Dating / Relationship Question and Answer

20 June 2001

Moving In Together

This week, let’s explore the issues involved in moving in with
your significant  other.

Some people view this as a prelude to getting married; others see
it as a  natural “next step” without a further goal. Either
way, this is a big commitment on  the part of both parties. Of
course, I’m talking about setting up house as a  couple, not
simply sharing housing costs as roommates.

Preliminary Considerations

Before you just jump right in and set-up house, you’d better
consider what  you’re really doing here. Moving in together is
just like getting married without  the format commitment. This
is a big step – one you shouldn’t take lightly. Just  like you
shouldn’t jump into a marriage, you shouldn’t jump into living

There are many good reasons to move in together – security,
finances, emotional  support, etc.; but the primary reason
should be to take your relationship to  that next level. Many
couples do this as a precursor to getting married –  something
of a “test drive”. In fact, I can’t imagine why anyone would get
married to  someone that they haven’t lived with first.

Consider, however that statistics show there is a slight increase
in the  likelihood of divorce among couples that live together
before marriage. I believe  that this is because many couples
find that they aren’t as compatible as they  first thought, and
go ahead with the marriage anyway because that was the goal of
moving in together in the first place!

If a couple’s goal of moving in together is to test a possible
marriage, this  should be a clear understanding up front. There
should be goals and each partner  should have the freedom to
say that they are or aren’t comfortable getting  married. This
doesn’t mean that the relationship has to break up however!
Many  relationships work just fine when they aren’t constant
live-in’s. This needs to be  understood up front. Just because
you can’t live with someone doesn’t mean that  you can’t love
him or her – and continue seeing each other from different

How to Get Started

So, how do you go about setting this up? First – TALK! I’ve seen
too many  couples that just agree to move in together like
roommates and then try to work out  the details after the move.
Don’t do this! Both you and your lover deserve the  luxury of
having the details worked out in advance. Spend some time, and
commit  your agreements to paper (see below for some links that
may help here). This  doesn’t have to be a formal, notarized
document – just something you can refer to  now and in the
future when questions arise – and they WILL arise!

Next, consider your present situation. If one or both of you own
a home, you  may want to rent one or both of them out and
establish a “neutral ground” for the  new relationship. On the
other hand it may be preferable to move into one home  and sell
the other. Consider all the factors in making this decision: length
of  time left on the mortgages or leases, the monthly payments,
upkeep costs,  taxes, size and age of the home, condo or
apartment, and of course; location,  location, location!

Next, consider your possessions. If you’re moving into one
partner’s place, it  isn’t reasonable for the partner moving to
just throw everything away and move  in. There is going to have
to be some type of “merger” of property. What isn’t  brought
into the new home may be placed in storage. Further, things that
were  there before the move-in may also be put in storage to
make room for the new  things. The key to making this work is
compromise from both partners. Few people  want their things
removed, or to have to do without things they are used to. So,
find a balance that works before the move occurs.

Before all this happens, both partners should mark their things
so that they  know who owns what. I recommend that you both
create written inventories of what  you have – including what
is going into your “love nest”, what is going into  storage,
and what is being sold or given away. Yes – I know this isn’t
very  romantic, but consider what you’re really doing here –
you’re creating a business  relationship as well as an
emotional one. Both things that will be brought into  the house
as well as things that will be stored should be marked. If you
have  duplicate things (which is quite likely), you may want to
have a garage sale or  simply give them away. Remember however,
that if things don’t work out, you’re  going to want to have
them back or replace them.

Other Considerations

Frankly, there are too many other possible issues to consider
than can be  listed in a single article. However, some of the
things you should decide up front  include:

* Who is responsible for what chores? * What about kids – those
that live with you and those that visit? * What about pets – if both
people have pets, are they compatible? * Who decides on decorating?
* What about space and closet needs? * Will you have separate
telephones, computers, etc? * What about office space? If one or
both of you work from home, you may need  to separate offices.
* What about privacy? Moving in together doesn’t mean that you have
to open up  every possible aspect of your life. * What about
solitude – most of us need some “alone time” just to remain


Moving in together is as much a financial consideration as it is
an emotional  one. One partner usually earns more than the
other, and may be expected to cover  a larger share of the
expenses. This is fine, but there is likely to be some
expectation of return from the partner contributing less – usually
in household  work.

What about bank accounts? You might want to check with an
accountant and/or  attorney to decide what works best for your
particular situation. However, I  strongly recommend that you
don’t merge all of your accounts into joint accounts. If  one
or more joint accounts make sense for your particular situation, you
may  want to keep your existing accounts and create one or two
others: a checking  account (for paying bills) and a
savings/investment account. Then both partners  contribute
their share into the account(s) from which bills are paid,
investments  made, assets are purchased, etc.

Correcting the Mistake

Oh brother! This is much more difficult than making the initial
decision to  move in together! Thus, it is much better to have
not done it in the first place.  Of course, that piece of
wisdom doesn’t help you much if you’ve already done  it. So,
let’s look at the things you need to know:

Moving out can be just as traumatic as getting a divorce –
especially if you’ve  been together awhile. Consider, that
you’ve probably purchased things together,  have joint bills,
and possibly joint bank accounts. All of these have to be
split. Further, at least one partner has to move (possibly both
partners), and  set-up a new home elsewhere. And, of course,
there is all the emotion involved.

During the time you’ve been together, you’ve both enjoyed a
number of benefits  – probably two incomes, two people
supporting the household, two people paying  the bills, etc.
Usually, one partner makes more than the other and contributes
more financially. Sometimes, the other partner makes up for this by
performing  additional work. Sometimes however, this isn’t the
case – and most times, both  partners feel that they have
contributed more than the other.

I recommend that you forget all of this and concentrate on the
process of the  splitting up the household. Consider that the
person moving is going to need  funds to get set-up again. How
you split your assets is up to you, but I suggest  this: be
generous in the giving, meager in the expecting, and appreciative
in  the receiving. Yes – easier said than done, but it will go
a long way to getting  this split finished. If you’re still
going to stay together as a couple after  all this, it will
probably be much simpler than if you’re breaking up the
relationship. Remember: you got together in the first place. There
was something you  saw in the other person. Concentrate on the
benefits you’ve both gained and  try, try to make it easier on
your partner – they deserve at least this much!

Also, don’t bring friends into this breakup. They will be
traumatized by it all  anyway. There is no need to make it more
difficult for them (and ultimately for  yourself). You may want
to ask them to help you move, but don’t expect them to  hate or
dislike your (ex-)partner. They will have probably established
a  relationship with this person, and deserve the same respect
for it, that they have  given you. In short, don’t try to pit
your friends against your ex.

Final Thoughts

Moving in with your lover is a tricky, problematic event.
Unfortunately, love  isn’t enough to make it work. Consider my
7 “P’s”: “Proper, prior planning  prevents piss-poor
performance”. I know it isn’t romantic, but I strongly urge
you  to create a “Cohabitation Agreement”. This doesn’t have to
be 50 pages long, nor  cost you thousands in attorney fees.
Here are links to a couple of simple ones  on the Internet:
(you can do your own search if you prefer)

You may want to download one or both of these documents and
modify them to suit  your needs. After you’ve set the “ground
rules”, you might want to have a  lawyer review it to make sure
that it will continue to protect you and your partner.

There is a wealth of information on the web about the issues I’ve
discussed in  this article. You might want to go to your
favorite search engine and look for  web pages that discuss
“Cohabitation” or “living together” and see what you can  find.
As long as both partners have a good understanding of the other’s
goals  and expectations in moving in together, the possible
pitfalls, and the benefits,  this can be one of the most
wonderful experiences of your life.

Good luck!