Moving in together is an exciting milestone in a relationship. It means you get to co-parent houseplants, co-own a Netflix account, and hang out with your favorite person every single day. And yet, despite all the positives, you still might feel anxious about living with a partner for the first time.
It’s a big step to go from being on your own or with roommates to sharing a space with someone you love. Even if you’re used to seeing each other all the time, you might worry about the ways it’ll shift the dynamic of your relationship — both big and small.
Once you move in together, “your sense of privacy greatly changes,” therapist Erin Iwanusa, LCSW, CDWF, tells Bustle. The simplest things — like talking on the phone, brushing your teeth, getting ready for bed — are now being witnessed by someone all the time. And there’s a vulnerability to that.
You also might tense up at the idea of talking about tough topics, like splitting finances and chores. “It is anxiety-inducing [...] because there is so much at stake,” Iwanusa says. What if it’s harder than you expected? And if so, what will that mean for your relationship? If you’re stressed, here are a few ways to ease your mind as you and your partner move in together.
Let Your Partner Know About Your Anxiety
One of the best ways to ease anxiety is by talking, talking, and talking some more — instead of bottling up your emotions. Not only will sharing what’s on your mind help alleviate stressful feelings, but it’ll also open the door for your partner to share what’s on their mind, Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, a licensed clinical psychologist with Therapy Group of NYC, tells Bustle.
The last thing you’ll want to do when you move in together is fall into a habit of keeping secrets, as that can lead to the build-up of resentment over time. So make it a point to check in as you look for an apartment, unpack your belongings, and settle in. A lot of comfort can be found in validating each other’s feelings, Witmer says, as you adjust to the new living situation.
Come Up With Ground Rules
Joining your life with someone else’s is both exciting and stressful. But if you’re falling more on the “stressful” side of things, it might help to talk about ground rules and guidelines. According to Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, a licensed therapist, you’ll want to have these established before you even get your keys.
Chat about expectations, boundaries, and what you want this whole living-together experience to be like. Talk about your schedules, your habits, how you’ll divvy up chores — whatever topic is weighing heavy on your mind — and make sure you’re on the same page. “Having this conversation upfront can help ease any tension,” Jackson tells Bustle, as well as anxiety.
Talk About Alone Time Vs. Couple Time
Speaking of boundaries, talk early and often about how much time you plan to spend together versus apart. “Living together doesn't mean doing everything together,” Jason Phillips, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker, tells Bustle. So if you’re worried about losing your sense of individuality, speak up ASAP.
It’ll be a huge relief to express that concern to your partner instead of letting it fester. It could be as simple as agreeing to not have company every weekend so that you have time to yourself, Phillips says, to carving out a few hours each week where you’ll both part ways. By going into this living situation with “rules,” it'll help take some of the pressure off.
Don’t Lose Sight Of Your Excitement
Remember, anxiety and excitement often feel a lot alike, Witmer says, so consider whether all of this “anxiety” is actually butterflies. It could be that you aren’t anxious in a bad way but excited in a good way at the thought of taking this next step as a couple. Either way, try to enjoy the process, keep communicating, and pretty soon, it’ll feel like you’ve been living together forever.
Erin Iwanusa, LCSW, CDWF, therapist
Sasha Jackson, MSW, LCSW, licensed therapist
Dr. Jaclyn Lopez Witmer, PsyD, licensed clinical psychologist
Jason Phillips, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker