Moving in with your significant other is exciting: finally, you’ll get more than one small drawer at your partner’s place, and you won’t have to make detailed plans just to see each other. But taking the big step of moving in together isn’t all XOXOXO all the time. It can be stressful to uproot yourself and adjust to someone else’s quirks. Fortunately, you can make moving in together much easier by doing these four things first.
1. Define your expectations.
You’re moving in together. That’s great! But what does it mean? You need to make sure you and your partner are on the same page. For some couples, moving in together is mostly about convenience and thriftiness—it doesn’t necessarily mean their relationship has become more serious. For many others, moving in is a step towards a more committed future together. If you and your partner disagree on what moving in with each other means, it could lead to conflict down the road.
So, talk to your significant other. Begin by discussing why you’re moving in with one another and what that change will look like. Determine, for example, if you want to spend more time with each other now that you live together, or if you expect the other person to let you know if they’ll be home late. Then talk about your plans for the future. If one of you sees moving in together as a step towards marriage, for instance, make that clear. By beginning this stage of your life together on the same page, you can avoid resentment or worry later on.
2. Talk about your household.
Once you’ve established why you’re moving in together, you need to come up with some house rules. Who does the dishes? Is it okay if your friends come over every night? Is it going to be a problem when you get up at 5:30 a.m. on weekends to go running? Mismatched expectations about things like cleanliness or routine can be a source of conflict, so discuss these things before they become problems.
These conversations can be simple. Decide how clean you want your home, then talk about how you’ll keep it that way. You can refer to a list of household chores to help you prioritize and divvy up tasks—just make sure one of you isn’t always stuck with a least-favorite chore like dishes. Then lay down any other ground rules you need. If you want your significant other to warn you before inviting guests, establish that. If your partner needs the lights to stay off to stay asleep, you need to know that before you get up for that morning jog. When these rules are in place, you’ll never have to fight about petty things.
3. Plan your finances.
You’ll also want to discuss the biggest cause of fights for couples: money. Up until now, your separate lives have meant separate finances. Moving in together complicates that. Who pays for what? Who buys groceries or makes sure that rent gets paid on time? How will you handle household expenses?
There’s no one right answer, because no one knows your finances like the two of you. That means you’ll have to work together to decide what works best for your household. Common expense-sharing methods include contributing a percentage of your income, divvying up expenses, and splitting costs evenly. Talk honestly with your partner to find a solution that lets both of you contribute without feeling taken advantage of. Having this plan from the beginning will make things easier when you need to replace a couch or plan a vacation together.
4. Buy a few things.
With a financial plan in place, you’re ready to begin setting up your new home together, including making a few important purchases. Depending on what stage of life the two of you are in, you might not need very much. If you’ve already got nice towels and a large dresser, there’s no need to replace them. Still, most couples should plan for at least a few new items.
For example, you’ll now be sharing a bed full-time with your partner. That cheap twin mattress you’ve been hauling around since college isn’t going to cut it. Invest in a larger mattress (you’ll probably want at least a queen), and consider materials like memory foam that isolate motion and will keep you from disturbing each other at night. You’ll also want to stop using that old dinnerware set that’s cracked and missing half its pieces. Invest in dishes that will let the two of you (and guests!) share meals. Items like these will help you enjoy each other’s company more.