We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Now, onto this week’s topic: how to pick the perfect apartment with your partner.
Q: “I just made a big move with my partner across the country. We're in a temporary spot now, and are looking for a new, more permanent place. While we mostly agree on what we want, we have a few key differences. He wants to live in the city, while I want to live outside it. I also seem willing to spend more money than he is. How do we find the right compromise and decide what to prioritize when we're choosing a place to live? Is there some sort of list of factors and priorities you can make to figure it out?”
A: Thanks for the question! Congrats on the big move. I wish finding an apartment together was easier! Unfortunately, it can be a daunting task. It’s hard to be perfectly aligned on exactly what you’re looking for, especially because there are so many variables involved. Here are seven steps towards choosing your next spot together.
Make Priority Lists Separately
You’re onto a good idea in your question. As a psychotherapist, I’m big on helping people get clear on what they actually want before making a decision. “What do you want?” seems like a simple question, but when it’s about something as complex as your home, there can be a lot to sort out. But the more clarity you can get on your own, the easier it will be to make a decision together.
I would suggest that the two of you sit down separately to write down the things that you’d like out of your next apartment. Start off by jotting down anything that you would like in an apartment. Stick within your general budget of course — no use getting yourself all worked up about the possibility of a 200-square-foot walk-in closet if you can barely afford an 800-square-foot studio! Next, divide the items into “important” and “nice to have.” So for example, it might be nice to have a bathtub, but it’s not a deal-breaker for you. But perhaps you realize that it is extremely important to you to have a modern kitchen. Then take your “important” list, and put them in order of most to least important.
Next, have a date night with your partner to look over your lists. Share your priorities, and talk about what the process was like for each of you. In particular, talk about why you ordered your “important” lists the way you did. I’m willing to bet there will be a few surprises for each of you. Maybe you learn some new reasons why your partner is so gung-ho on living in the city. Maybe you realize your desires are more aligned or more flexible than you both realized. You’re not making any final decisions at this stage, just sharing your wants with each other.
Do Your Research
You brought up the topic of how much you guys should be spending on your new apartment. Since money is one of the biggest sources of relationship conflicts and break-ups, I would highly recommend that you spend some time focusing on the financial aspects of your move.
I couldn’t tell from your question if you and your partner have been living together for a while now, or if this cross-country move was also your first time moving in together. When you share a home, money can become a much bigger issue than it was previously. You might start to notice how different your relationships are with money. Make sure to talk about how much of your income you should be spending on rent. It’s a good idea to do some research on the area you’ll be living in, and see what the norm is. Talk about how you plan on dividing up other household expenses. You may even want to set up a chat with a financial advisor, to give you some expert advice.
See A Lot Of Options
Before making any decisions, I highly recommend that the two of you actually go check out a bunch of different apartments and take the time to shop around. Seeing new places is a great way to get more clarity on what’s important to you. Maybe you initially thought that modern kitchen was extremely important to you, but you start backing down a little once you see the rents associated with those types of apartments. It’s also a reality check, since it will give you a better sense of what’s actually available.
The two of you can argue about city-versus-suburbs until you’re blue in the face, but the reality might be that there aren’t any good apartments in the city in your price range. There’s also a good chance you’ll just get a gut feeling about places once you and your partner are actually in them. There will be certain places that you’ll automatically rule out even though there doesn’t seem to be anything wrong with them. And you just might find a place that feels so right, even if it doesn’t check all of your boxes.
Make It Fun
Apartment-hunting can be exhausting, so it’s good to try to infuse as much fun into the process as you can. Pretend to be different characters during apartment viewings (nothing that would ruin your chances of actually getting the apartment, of course!). Have date nights afterwards. If your partner is really sold on the city, have him organize a fun day to show you the perks of what city life could be like. Then challenge yourself to plan a fun suburbs date to show him what life in the ‘burbs is all about.
Trade Off Major Decisions
Despite your best efforts, you still may find yourselves not in agreement about all of your wishlist items. If that’s the case, I suggest trying to barter with each other. Go back to your lists, and see if there’s anything from the bottom of the “important” category that you can move over to the “nice to have” category. Maybe you’d be willing to let go of the second bedroom if he’s willing to get a garage. You can also go with literal compromises too — perhaps you give up on the city versus suburbs debate to meet halfway and live on the fringes of the city.
Keep Things In Perspective
I know finding an apartment and figuring out how to compromise can be a really intense experience. It’s easy to get caught up in the details and lose sight of what really matters. Try to keep reminding yourselves that this is about finding a place that the two of you can make your home. It’s about a new adventure in a new part of the country. It’s about taking a big step forward together. Enjoy this!