Moving in. Shacking up. Sharing a residence. Whatever you call it, it's a big step. Moving in together changes your relationship. Those changes are mostly good, but some of them aren't so great. But like all things, you take the good with the bad. They weren't joking when they said relationships were a lot of work. It just that now it includes housework, too.
When I was dating my wife, we spent all our time, including most night, together. We figured moving in would be the same thing. Or, at least, not that big of a change. We were always together anyway, right? Wrong. I'm not the only example I know of. As a former Domestic Violence Victim Advocate and Planned Parenthood Responsible Sexuality Educator, I worked with a lot of couples who lived in a pure state of bliss as co-inhabitants of the same home, and others who signed away their happiness when they signed their leases. Neither really expected the ways moving in together would change their relationship, at even the most basic level.
These experiences are both my own, and my former clients. They may relate to you and they may not, but the point is, if you're shacking up, you need to be ready for big changes.
1. You're Watched
When you don't live together, you can pretty much come and go as you please. Your partner doesn't know your every move, unless they're with you or you check in. That changes when you move in together. It's not so much that you don't get to go see the gang whenever you want, it's just that now your presence is a part of a home, and if you come and go, your partner will notice. You're a unit, so you're more accountable to each other for your time. For some people, even having to pause and say "I'm going out" is a serious style cramper.
2. You Go Out On More Dates
You have two incomes now, and half the rent, unless you upgraded when you moved in together. That translates into more dates and more presents. It can also mean nicer stuff. No more leftover college furniture with questionable stains and an even more questionable history. And while we're on the subject of saving money, you might find that you intertwine your finances even more. I'm talking joint bank account or joint credit card type stuff. Even if you don't merge your money, you are still both paying the bills, which is pretty next-level adult relationship stuff.
3. You Have To Merge
This one's tricky. If you've spent years curating a home that perfectly expresses your identity and aesthetic, and so has your partner, you're going to have to find a way to merge those identities, Some couples don't care and they just chose the best of each other's things, but some couples really struggle to make a home that they feel comfortable in. This might mean a lot of fights and resentments over seemingly silly things like chairs and throw pillows. Making a home is hard work. Making a joint home is twice the work. And let's not even talk about closet purges in the name of making space...
4. You're Together All The Time
The beauty of dating is that when you start to get sick of your partner, you just go home. You take a day or two off, and then you're back to business as usual. When you live together, going home means going home together. If your apartment or house isn't big enough for you to have your own space, then you have to find creative ways to both resolve conflict and give each other space. When someone is around all the time, it's much easier to get annoyed by their chewing or messiness.
5. Alone Time Means Something Different
As a solitude-loving introvert, the whole lack of solitude thing was the biggest and hardest pill to swallow. As an inseparable dating couple, it wasn't that we were always together. It was that we were together most of the time. I still had that day or two each week when I sat alone in my own room reading books and catching up on not seeing anyone's face. In our tiny one-bedroom apartment, alone time often means I'm in the bedroom and she's in the living room. It's not exactly solitude, but most of the time, it's enough. If you're a serious introvert, living with someone might seem like a marathon at first.
6. You're A Unit
Making a home together is like being a family. If you weren't referred to as a single two-person unit, you will be now. When your friends come over, they're your partner's visitors, too. When you get a pet or a new sofa, it's joint property now, and something you need to discuss. Invites will be dual invites. Most of the time, this will be cozy domestic bliss, but sometimes you'll wonder where you got lost in all the us.
7. You Get Annoyed By Dumb Stuff
Your partner made you eggs but you wanted cereal. You're tired of watching murder documentaries. It's not your turn to take out the trash. Little things you never had to face before will crop up once you're sharing your same space. And they'll crop up a lot. The trick is to learn to compromise and to not sweat the small stuff. Life will throw enough big problems at you that the little ones are just a waste of your time. Most of the time.
These changes may seem small or common sense, but they add a level of difficulty and work to your love game that you may not have had to face before. Fortunately the rewards way outweigh the annoyances.