What To Consider When Moving In Together, According To A Relationship Expert
As the Love Is Blind Season 4 couples shack up, Bustle speaks with Damona Hoffman about the challenges of cohabitation.
It’s nearing bedtime, and Love Is Blind Season 4 couple Chelsea Griffin and Kwame Appiah are bickering about chores. Chelsea pointedly asks her new fiancé if he knows how to vacuum, and questions his strategy for handling dirty dishes. Kwame insists the dishes are fine in the sink overnight, but Chelsea’s unconvinced: “I really don’t like going to bed with a dirty kitchen,” she says. Kwame counters by complaining that she doesn’t flush when using the bathroom at night. “Don’t worry about waking me up — just flush the toilet,” he pleads.
Moving in together after meeting, getting engaged, and honeymooning in under three weeks is tough. Damona Hoffman — a certified dating coach, host of the Dates & Mates podcast, and a consultant for The Drew Barrymore Show — knows well how an accelerated, TV-friendly timeline can shape a relationship. “Time moves more quickly, and you cling to your matches like a life raft when you know that you have limited time to meet your person and every move you make could be scrutinized down the road by the viewers,” Hoffman tells Bustle over email.
But some experiences, like moving in together, aren’t just hard on TV. Couples have a lot to consider when taking this step, from big-picture things like finances and plans for the future, to smaller details like how to keep the kitchen clean and how to decorate a shared space. So as the Season 4 couples shack up onscreen, Hoffman is here to share her expertise.
Below, Hoffman tells Bustle about the conversations couples need to have before moving in together, what red flags to look out for, and whether or not love is blind.
What are the most common problems couples face when moving in together?
Lack of clarity and unmet expectations, which often comes up around finances. Another point of conflict is family or friends — it takes time to integrate someone into your life and friendship circle. Couples often have unrealistic expectations about how quickly their family will accept a new partner, how to divide their time, when to integrate a partner into activities that they used to do with friends, and when to ask for space.
What conversations need to be had before moving in together?
There are the major questions I have my clients discuss before moving in together:
Why are we doing this? You must be able to tell if this is a step towards marriage or a coupling of convenience. Be clear about what is motivating you to move in and listen to what your partner says about their intentions to ensure you are both on the same path.
Who pays? Money is one of the top three things that couples fight about. When you’re co-mingling money before you’re married, you need to be clear on who’s paying the bills and managing the money. You can’t plan for the future if you aren’t considering your financial future together.
Your place or mine? It’s always best to start off in a new, neutral space where you can establish your areas and routines from scratch. If you can't do that, how do you create space for both individuals?
What does our potential future look like? Kids? Saving for a house? Launching a business together? What is your vision for the relationship and your combined future?
When should we check in again? Engagement ring resentment is not a good look for any relationship, so couples need to get on the same timeline and voice their expectations for relationship phases before moving in together.
Under what circumstances would you advise a couple not to move in together? What red flags should people look out for?
You have to be able to resolve conflict fairly. Dr. John Gottman says to look for the “magic ratio” of 5:1. For every negative interaction, there are five or more positive interactions. If you and a partner are fighting all the time but never resolving conflict, or if you’re harboring resentment in your interactions with one another, that’s a red flag.
Also — never move in together out of convenience or for a financial break if you’re hoping for the relationship to blossom into something more.
What about couples who don’t move in together after they’re married? Season 3 couple Matt and Colleen kept separate apartments for at least a year after tying the knot.
I was skeptical because it felt like their decision to live separately was a step back in their relationship. During After the Altar, it seems like they needed a reset after the whirlwind experience of getting married after just four weeks, and they decided to take “Slow Love” into their own hands. I applaud them for choosing to do things differently, and I hope it leads to a stronger partnership for them.
Regarding couples who move in together after doing long-distance for a while, how can a couple ease into cohabiting after being physically separated?
It certainly helps to move into a new space together and give the partner who is moving a say on where they’ll live and what their new life together will look like. When one person is leaving their life behind to join a partner in a new location, the responsibility is on the other partner to do the heavy lifting to create a welcoming space for their love to come into both physically in the home and emotionally with social circles. The power dynamic in Raven and SK’s relationship seemed to shift completely when SK moved away, and that is when infidelity crept in.
Does the Netflix reality experiment do enough to prove the concept that love is blind?
I would still not say that love is blind. Watching Irina and Zack implode shows that physical chemistry does matter. But this show does give us inspiration to date on a deeper level and not to be so quick to dismiss someone with the glance of a profile or the misuse of an emoji.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.