While the number of marriages in the United States is steadily declining, the number of people living together continues to move in the opposite direction.
In 2010, 49.2% of adults lived together at some point in their lives and 47.4% were married, according to data from the US Census Bureau. Fast forward 10 years and the gap is widening: By 2020, 58.9% of American adults were cohabiting and 47.7% were married.
But just because a move like this is common doesn’t mean it’s casual.
Before moving in with a partner, it’s important to talk to them about your hopes and fears, says Jessica Small, a marriage counselor and therapist at Growing Self Counseling & Coaching in Denver, Colorado. “Have a conversation so the two of you can determine what needs to be done to make your relationship successful as you take this next step,” she says.
Here are some key questions that can help start the conversation.
6 questions to ask before moving in together
Why do we want to live together?
If you want to move in with your partner because of a cheaper rent or because you feel social pressures, you may want to take a step back, she says.
“Living together is a big step in a relationship and ideally you want to make the choice because you think the relationship has the necessary components for a long-term partnership, not just because it’s convenient, better for financial purposes, or because all the rest of you friends do it,” she says.
“Relationships work best when they’re based on wants rather than needs.”
How do we divide household tasks and financial responsibilities?
Many couples believe that everyday habits, such as how the other person fills the dishwasher or squeezes the toothpaste, creates conflict. That’s rarely the case, says Small.
“I can tell you that after ten years as a relationship counselor, these things have never emerged as a problem,” she says. “The biggest problems that constantly come up for couples who live together are inequality in the division of labor and general personality differences.”
Is your partner neat or messy? An early bird or a night owl? How do you divide the expenses on groceries or furniture? All of this should be discussed before going in to set realistic expectations.
What are we worried about?
Moving is exciting! But it can also create a new set of fears that you need to communicate with your partner. If the two of you know what the other is nervous about, you better deal with it.
It’s also normal to worry about what you’re losing, Small says.
“People don’t often wonder what they’ll sacrifice when they move in with their partner and then feel overwhelmed and overwhelmed by their experience of grief,” she says.
Even if a person is ready and happy to live with a partner, it’s not rare, she says, to find themselves alone or missing their previous roommate. “These feelings are normal and valid. It will be easier to deal with these feelings if you are prepared for them and have communicated that you may feel this way to your partner,” she says. “It’s important for couples to honor this wide range of feelings.”
Other important questions to ask:
You want to know as much as possible about your partner’s expectations in order to curb your own. Other questions to ask, Small says, include:
- How do I imagine living together will look and feel like? Think of eating together every night, waking up in the morning, drinking coffee together and what cooking looks like.
- What will happen in six months or a year that makes me feel that the cohabitation has been successful?
- What does this next step mean for our relationship? For example, if one of you sees this as a step toward marriage and the other doesn’t, that should be discussed.
“By asking each other these questions, you have the opportunity to make sure you’re aligned and have the right expectations,” she says.
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