or too many broken promises, it’s a bad idea to share a lease with someone you can’t rely on. You need to decide what type of legally binding agreements you need with this individual to ensure your financial stability as who is on the lease and other financial arrangements can have long-term implications on your credit score and ability to get future housing.
If their main priority is going out and partying several times a week, and you’re focused on finishing a degree or getting ahead in your career, then your lifestyles are definitely going to clash. This could cause major fights and disruption to your life and work because they are sleeping at different times or wanting your time when you need to be sleeping.
Having the same values can even filter into keeping alcohol at the house, religious practices, and so much more — so we suggest evaluating what you value in your life and how you see that currently coming to life in your living situation and talking to your partner about those things.
A healthy relationship is a partnership between two equals. If it feels like you’re more of a caretaker than a partner, then you could be in a codependent relationship. Moving in together will only make this worse and can build even more resentment in the relationship.
Maybe you’ve recognized several of these red flags in your relationship, but you're thinking that moving in and spending more time together will fix these problems. The current issues in you relationship will only be intensified by moving in together. Consider the fact that sharing a home will create a lot of ties between both parties, which can be really difficult and messy to unwind when it inevitably comes to an end.
There’s a big difference between nerves (which are normal for any major decision) and a bad gut feeling. If your intuition is trying to tell you that this is not the right choice for you, then you should listen to it. You should feel excited about moving in together and have conversations prior to the big decisions which can help you seriously evaluate what it’s like to live with this person - because even their reaction to open and honest questions can be very telling!
Sometimes we can’t see the red flags in front of us until it’s too late — and sometimes relationships simply just fail.
Most importantly, if you find yourself in a living situation that is not safe for you to be in, then it’s time to plan an exit strategy.
You should reach out to someone you trust, like a best friend or family member, to talk through how you will leave your partner. You can also contact a hotline like the National Domestic Violence Hotline and their advocates can help you put together a safety plan as well. Breaking up and leaving a violent relationship, even if it’s only emotionally abusive or early stages, is the most dangerous time and we highly recommend being cautious as you don’t know how the person will react.
If you think it’s okay you can simply say that the relationship isn’t working for you and you need to create a plan to gracefully move out. If it was a healthy relationship but it’s just not working for whatever reason, it’s important to be respectful as your finances are somewhat intertwined and you don’t want to hurt the person by springing a huge financial surprise on them.
Ultimately, it’s up to you. You can do a lot prior to moving in together to help set the arrangement up for success — but it all requires communication.
If it feels like it’s too soon, then there’s no harm in a trial run, looking for a different living situation such as friends or roommates, or telling your partner that it’s just too soon. I
f you’ve read through this piece and you’re feeling more confident then ever about your decision, then we recommend having those healthy conversations and running a background check on your partner just to be sure prior to taking this next step.
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