You were madly in love. Everything she did was wonderful. The burst of relationship energy was euphoric.
Then reality set in. It turned out she was only human. The bubble burst and things got tough.
But you came through that period, still together and still in love. You think this could be serious.
So you ask yourself the question: "Should you move in together?"
There is no formula for deciding when the right moment is. But there are some crucial questions you should ask yourself before you decide whether it is the right thing to do.
1. Do You Intend To Marry Her?
In the last 50 years the percentage of couples who live together before marriage has increased by almost 900%.
It is now perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable to live together before marriage. But that doesn't mean it's a good idea to do it on a casual basis.
Most research over the last few decades has suggested that living together before marriage increases the risk of divorce.
But recent research suggests that living together before marriage does't in fact impact divorce rates. Instead what is important is how old you are when you move in together, regardless of whether you are married or not. If you are younger than 23 then there is a significant risk of divorce, if you are 23 or older then you are more likely to be okay. 1
However this doesn't mean you should rush to move in together. You should only do it if you intend to get married sometime down the track.
Moving in together for convenience, to save money or in order to "test drive" the relationship can cause problems. You may not be serious enough about the relationship to make the necessary effort and things will fall apart. Or conversely you can gradually slide into something more serious than you intended just because it is the path of least resistance.
Treat moving in together as a serious commitment and one that you will only undertake with a lot of thought and care. It is not something to be rushed into. Yes it will be a test, but it should be a test you are already 95% confident you will pass.
You aren't committing to marriage yet, but this girl should be someone of marriage material who you think that giving a ring in the near future is a realistic possibility.
If not, don't do it.
There are a whole lot of legal and financial consequences that can arise from moving in with someone and you need to make sure that the relationship is serious.
2. Have You Talked About Expectations?
One of the biggest pitfalls when moving in with your girlfriend is when expectations don't meet reality. Whether it's her expectations or yours that aren't met, this is a guaranteed path to disaster.
Make sure you know what you want and expect out of this move. Make sure she knows what she wants and expects out of this move. Then talk about it. Hopefully you are on the same page. Figure out how this move fits into each other's plans for the future.
Ideally you both are prepared to make a serious commitment to each other and see this as a crucial step towards marriage and building a life together.
My belief is that there are three key planks to a successful relationship. The sexual spark, the personality match and friendship, and finally the compatible life goals. The first two should be clear by now, the third is where you need to have some serious discussions.
If you find out that you want different things, then perhaps this relationship has a use by date. It's better to find that out now than move in together and find out later. Many couples put off these serious discussions because they are afraid the wrong answer means they have to break up. You have to drum up the courage to be honest with each other and have the serious talk.
3. Are You Happy With Your Own Life?
Moving in together is only something you should consider when you are happy and comfortable in your own life and she is happy and comfortable in hers.
Progressing the relationship should be about enhancing your happiness and adding to your life.
If you unhappy and looking for a woman to fix you or complete you, then I would urge you to hold off on moving in.
Do the personal development work to get yourself in a good place before you shack up.
If you try to use your relationship to make you happy it puts too much pressure on it. When you run into problems, as you inevitably will, the relationship will crumble under the burden of responsibility for your happiness.
Only you can make you happy. So focus on that first.
If you are in a good place in life and she is in a good place in life then go for it.
4. Are You Unafraid Of Breaking Up?
Moving in together is a risk. It might not work out and you might break up.
You need to be prepared for this reality. It's not what you want, of course, but it might happen.
It's a good habit in a relationship to always remind yourself that you could live without your significant other. It may be cheesy and romantic to think that you can't live without her, but the reality is you can. If things don't work out you have to be prepared to leave.
This actually keeps the relationship healthy, because it means you are always prepared to do the work necessary to keep the relationship going. It stops you drifting into a toxic space but being unable to climb out because you feel that you can never ever leave.
Moving in puts the relationship on the line. But you can't move forward without a healthy slice of risk. If you are ready to embrace it then you are ready to move in.
5. Can You Talk Openly And Honestly About Your Problems?
When you move in with someone there are inevitably going to be some conflicts. Some may be trivial, others may be enormous.
What is important is the manner in which you deal with these. You need to be ready to actually say what you feel and be ready to hear how she feels.
You need to be able to give criticism gently and with love. You also need to be able to take criticism without being too proud.
You need to be able to reflect on your own shortcomings and find a way to compromise and resolve your differences.
You need to be able to do this and you need to see some evidence that she is also able to do this.
Don't move in together and hope that she will deal with issues in a mature and constructive way. Make sure you have seen it and know that she can do it.
6. Do You Have The Space In Your Life To Put Energy Into This?
It doesn't matter how easy you think this move is going to be, it will take time and energy to make it work.
You will have to change your routine, your habits, your living space, and probably your address. You will have to think about her schedule as well as yours. You will spend more time together by default, as well as needing to make time for "couple time."
Your sleep will be affected as you are now going to have a bedtime companion seven nights a week rather than the previous four or five.
To give yourself the best chance, make sure that things are stable in other areas of you life. If there is instability and chaos in other things, particularly your job, perhaps think about delaying the move for a bit.
7. Do You Get Along With Her Friends And Family?
It's not necessary to get along like a house on fire with those close to her, but if you clash strongly with them then it should be a serious red flag.
When you live together her friends and family are going to be coming around to visit and you need to be able to get along with them.
She is the average of the five people she spends the most time with.2
So if you don't get along with those five people, then perhaps there is something you are not seeing.
I've found that the more I get to know my girlfriend's parents, the more of their traits I see in her. While dealing with the in-laws always has some challenges, ultimately I like them as people so it makes things nice and easy.
Likewise she has to get along with those close to you otherwise you are in for a tough time.
8. Are You Ready To Make Sacrifices And Lose A Degree Of Independence?
As a single man you have complete freedom and independence.
When you have a girlfriend but live apart you lose some of that freedom and you learn to make sacrifices and compromise. But you still retain quite a large amount of independence.
Moving in with your girlfriend takes the sacrifices and compromise to a new level.
These are some of the things you have to be prepared for:
- You will need to be flexible.
- You will need to compromise. (But not too much that she walks all over you.)
- You will need to set boundaries.
- At times you will need to think of her needs before your own.
- You will need to accept that you no longer completely own your own schedule.
I don't say this like it's a bad thing that you should be afraid of. Don't let it hold you back from commitment. As long as you set those boundaries, maintain your sense of self and maintain your masculinity you have nothing to fear.
But it is a reality that you need to acknowledge and need to be ready for. If you aren't ready for it then don't move in.
Caring for and providing for others is a wonderful thing that you can do as a man. It is one of the key differences between a juvenile and an adult. A boy thinks only of himself, while a man thinks of others and is willing to put the needs of his family before his own.
9. Do You Know How To Give Each Other Space?
When you are dating most of the time you spend with your girl will be intentional. You each block time out of your schedule where your sole focus is being together.
You are either with her and focused on her or you are not with her. You get plenty of space in the downtime when you are apart.
Living together introduces another dynamic. It is when you are physically with each other but not intentionally spending time together. For example on an average weeknight after work when you are doing your thing and she is doing hers.
You could be sitting right next to each other on a couch or a bed, but you are in your own zone and doing your own thing.
The challenge here is to be able to be attentive enough to each other's needs so you don't feel ignored, while ignoring each other enough so that you get enough space. It's about being comfortable in each other's presence and working out an interaction dynamic that suits you both.
This is especially the case if you are going to live in a physically small environment such as a one bedroom apartment. It is also imperative if one or both of you are introverts.
My girlfriend and I are both introverted and this is something that has required a lot of work to strike the right balance. Learning how to be together when you are not "being together" is crucially important.
Make sure that before you move in together you have tested this dynamic. Make sure you have gone beyond spending intentional time together and have spent a lot of downtime together. Ideally you would have fought about this, discussed this and found a happy medium before you move in together. Because moving in is going to reignite this issue.
The best place for practice is if you have travelled together for multiple days or you stay at each other's place for extended periods of time.
10. Do You Spend A Lot Of Nights Together Already?
Moving in together should not be a test. You should already be certain that it will work. It is a serious commitment you are ready to make because you have already passed the various tests.
The time to test you relationship is before moving in together by staying at each other's place and by travelling.
You know you are ready to move in when you already stay at each other's places the vast majority of the week and it feels completely natural. In fact you would rather just stay together than for one of you to ever go home.
My girlfriend and I knew we were onto a good thing after our first week long trip together. Our flight home got delayed by 8 hours and we were stuck in the airport with nothing to do. If the trip hadn't been a success that could have been an awkward wait. But the trip was great and we felt perfectly comfortable killing time together even after a week of seeing each other 24/7.
After a month long international trip we knew we were ready to take the plunge as it felt very strange and almost wrong going back to our own places.
11. Have You Fought Badly And Recovered?
Have you had that really big fight where you thought things were going to end?
The one that was so bad, that had you both so mad, that you didn't see a way you could possibly repair the damage?
If you've had that and recovered then you are ready to move in together. If not, then think about holding off.
It's normal for couples to fight. Mostly they will be over small things, but occasionally they will be huge. Occasionally they will be over something fundamental to who you are or what you do. A fight over something so important that the relationship hangs in the balance.
You need to have these fights. They are incredibly important.
The conflict emerges where your single lives or your single selves clash in a way that doesn't work for the relationship. Maybe on of you likes partying till 3am and the other doesn't. Maybe one of you travels a lot for work. Maybe one of you lets their mother have too much of an impact over their lives.
The process of fighting and making up is a way of expressing how you feel when a major clash emerges and then making the effort to find a compromise that works.
Just like a muscle needs to be broken down in order to be made stronger, a relationship needs conflict to be made stronger. Conflict is where you find the weak points, so you can adjust and change in order to make things work.
Every time you have one of these super serious fights it can feel like the end. But when you work it out your bond is stronger than ever and you know that you can survive these tough periods.
It's important to have gone through this process before you move in together. You need to know that the world (and the relationship) aren't actually ending and that you will bounce back.
12. Do You Know What Her Habits Are Like?
You can have the most compatible personalities in the world, but when you move in together some of your habits are going to come into conflict.
There is no possible way that you will line up on everything, so it is inevitable that you will each have to adjust.
What are her cleaning habits like? Do they match your expectations of a clean room and a clean house? You may think she is clean but perhaps she just cleans up when you come round to visit.
What does she like to eat and cook? Is it similar to what you like to eat? You are going to be sharing food now, so you will have to find a way to accommodate each other's eating plans. If one of you is vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, dairy free, paleo, low-FODMAP etc how are you going to navigate that?
Is she good with money and will she pay her share of the bills? While you shouldn't be joining finances together you will have some shared expenses. You don't need a detailed knowledge of her finances yet but you at least need to know she has a basic handle on things and isn't going to sponge off you.
13. Have You Seen Her At Her Worst?
When first dating people always show only the best version of themselves. This was the side of your girl you got to know at the start.
After dating for a while some of her other traits would have come out and you would have gotten to know some of her less desirable traits.
But when you are not living together she can still shield a lot of herself if she so desires. What she will shield the most is when she is at her worst. When she is sick, exhausted, depressed, on her period etc, those are the things she doesn't want you to see.
When you live together there is no hiding these things. So make sure you have seen them before you make the decision to permanently share a room.
You can never know exactly when it is the right moment.
All big decisions in life are accompanied by an element of fear and doubt.
These questions are not designed as a checklist of things to tick off before taking the plunge. Rather they are designed to get you thinking about whether moving in together is the right thing to do.
Only you can tell, and even then it's only your best guess as to how things are going to pan out.
Good luck whatever you decide!
- Kuperberg, A. (2014). Age at Coresidence, Premarital Cohabitation, and Marriage Dissolution: 1985-2009. Fam Relat, 76(2), pp.352-369.
- Jim Rohn
- Fear of Commitment: Why You Have It And How To Overcome It
- Should The Man Be The Provider In A Relationship?
- How To Be Manly While Living With Your Girl
- The Secret To Keeping Your Girlfriend Happy
- Nine Qualities To Look For In A Woman