How to Move In Together (Without Losing Your Mind)
“What do you think about moving in with me?” The text said, signed by Tiger.
“I’m not sure your crate is big enough for two,” I typed back, humor acting as a buffer for my careening emotions.
As I waited for a response, I looked around my space. My space. Really the only time I had an entire place all to myself. I had made it into a sanctuary of sorts. Sparse, yet containing elements that made me feel peaceful and hopeful. Almost every item was purchased post-divorce and so there was a newness. A freshness. A clean slate. An incubator nurturing me back to health.
I thought of Brock’s home. It didn’t have the same sense of peace that I had carefully cultivated in my healing space. And then I thought of Brock. And the potential we had that was really making itself evident in the last few months. Being together was more important than keeping my white slipcover spotless.
As with everything in our relationship, we stepped slowly. Carefully. Intentionally. He first brought up cohabitating in December and my lease didn’t expire until June. We used that time to adjust to the idea and, most importantly, to talk through the anticipated issues ahead of time.
Moving in together is exciting. And it’s also a challenging transition in any relationship. It softens the boundaries between the individuals. It tests the communication and negotiation skills of the pair. The shared walls act as an amplifier of any discord and the removal of their own place to escape to can create panic.
Moving in together can be stressful. Here’s how to do it without losing your mind:
Start fresh. It’s so much easier to build a space together than for one person to try to carve out a niche in the other’s home. Especially if that home holds memories of a former relationship. It allows for less emotional negotiations for space and decor when you’re both opening the boxes. Of course, that’s not always possible.
If Your Partner Is Moving In To Your Space…
A few weeks before I moved in, Brock cleared out his guest bedroom. “This is your space,” he said when I came over later that night, “Paint it and do whatever you want to it.” Before long, the grey walls and the addition of my couch and rug made that space a smaller version of my apartment sanctuary. It was perfect and it was mine.
They are not a guest. And treating them like one will make their stay temporary. Don’t invite somebody to move in until you’re ready to relinquish control over (some) of your home.
Start by clearing out. Designate closet space. Make space for pieces of their furniture.Don’t be stingy – one empty drawer says, “This is my territory and I’m allowing you to encroach on it.” An empty dresser says, “I’m ready to share my life with you.”
Ask what is important to them and work together to try to incorporate it. Allow them to make some changes and imprint their preferences. Even better if you work on same changes together.
Don’t expect them to do things your way. They are not only bringing their clothes, they are bringing their way of living.
If You Are Moving Into Your Partner’s Space…
Communicate, communicate, communicate! Ask what areas they are willing to clear out. Be clear about what you want to bring in. If you want a space that it yours and your alone, make that desire clear.
You are in a tricky situation. If you tiptoe around and try not to leave a mark, you are acting as a guest and not a partner. That mindset will backfire as you feel stifled and unimportant. On the other hand, getting a key does not give you free reign to go all HGTV on the place and reinvent it in your taste. Wait too long to make changes and it will be assumed that you’re okay with the staus quo. Make them too quickly and it will feel aggressive and territorial.
Be patient with your partner; it’s not easy letting go of being the master of your domain. Yet also be clear and consistent about your needs to share the space, not just occupy it.
In both cases of one person moving into an existing home, make a purchase of something for the house together. It can be as small as a throw pillow. But it carries a big message – this is now our home.
If One Person is Messier…
Buy black towels. I found myself frustrated when my largely white IKEA kitchen towels became stained within days of moving in. So I went to Target and dropped $7.99 on a new set of towels, this time in I-can’t-see-the-red-wine-on-them black. And it’s never frustrated me again. Creativity will take you a lot further than criticism.
It’s easy for the neater person to see themselves as superior. To believe that there way is the “right” way and to expect the messier person to shoulder the burden of change. But unless you’re keeping your house show-ready for a sale, there is no “right” way to live. Instead of painting the messier one as wrong, try looking at it from a team perspective – what can we do to meet the needs of both (which in our case, is a monthly house cleaner and separate bathrooms). And be prepared for both people to make some compromises.
If You Have Different Needs for Personal Time and Space…
I see it happen all the time. One person assumes that moving in means that the couple will now share everything. That yours and mine fail to exist and that every minute home is spent together. Meanwhile, the other believes that the current amount of time spent together will persist even when households are merged. One ends up feeling neglected and the other ends up feeling smothered.
We all need different amounts of personal time and space. Often those needs aren’t clearly expressed until cohabitation occurs, since separate homes give plenty of opportunity for retreat. Once moved in, the frustration can build and fights can erupt over the issue.
If you’re the one needing more space, speak up. Make sure you communicate that it’s about your own need to recharge and that it’s not a rejection of your partner. If your partner needs more space, strive to not take it personally and ensure that you are not depending on them for all of your social, emotional and entertainment needs.
If You’re Sharing the Rent or Mortgage…
Don’t make assumptions. They’re dangerous, especially when made up until the bill becomes due. Make sure that the negotiations feel fair to both partners and reflect actual income and personal financial obligations. If you’re the one who insists on a big cable package and your partner is indifferent, that may be your expense to bear. If one person cares more about decor, that may be on their dime.
Figure out how accounts will be managed – completely separate, fully combined or some combination of the two? Are you still thinking about money only from your perspective or are you starting to make and work towards shared financial goals? Is one of you a svaer and one a spender? How will those differences be handled?
Moving in together sets the tone for how you and partner handle finances. In other words, it’s important, especially because fights about money are one of the major causes of divorce. Make sure these conversations happen early and often, even if they’re uncomfortable. I personally love the idea of a weekly, monthly or quarterly “budget meeting,” where expenses are tallied and approaches analyzed. It holds both people accountable and keeps money from becoming a manipulative tactical device.
Above all, maintain a sense of humor throughout the process. It’s amazing how much easier transition is when you can find ways to laugh about it. And like any transition, it’s hardest at the beginning. Hang in there – it gets easier:)