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11 Must-Have Conversations Before Moving In With Your Girlfriend

11 Must-Have Conversations Before Moving In With Your Girlfriend

11 Must-Have Conversations Before Moving In With Your Girlfriend

So you’ve been with your girlfriend for a while and you’re wondering whether to take the plunge and get a place together...

So your girlfriend is great, everything between you has been going well, and you're thinking about maybe taking a deep breath and getting a place together. It's a big step, but if you talk these things through and make sure you're in agreement, your chances are pretty good. 


1. Do we actually want to?

First, there's no need to move in with someone just because you've been dating for a while. If you're both happy living separately and taking it in turns to spend time at each other's places, then there's no reason why you should change it unless you genuinely want to. Lots of people like having their own space, and your relationship is not invalid if you're not sharing an apartment and mothering two kittens after 18 months. 
2. How much space do we need?
If you do want to live together, it's worthwhile figuring out how much space you'll need to both feel comfortable and happy. Would you like a bedroom each? A shared bedroom but separate studies? Are you happy to share everything as long as you get an evening a week to yourself or a corner where you can put all your bookshelves? Obviously, how achievable this is depends very much on your budget and local housing market - moving cities for me has meant the difference between 'if we're really lucky we might get a one bed apartment with a small lounge/diner' and 'well, if we get that five-bedroom place I could take the top floor with the ensuite and a separate study, and then you can have the whole first floor and make a separate music room if you like.' FOR LESS MONEY. If you're both used to living alone or relatively independently, it's a really good idea to discuss how you're going to get enough alone time and privacy before putting any money down. Similarly, if one of you is going to be moving into the other's place, then it's really important that the person coming in gets some space to make their own. 

3. How much time do we want to spend together?
Or rather, how do we want our lives to work? If you move in together, how much time will you want to spend in with the other person and how much out with your friends? What about alone time? Are either of you expecting that to change? Would you like regular date nights, so you don't just spend your evenings together in bed with Netflix? Or is that actually your idea of the best life, thank you very much? There are any number of compromises available here, according to each couple's inclinations, but it's certainly worth flagging up as an issue.
4. How do our wake/sleep/work schedules mesh?
If you're thinking about moving in together you probably have some idea about this already, but daily schedules actually become paramount in dictating how your lives will work and how your time together is spent. If one of you is an early riser and one of you likes to sleep in, will you have space to accommodate that or will one of you end up perpetually interrupted and grumpy? If one of you is nocturnal by inclination but the other gets up at 6 for work and likes to be in bed by ten, will you ever have sex and/or cuddle time together? These things are much easier to navigate a few nights a week and weekends than if you're in the same space all the time. You also want to avoid taking your partner for granted or spending more time being annoyed than adoring - it's worth talking about what your patterns might be and how you can negotiate overlap. You go to bed with her three nights a week and head out the other two? She stays up late on not-school nights? You creep out of bed early and read in another room or go out for groceries without waking her up? All good.  


5. Is our shared home somewhere to entertain people or somewhere to retreat from people to? In what proportions?

Even if you share friends, this one is likely to be tricky. One partner is often more sociable than the other - in my couple, it's DEFINITELY me - and if you're living together there isn't an option for the less outgoing person to hide in their own apartment while you have late drunken conversations with your besties. It'll be awkward, especially if they're mutual friends. It's worth talking beforehand about how much your shared space can be used for socialising and how comfortable you both are with not being involved with other people's gatherings. There is no bigger recipe for tension than one person feeling constantly invaded whilst the other feels frustrated at being unable to socialise as they consider 'normal' - and if you talk about it ahead of time, you can reach a compromise. Maybe a monthly gathering at which both of you are present? Or socialising while one person has a regular commitment elsewhere?


6. Is showering/bathing/tooth-brushing/shaving intensely private or a social occasion?

We've all seen Girls, where Hannah and Marnie have all their important conversations with Hannah in the bath. But actually, this is crucial to the health and comfort of you both - if one of you hates having your grooming rituals watched it's vital that the other respects that. Even if your feelings change over time, it's best to discuss that as and when rather than forcing the issue. Living with your boundaries being repeatedly crossed is profoundly uncomfortable - but it's hard to know if that's happening without talking about it. Neither of you can be sure what the other person's feelings are unless you let them tell you!



7. What do "clean" and "tidy" mean? How important is this?

Oooh, this is a tricky one. It's imprtant to make sure you're on the same page as regards your living conditions. If you have vastly differing standards, it might be best to just split up the rooms somehow - Person A keeps the kitchen and bathroom as clean as they need them to be, with Person B's *freely given* help, while Person A lets Person B leave the living room untidy without complaining. (Separate bedrooms really help with this one). By all means have agreed minimum standards - definitely eliminate anything unhygienic or likely to cause infestation unless you're REALLY SURE you're happy to have a houseful of mice along for the ride - but allowing one person to dictate terms in all situations if the other is unhappy about it is a recipe for resentment and grumbling. 


8) Do we have shared finances and how are they organized?

Money is one of the big things couples argue about, and moving in together often means sharing rent and bills ad daily expenditure for the first time. It's really, really important to sort out how this might work, particular if you have different income levels (or interpretations of the phrase 'basic household necessities'). If she earns more than you, do you divide the bills equally or proportionally? If so, does she usually pay for fun stuff if you have no money left? Or does the better-off partner pay the rent and the other partner the bills, or vice versa?


9. How many books/records should be in a home?

You might have an idea about this already, from the state of your separate living quarters, but if she's a minimalist and you have 3,000 books and several racks of limited-edition vinyl, you probably need to figure out how to combine those two things BEFORE you're fighting over packing boxes. Again, separate bedrooms/studies really help here, or having enough space for you to set up a library, or at least have a room each to decorate as you please. But if that's not possible, maybe creating an ordered storage system might help the minimalist person deal with the sheer amount of stuff?



10. Food 

If you're living together, who cooks, if anyone? Do you take it in turns? Who does the washing up? How often do you eat out/order in, and if so, where? Who pays? What if one of you is a vegetarian and the other a carnivore? Who needs regular meals and who can just graze? These things become vital to the harmony of cohabiting households, so talk it through beforehand and you stand a much better chance of nobody getting hangry and rampaging with crockery. 


11. The Future 

Ah, the big stuff. If you move in together, what does that mean for The Future? How permanent an arragement is this likely to be? What about moving for work or family? What about your mutual life ambitions? How much time and attention and relocation might they need, and what might happen if they conflict? Does one of you have a job that travels better than the other? What about things like marriage and kids? What are your priorities? You're by no means obliged to decide all this before you cross the threshold, but it's worth bearing in mind that moving in together brings these questions hovering on the horizon. Sooner or later one of you will get a job offer or somebody will start asking arch questions, and if you know how you feel about them it'll be that much easier to deal with. 



Many thanks especially to Sharon Frederick for their wisdom on this matter. I am also massively indebted to Toni for not only living through many of these issues with me and retaining a sense of humour, but also being good and kind and willing to browse the internet for OITNB stills whilst I type despairingly.


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Sasha Garwood