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Say you’ve been dating your girlfriend for a while and things are going great. You’ve had a few fights but nothing you couldn’t work out. You’ve had the exclusive talk. You may be ready for the next leap in a relationship and jump into cohabitating.
When done right, moving in together can be the most awesome thing in the world! But done wrong, it can lead to lots of stress that could ultimately doom the relationship. Let’s make sure you are moving in with your girlfriend for the right reasons and that you have a few conversations about what to expect in your new place!
Ideally when you two decide to move in, you can find a new place to make your own, instead of one of you moving into the other’s space.
We all have particular ways of doing things or like things in our own place and can get unreasonably annoyed when someone, anyone, messes with that.
Start fresh in a new place that doesn’t bring any memories or baggage with it. Then you can start decorating it together and make it a place that suits you both. It was so exciting when my wife and I moved into our first little place together! We got to figure out how to set up the living room and what to hang on the walls, and which drawer would be our junk drawer. It can be a great bonding experience for a couple.
I am always amazed at how many people make this big step without discussing finances. Moving in together — and starting a life together — involves a lot of financial decisions that you cannot put off. Each person in the relationship may have habits that can cause trouble down the line if you don’t get on the same page.
Will you be splitting the rent equally? Will one person take on more of the bills? If you guys have extra money, what do you do with it? Do you save it? Splurge on something nice? Save up for travel? Send money home to family?
There are no right or wrong answers here, but two people with opposite financial goals are going to find themselves butting heads when bills come due. The money talk can even be as simple as “Do we buy the good beer or the cheap beer?” So many strong emotions are tied to money that it can easily cause friction — unless you sit down and discuss these important topics before moving in together.
I was an exchange student during a gap year before college, and a team of advisers prepared us for the unique experiences that we’d face in a foreign country. The main point was: “Nothing is going to be bad — it’s just going to be different.”
As 18-year-old kids, most of us had only known one worldview and one way of life. So it was important to go in with the right mind set. Yes, you may have done something one way for your whole life, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other ways of doing them.
Moving in with someone is similar to being a cultural exchange student because it can reveal your differences. Some people wash dishes immediately after eating. Some wait until the sink is full. Some people are early risers, and some people sleep late. You have to figure out compromises and may have to modify some old habits. For instance, I can’t throw my dirty clothes all around the place like I used to. And my wife can’t fall asleep watching TV like she used to.
Everything your partner does is going to be different than the way you do it, but that doesn’t make it bad or wrong. Don’t criticize someone for the way they do something, instead try to understand why they do it that way.
Living together doesn’t have to mean being together 24/7. Even in lockdowns, people need their own separate space to recharge and take care of their mental health.
Just because you moved in together doesn’t mean you have to be together all the time. In fact, it becomes even more important that you carve out some personal time and space. Cohabitating partners need to have a discussion about what time off means for each of you. Maybe you want to play video games with her in the evening, but she might need an hour or two of quiet reading to relax before bed. Talk about your needs, and make a schedule that works for both of you.
Of course, it’s great to do activities together as a couple, but it’s also important to have time to do your own thing. You want to go off-roading with the boys this weekend? No problem! Maybe she wants to have brunch with her friends or do some shopping or take a class. Whatever hobbies you have, they don’t have to be done together as long as you share the experience and stories afterward. Think of it this way: If you’re around each other ALL the time, you’ve got nothing new to catch each other up on.
Most people don’t know how many individual chores or duties go into keeping house. It can be a lot for a couple to tackle, and they should make a list (yes, write it down) to divvy up responsibilities. Maybe one person handles cleaning the kitchen while the other is in charge of taking out the trash and doing maintenance work. Maybe you trade off on household chores.
It’s a good idea to be clear about who does what and when. Oftentimes one person doesn’t even realize how much the other person is doing. It can lead one partner to resent the other. And look, one person is always going to be cleaner and one person is going to be messier. You both have to accept that and work with it!
Nobody likes chores, and nobody wants to be a nag. Do not let that get in the way of a relationship. Find out which chores each of you HATES. My wife hates laundry, I don’t. Therefore, I do the laundry. I hate meal planning, so my wife does the food shopping. We BOTH hate dishes, so we got a dishwasher. Remember, it’s never about you versus her, it’s about you both versus the world. So if one chore becomes really frustrating for both of you, figure out another option. If you’re always fighting over cleaning, maybe you can find room in the budget for a cleaning service. It’ll save both your sanities!
You guys have your own place now. Show it off! Have dinner parties, movie nights, costume parties, and karaoke nights! You don’t have any roommates to annoy, and you have someone to help you clean up the next day. Make the most of this fun time you guys have together and enjoy each other’s company! Just remember to take the trash out on your way out.
There’s no way this isn’t a big deal. You may be moving in for a multitude of reasons including saving on rent, easier commutes, a bigger place, and other perks. It may be more of a logical step for you, while it’s an emotional step for her.
Cohabitating can lead to a much more serious relationship — it’s one step closer to married life. So make sure you have a talk about the future and where you two are headed! I know it can be a tough conversation, but it’s a necessary one.
Many guys are afraid to change a good thing. They are enjoying what they have and sometimes are loath to push things forward for fear of damaging the relationship. But a woman who wants marriage and children one day will not be happy being your roommate forever. She will want a time frame and a commitment from you. Think of moving in with your girlfriend as an on-ramp to a more serious (and exciting!) phase of your relationship.
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