A Guide for Couples Moving into an Apartment Together
June 15, 2021
So, you and your partner have been dating for a year (or however long), and you’ve both decided it’s time to move into an apartment together. But now what? While this is likely an exciting time – and it should be! – it may also feel a bit overwhelming, and there are definitely some adult conversations you both should have now and along the way. We’ll dig into the six big topics to discuss with your significant other, but first, some necessary housekeeping.
Although you’ve already decided to move in together, it’s important to collectively reflect on the reasons why you’re moving in together and whether those are the right reasons. Experts say one of the biggest mistakes couples make when considering cohabitation is not honestly talking through what it means to live together and why now is the right time. The other major mistake couples renting together make is basing the decision on monetary savings, for example, splitting the cost of rent and utilities. If the main reason you and your partner are moving in together is to save money, then it might be a good idea to take a step back and spend more time getting to know each other before making such a big move.
In addition to ensuring money isn’t the driving force, here are a few other things to consider to confirm you’re both ready:
- You’ve agreed on a budget or at least a range
- You talk about your finances regularly (more on this later)
- You’ve practiced living together (think extended stays at the other person’s apartment or a week-long vacation together)
- Your schedules are compatible, or at least you’re both willing to make adjustments
- You’ve talked about the future – your future
So Where To?
Suppose you’ve done your due diligence on the why, then it’s time to think about the where. For example, do you move into their place or your place? Do you get a new home together? Where will it be? And what type of apartment or rental is best?
With an increasing number of adults opting to rent, there are a plethora of communities offering different apartment styles and sizes, in addition to a wide variety of apartment amenities. Other factors with weight in the decision should include commutes, proximity to family and friends, accommodations for pets or kids, local amenities and services, and safety. Once you’ve set your budget, it’s important to consider all of these things together while apartment hunting.
1. It’s an Adjustment
Even if you’ve lived with roommates, moving in with a significant other is a considerable adjustment which takes time. It will continue to evolve and require flexibility and communication on both parts.
It’s crucial to be open and talk to your partner about any potential fears of cohabitation. He or she may be feeling the same way but may be nervous about bringing it up. “Couples with open lines of communication to discuss how they are truly experiencing even the positive changes in their union, which often come with some not-so-positive aspects, are setting themselves up to smooth out the more challenging aspects of the moving-in milestone,” explains Justin Pere, owner and lead therapist at Seattle-based relationship therapy practice Clarity Counseling.
It’s no surprise finances top the list of topics you need to discuss with your partner when moving in together: It’s the number one reason on every list why couples argue. However, if you and your partner start talking about finances early and often, especially about those related to cohabitating, then you may avoid some of those arguments down the road. Pere stresses these conversations require patience, empathy, and compromise.
When discussing finances, you’ll naturally want to look at how each person currently manages money and whether either or both of those approaches is something which will work for you together as a unit. This part of the discussion may indicate any existing debt. Experts agree this isn’t something to shy away from, and it’s better to put everything on the table.
Beyond rent, financial discussions should cover the division of bills and household expenses. Pere says, “Couples are advised to come to agreements that feel fair and equitable, though perhaps not exactly equal, as differing income levels and spending habits are taken into account.”
Another important topic to consider for couples living together is space. “Perhaps never more than in 2020 did couples learn the importance of, and their differences around, personal space,” Pere points out. “Couples are well served to have honest discussions about what personal space means to them and how they envision getting the space they need.”
Just because you’re moving in together doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking moment together, and privacy goes out the window. In fact, it’s important to retain your individuality and set aside time – and space – for yourself, whether it means setting up separate work offices, decorating your studio in a way to create some division, or taking advantage of apartment amenities like workspaces, clubhouses, and lounges for some time apart.
“For many people, their living space serves as a sanctuary from the outside world, and it can include needing a reprieve from their partner, even during the exciting stage of moving in together,” Pere says. “When personal space is taken, it’s important for couples to know this is not a reflection of the state of the relationship, nor a rejection of their partner, but is instead a very normal need most of us have as individual, independent adults.
Couples renting together should discuss not only personal space, but also the physical space for two household’s worth of stuff. This is a conversation which needs to happen early, so you avoid paying to move stuff you end up getting rid of, but it must be approached delicately. What may seem like just stuff to you may be important to your partner and vice versa.
While it’s unrealistic to keep everything, especially considering there will likely be duplicates, the consolidation process should “be done with reverence and compassion by giving weight to the ties your partner may have with their possessions,” Pere stresses. “Moving in together can even be reframed as an opportunity to evaluate the entirety of one’s belongings and come to see the value in purging what no longer brings joy.”
Some things can be sold or donated to continue to bring other people joy; while other items can be recycled or tossed. For the stuff you do keep, consider apartments with additional storage space options, such as large closets and additional storage spaces for rent.
5. Living Habits
If you’ve been dating long enough to move in together, then you’ve likely already seen some of your partner’s quirks. But guess what? You’re about to discover many more. When you share intimate spaces and hours of your life with someone, all kinds of living habits – bad and good – come to light. It’s why having “practiced” cohabiting is so important.
Like all the conversations thus far, these are going to require some flexibility and communication. What may be important to you may seem trivial to your partner. Advocate for those things but understand there will likely need to be some compromise.
6. Division of Labor
Some of those habits you’ll encounter will most definitely be related to desired levels of cleanliness, or lack of, and if not discussed in advance, can lead to preventable arguments. “These habits started early on within their childhoods and are likely firmly established,” says Pere, “so couples can struggle to reach a compromise around who does what, and to what degree.”
He advises compiling a list of household chores and responsibilities and then, together, answering the following questions: What is your philosophy about who should do what? How were these tasks handled in your home growing up? And what would be closest to your ideal? Identify the overlap and areas where you can compromise; if a middle ground can’t be found, each individual could take on a few things they see as most important. Perhaps composting and recycling is your thing, while maintaining a pristine bathroom is important to him.
No matter how much you’re both dreading these conversations, they’re important to have before, during, and after the move-in process. If approached honestly and with compassion, they can help you avoid those bumps in the road mentioned above. It will also give you more time to focus on the exciting aspects of moving in together – of which there are many, from apartment hunting and decorating to cooking and entertaining to building a life together.
And, if after taking our experts’ advice on cohabitating, you still want to take the step, then our team will be ready and willing to help you find the perfect apartment to call home.
Find Your Essex Apartment
Our apartment communities span from San Diego to San Francisco and the Pacific Northwest in some of the most sought-after locations on the West Coast. Whether you're looking for life in Los Angeles, settling down in San Jose, or relaxing in Oakland, we can help. Choose from bustling city life, quiet comfort in the suburbs, sun and sand at the beach, or outdoor adventures and a wide variety of on-site amenities and floor plans that span from studios to two-bedroom apartments to townhomes. Whatever your style and budget, we have a community that’s right for you.