When you finally make the decision to move in with your partner, it's really exciting! But once the initial excitement wears off and you've finally decided that, yes, your bedroom will have blue walls after all, the next step is to talk about what all couples should discuss during their first year living together. You can't just move in together, throw caution to the wind, and hope for the best.
"The first year of living with your partner is when things get real," bestselling author and relationship expert, Susan Winter, tells Bustle. "Never saw [your partner] bleach their mustache? Wax their legs? Shave the hair on their forearms? All these little beauty mysteries go on behind-the-scenes until the moment you live together."
As Winter points out, these are actually the "joys of cohabitating" where you get to see not just the other side of your partner, but all of them. Moving in with your partner is a serious step and should be treated as such.
"This is also the point where true love begins," Winter says. "When the fantasy of perfection evaporates... Your relationship will move from fantasy to reality, and from illusion to authenticity."
While there are many reasons why moving in with your partner is great, if you don't cover some essentials early on, you could create problems that you could have easily avoided had you, well, covered the essentials!
Here are nine discussions to have with your partner during your first year of living together.
Perhaps one of the most awkward and definitely unsexy discussions that any couple can have, but also one of the most important discussions is about money.
"Talking about money in a relationship is non-negotiable," Brianna McGurran, student loans and personal finance expert at NerdWallet, tells Bustle. "Consider it as important to the health of your partnership as supporting each other’s hobbies or being polite to each other’s moms. Opening up about your financial life means you’re showing each other the real you, and that honesty and vulnerability helps the relationship grow."
Even if you choose not to combine your finances by getting a joint bank account, you still owe to your partner, your relationship, and even yourself to be very open and honest about your money. Not just how much you make and how much you'll be putting toward this new life together, but how much you owe too.
"Keeping secrets about money erodes trust," McGurran says, "And avoiding the conversation for too long means you won’t have the tools to deal with money issues as they come up."
No matter where you are in your relationship, this is never an easy topic, but it just can't be swept under the carpet if you expect this living together thing to pan out.
Plans For Visitors
When it comes to ground rules when you move in together, who's allowed over and for how long is a discussion that can't be ignored. Why? Because all you need is one guest that either you or your partner can't stand overstaying their welcome and disaster just follows. Winter suggests asking the who, what, and where of visitors.
"Does your mother want to visit? If so, how long should she stay? Where will she sleep? Your sister? His brother? Mutually decide your protocol for visitors together," Winter says. "If someone stays in your home, what are the optimal amount of days and nights to allow you both to feel comfortable? Will that vary according to certain individuals?"
You may think you love your partner's mom and she's literally the best thing since sliced bread, but are you going to feel the same way if she comes for a whole week and she's in your space constantly? Just like your partner may think you college roommate is fantastic, but is that opinion going to change after four or five nights?
"Having this discussion before the event will alleviate future anxiety and bickering," Winter says.
The Day-To-Day Routine
In addition to talking about your bathroom schedule, you need to talk about your daily schedules and routines in general. You may think spending half the week at your partner's place, and vice versa, taught you everything you need to know about how your partner goes about their day, but that's not always the case.
"The couple should sit down and set expectations on how they want the living situation to be," counselor Dr. Sophia Reed tells Bustle.
How someone lives their life, inside their home, when they have a visitor, is often different than how they live their life when that visitor isn't around.
"In order to make the move-in transition smooth, there should be a few discussions ahead of time regarding any specific preferences and lifestyle habits," relationship specialist J. Hope Suis tells Bustle. "Is someone an early riser? Or a night owl? How about cleanliness?... Who is going to have control of the TV? These things may not seem like a big deal at first, but having your lifestyle turned upside down and suddenly having to share your space is not as glamorous as it may sound."
If it means coming up with a chart to make sure everything is equal and fair, then so be it. Relationships require effort.
Boredom In The Bedroom
While there's no guarantee that things might eventually start to feel stale, sexually speaking, there's also no guarantee that they won't. Because of this, you might want to conquer this conversation during your first year of living together, so you have a plan for the future. Tackling the "what if" is a great way of staying ahead possible issues down the road.
"When you’re living together, more things become mundane," Justin Lavelle, relationship expert and Chief Communications Officer for BeenVerified.com, tells Bustle. "Getting stuck in a 'settled down' routine too soon might just make you reconsider this whole moving-in-together thing."
Lavelle says that a major component in avoiding watching your sex life head down a road of stagnant monotony, is by keeping things alive with being spontaneous.
"Spontaneity should help counter that and keep the relationship in a healthy state," Lavelle says. "To make cohabiting a success, don’t forget to be spontaneous. Have a spur of the moment date night to keep the spark going."
Although spontaneity is great for any long-term relationship, it's when you start living together and sharing a space — and bed — day after day that it becomes even more essential. Thrills, surprises, and keeping each other on your toes is the way to do that.
"Hang Out" Time
Usually when couples move in together, it's because they're not just ready to take the next step, but are also ready to join the land of grownups — relatively speaking. What this means is the days of living like a college student where friends come and go as they please may be a thing of the past as you share your space.
"What's seems like a fun time with friends can turn sour very quickly, if there are no rules in place," Winter says. "You don't want your home to become a crash pad for [either your friends or your partner's friends]."
Winter says to talk to each other about what nights will be designated for what. Will there be certain nights where it's just you two having "together time?" Will there be other nights where friends are allowed to hang out? And, if so, will there be a curfew so your friends or your partner's friends aren't sitting around drinking until dawn?
"It's important to put these conditions in place in advance," Winter says. "Rather than looking like the grumpy person who's kicking people out of your house, you both know what's OK and what's no OK."
When we're newly in love, it's hard to see just how annoying our partner is capable of being. Even when you first move in together, their snoring sounds melodic, as opposed to the grumblings of a monster hell bent on making sure you never sleep again.
"You’ll get on each other’s nerves [when you move in together]," Lavelle says. "You’ll learn very quickly what annoys you about your partner. From leaving empty cups on the counter to having an incessant need to crack [their] knuckles, your partner’s annoying habits will become clear as day once you start living together."
It's paramount to know that what's adorable now won't necessarily always be that way, so you should talk about a plan for this one, too, in the first year.
Because communication is going to be a major factor in the success of your relationship and we all communicate differently, how you'll communicate and understand each other's communication techniques should definitely be hammered out not just in the first year but, ideally, the first couple weeks.
"Learning how your partner forms thoughts, ideas, and chooses their words and sentences takes time," Davida Rappaport, speaker, spiritual counselor, and dating expert, tells Bustle. "If you are an active listener and patient, you will be able to communicate with ease. Not all partners are open and able to communicate well. It is up to both of you to find a way to communicate — perhaps you will create your own method."
As Rappaport points out, learning how each other communicates, especially now that you're under the same roof, is going to be more important than before. Which also means being cognizant and aware of how you each express yourselves will be more essential.
"Do not assume you know what your partner’s intention is when they say something," Rappaport says. "If in doubt, ask. Anytime you are confused or unsure about anything your partner may say, ask them what they meant. Hopefully your partner will make an effort to clarify their intention so there are no misunderstandings between you."
When It Might Be Time For Professional Help
To have the strength and courage to admit you and your partner might need professional help is a huge deal. But what's an even bigger deal is having the where with all to know it's a possibility in the future, and planning for that possibility in the present.
"The fear that comes with adjusting to the fact that you and your partner have just taken your relationship to the next level can lead to picking fights with your partner, distancing from your partner, and looking for any other reason that things are bad," relationship therapist Shirani M. Pathak, of the Center for Soulful Relationships in California, tells Bustle. "Alternatively, it can also lead to the false thoughts that you need to be perfect and show your partner what a perfect partner you can be," Pathak says. "This leads to a different set of frustrations from your end."
Because living together is bound to change your relationship, more for some than others, realizing that professional help might be a resource to which to turn is a discussion worth having.
Although moving in together is fun and exciting, it's important to focus on the logistics of it. If you value your relationship and want to make it work, then you need to talk everything out sooner rather than later.
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