Moving In: Your How-to Guide

Years ago, it used to be that you would get married before you moved in with your partner. Not so anymore, as people everywhere opt to “try before they buy” when it comes to living a deux.

Sure, it sounds like a sensible idea in theory—you know upfront if you’ll be compatible, not to mention the financial convenience of the arrangement—but studies have shown that it doesn’t always work that way in reality:

Psychology Today reports: “To help figure this out, let’s look at what research on living together might tell us. Well, most studies done from 1995 forward showed that couples that lived together before marriage had higher divorce rates as compared with couples that didn’t. Other findings included poorer mental and physical health, including depression, especially for women.

“One explanation for these findings is that the burden placed on women is not compensated for in a living together environment. Since women are known to do the lion’s share of housework, the thinking is that a woman would go from taking care of her own place to having to do the housework and other domestic errands in the two-person apartment or house that she shared with her boyfriend. All this extra work occurs without the benefit of the financial and emotional security that comes with the commitment of marriage.”

I moved in with a boyfriend once. We were both very excited about it—our new little apartment was fantastic. I was barely out of university, and finances were somewhat strained between my measly graduate salary and his fledgling business.

Things were a little tough. But then, they almost always are. The big mistake came when after only three months, he panicked and moved out. We broke up.

Then, when he was at a comfortable distance from me again (i.e. in a new house) he came asking if we could get back together.

The key here, in my opinion, is that we weren’t committed enough to making it work.

There are going to be potholes while you settle in to life together. I think it takes a good six months to iron out the kinks. If you’re not committed to making it through those obstacles, it’s all too easy to cut and run.

Let’s talk about how living together usually goes.

We aren’t always in the habit of talking seriously about moving in first. What is more common is that someone’s lease is up, or someone’s flatmate announces they’re moving overseas and there will be a forced change to the living situation. At this point, of course it makes sense to move in together. You’ve already been spending four nights a week together, someone is no doubt living out of the boot of their car and sick of it and not combining rent payments just seems crazy, right?

Decision made. The truck is hired and the co-habiting can commence.

First there’s the obligatory honeymoon phase: you rush home to cook dinner together and snuggle on the couch to watch movie marathons in your domestic bliss.

Then slowly, the glow fades and it’s all flannel pyjamas and wet tea bags on the sink. You argue about his ugly armchair, her stuffed toy collection, and whose turn it is to do the laundry.

It’s the harsh reality of living with another person, but with a little strategic foresight it doesn’t have to get out of hand. And: it does get better.

Learn to bend before you break

Battles over which way the toilet roll should hang and in what order the cutlery sits in the drawer aren’t massive, life-changing events.

Learn to adapt. Let the little things go so you can save your energy for the real arguments—like scrubbing the shower.

Have a proper discussion about finances

Sit down before you even move in together and come up with a solution for how you will manage your finances.

There is generally a spender and a saver in every relationship. Let the saver take charge of the finances. But the spender should also be very active in the planning and keep an eye on the books as well.

You may want to join your finances, or keep them separate and contribute to a shared pool. Either way, you need to work it out ahead of time to save the arguments—money is the biggest factor in most relationship arguments. For some handy tips on how to budget as a couple, take a look at this three-part series.

Get access the tools you need

Many couples have one thing they swear has been their “relationship saver”—dishwashers, a cleaner once a fortnight, a man cave. If you really are at a stalemate over a particular issue, think laterally to solve it.

Keep making an effort

I found when my now-husband and I moved in together (after we became engaged, as I had learned my lesson the first time) that we became an instant old, boring, married couple. It was suddenly waaay too easy to sit on the couch in our tracksuit pants every night watching mindless television. Dinners went from candlelight at the dining table to pasta in a bowl on our laps.

Keep making an effort with your partner at home. Schedule date nights, cook the occasional gourmet meal, and don’t change straight into your sloppy clothes as soon as you walk in the door.

A little effort goes a long way, and it is your spirit and attitude to living together that will get you through the hard times.

Any other words of wisdom from our readers when it comes to living together? What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned?

About Emma

Emma Merkas is the co-creator of couples' inspiration website $30 Date Night and author of the 'How Was It For You?' relationships and dating column in Australian newspaper, mX. You can also find her at her own blog or on Twitter @30dollardate.


  1. the lesson i learnt moving in with my boyfriend now fiance, is that we both need to be more self aware of who we are and our personalities, otherwise the communication breaks down. we would fight over small things but when we calmed down and thought about it, we didn’t know how we would prefer otherwise. so that gave us lots of opportunities for self introspection, after which we communicated again, and then things improved 🙂

  2. Lol, it’s funny to me how this post captured a lot of the things I *specifically* experienced when living with me ex: tea bags, flannel, bowls of pasta in laps.

    It wasn’t the living together that broke us apart, though. We did have date nights, and we loved our TV time together. We would laugh so hard by making the things on TV way funnier than they were. 🙂

    As I plan to move in with my fiance in about a year, I’ll be sure to keep these things in mind: talk about finances beforehand, don’t jump into the flannel right away, and compromise.


  3. This is interesting…this is exactly the same advice that my wife and I received before we were married. Basically all comes down to commitment to make it work (we’ve been married for 13 years, didn’t move in before hand). So then, why move in at all? Why not just get married? If you’re belief is try before you buy, are you really committed to the relationship in the first place? If you are really committed to the relationship, the why waste time moving in, just go ahead and get married.

  4. I went through this last year. I wish I read this post before that. Really useful advices! I’ll share your post with my friends!

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