Moving in together is usually considered a way to mark a new level your relationship has reached. But it will also alter your dynamic even more. There are a number of ways moving in together changes your relationship, and each requires you both to evolve to meet your partnership's new demands.
“Discussing potential issues before the move is an excellent way to avoid conflict and mismatched expectations," clinical psychologist Janna Koretz, Psy.D, tells Bustle. "When we move in with someone, we know at least some things about them. Of course, we can't anticipate everything, which is why communication, post-move, is also key. Being able to calmly address things as they come up over time will significantly improve relationship satisfaction.”
My partner and I aren't really sure when we moved in together. In order to avoid the annoyances of long-distance relationships, I came to visit him about two months after we met and then didn't leave for another two months. Then we spent a few more months apart before I came back. Last time felt more like a visit, but now, it feels like I've moved in. Maybe it's because my name is on the door or because I've updated my Twitter bio to name his city or because we now refer to the place as "our apartment."
Whatever it is, I've noticed a few aspects of our relationship change this time around. These changes are mostly positive — it is, after all, incredibly convenient. But there are also a few new challenges. Here are a few ways living together can affect your dynamic and the adjustments they might require.
1. You Need To Make A Conscious Effort To Date
I'd been hearing the typical "keep dating each other" advice for a while, but I didn't really take it seriously until I lived with my partner. I thought that just catching each other when we caught each other would be enough, especially since our busy schedules don't allow for much more.
But there is a world of difference between sitting around your living room table with leftover pizza and getting dressed up and going out for a two-course meal with wine. Specifically, the former activity usually ends up being spent complaining about how stressful your days were and what groceries you need to buy. Then, once you step foot in a restaurant, you suddenly have thoughts about what you'd do with a million dollars and whether there's life on other planets. (At least for me. Maybe the wine helps with that.)
Even if you stay home, the mere act of carving out time to converse puts you into a different mindset and lets you connect on a deeper level.
2. Your Plans Are Not Just Yours
When you're used to having full control over your schedule, it can be unsettling for someone else to suddenly have such a big effect on it. You end up eating what they whip up, going to sleep when they do, changing your exercise routine so you can work out together, and pausing your work when their friends stop by.
On the one hand, this has forced me to be a little less of a control freak and accept that many of my plans will depend on someone else. But it's also forced me to draw boundaries and decide what I won't do just because my partner makes them convenient, like eat foods he keeps around that make me feel like crap. When your partner's lifestyle preferences go against yours, you need to take responsibility for your choices instead of blaming them.
3. You Can't Just Avoid Them After A Fight
The good thing about only seeing your partner for short periods of time is that you know when your fights will stop. But when you live together and could fight forever if you wanted, you need to have the awareness to see when everything that needs to be said has been said and the discipline to say "I'm going to get back to work now" or "I'm going to go for a walk" or even "I'm going to go to bed angry."
4. Your Moods Will Affect Each Other
Living together also makes it harder not to start fights, since you can't just avoid them when you're in a bad mood. If I wake up on the wrong side of the bed and just know I'm going to get pissed off about the next less-than-perfect thing my partner does, I make an effort to go off to a cafe by myself for a bit — or, even better, go for a run to help my negative feelings dissipate. And even if I need to address something that makes me angry, I try not to do it while I'm angry.
5. You Decide What You Can & Can't Accept About Them
People's true colors come out when they leave the setting of a formal date. It just takes too much willpower to hide who you are 24/7. And once you see what kind of person they are, you can decide what you want them to work on, what you can accept, what you appreciate, and what might actually be a deal breaker.
For example, I learned how extraordinarily forgetful my partner is, but I also learned that he's amazing around the house. So, when he loses something we need, I remind myself it's a small price to pay for never doing dishes. The question stops being "does this person bother me?" and becomes "do their positive traits outweigh their bothersome ones?" The answer to that question will determine whether you want to keep shacking up.
6. You May Take Each Other For Granted
As Joni Mitchell sang, you don't know what you've got til it's gone. So, it's easy to forget what you've got when it's never gone. That's why cohabitation makes it extra important to pay each other compliments, get each other gifts, and do other things that prevent you from taking each other from granted.
A lot of couples are hesitant to move in together because they're scared it could ruin their relationship. But I think that possibility makes cohabitation a great test. If you can't make it work, you're better off finding out. And if you can, you'll find more things to appreciate about your relationship.