7 Ground Rules You Should Set When You First Move In With Your Partner
Of all the relationship milestones out there, moving in with your partner for the first time is undoubtedly one of the most exciting things you can experience as a couple. But as much fun as it is to imagine the endless nights of cuddling, cooking together, and having movie marathons, it's also important to remember that living with someone requires a lot of compromise — and being roommates with your partner means you'll need to communicate about some ground rules prior to moving in together.
"What's great about moving in with your significant other is now you both have the power to make the rules and create a new home life culture," Jacob Kountz, marriage and family therapist trainee and clinic manager at CSU Bakersfield, tells Bustle. "But, sometimes that's the problem: no one might speak up. Sometimes couples move in together because they 'mesh well' whenever they go out to dinner or hang out at each other's homes. It is a different process once you decide to combine living arrangements, so it is pertinent to speak up about what it is you need from your partner to make things go as smooth as possible. This also means to be attentive when they say their needs, too."
Whether you want to call them "rules" or something a little less harsh like "household expectations," the most important thing is that you're communicating and getting on the same page about what you each do and don't want your home life together to look like. If you don't know where to start, here are seven examples of ground rules you might want to go over with your partner before signing a lease and moving in together.
1. Agree On How The Bills Will Be Divided
Finances can be a tricky thing for couples to talk about, but if you're going to be living together, it's imperative that you're able to communicate openly and honestly about money.
"You need to first ensure that you both can afford the bills and then determine how you want to split them," Heather Ebert, dating and relationship expert at dating site WhatsYourPrice.com, tells Bustle. "Will it be 50/50? Will it be based on how much you earn individually? Will someone pay for all of the utilities? Who will pay for the furniture? In order to do this, you are going to have to open up about your income, debt, other bills, and savings. These talks must happen prior to signing a lease and/or getting the keys."
2. Set Rules For Having House Guests
Having house guests and entertaining together can be a super fun part of living with your partner, but it's important to set boundaries about how often you each have people over — and it's especially crucial to agree on who gets a spare key in case of emergencies.
"This may seem trivial, but it is important that you and your partner agree about who has access to your home," Ebert says. "This way, if someone shows up out of the blue, at least they know who it is and hopefully, it's someone both of you trust."
3. Divide Up Household Chores Before Moving In Together
Figuring out how to fairly divide up chores and household responsibilities can be tricky, so it's better to come up with a plan of action before you move in so you don't start to resent each other after a few months of living together.
"Fights pertaining to division of unpaid/household labour are all about perception," Dr. Jess O’Reilly, Astroglide’s resident sexologist, tells Bustle. "Problems arise when one person perceives the division to be unequal. Some experts say that you shouldn’t keep score, but I think you need to clearly outline what needs to be done and then divide it in a fair manner to reduce the likelihood of resentment. I suggest you make a list of all household tasks and rank your interest in contributing to each task — then you can divide them more fairly."
4. Talk About How Your Sex Life Might Change As Roommates
When you first start dating someone, it's normal to feel like you and your partner can't keep your hands off each other — but as a long-term couple who lives together, that passion might naturally fade, which is something you should feel comfortable discussing and preparing for.
"Sex may be hot now, but when you move in together, you may find the the passion fades as you transition into the 'roommate phase,'" Dr. Jess says. "Plan for this shift in advance by talking about sex. Talk about frequency (how often do you want it) and your top fantasies before sex becomes routine as preventative medicine."
5. Set Limits On Screen Time
When you live on your own, you might not give a second thought to how much time you spend glued to your phone, TV, or laptop — but when you live with a partner, you might want to consider setting expectations for screen time.
"These electronics might not be distracting for you, but they might be for your partner," Kountz says. "So, it's a great idea to discuss if there should be a TV in the bedroom, or cell phones at the dinner table or even how much you two Netflix together. Conversations as such can easily segue into topics such as spending more quality time with one another, taking vacations together or even conversations about each other's life vision and goals."
6. Get On The Same Page About Your Eating Habits
Even if you've been going out to eat and cooking together for months, there's something different about getting your eating habits in sync when you live with your partner and split the grocery bill. You don't have to have all the same eating habits, but how and what you both like to cook/eat is important to discuss at the very least.
"Rules about food ha[ve] to be one of the single most talked about items when it comes to couples living together," Kountz says. "I wouldn't say it's as important as sex, children or finances, but it's now becoming a close contender. You might have grown up eating only processed foods and you are moving in with an herbivore who only eats leafy greens and foods that don't have a bar code on them... Whatever the case, it would be a great idea to communicate what you can and cannot do and what you need right now."
7. Figure Out How Much Alone Time You Both Need
Before moving in together, have a convo with your partner about how much alone time you each need, and what you want that alone time to look like. Because even if you're in a serious relationship, everyone needs alone time every now and then — and you shouldn't be offended if your partner asks for that.
"Your partner asking for space is about their desire to get their social, emotional and intellectual needs met by others outside of their primary relationship," Rhonda Milrad, LCSW, relationship therapist and founder of online relationship community, Relationup, tells Bustle. "One person cannot satisfy all the needs of another and your partner’s desire to take space is their effort to take care of themselves and to return to the relationship nourished, enriched and replenished."
Ultimately, the rules and expectations you set for your shared household are totally up to you and your partner — the part that really matters is that you're able to communicate and get on the same page well before signing a lease, so once you do move in together, you can happily and harmoniously cohabitate.