According to the Pew Research Center, 48% of adults believe moving in with a partner before marriage is one of the keys to relationship success. However, if you’ve seen the movie The Break-Up, you may have found yourself wondering if Brooke (Jennifer Aniston) and Gary (Vince Vaughn) believed they fell into the 13% of adults who believe cohabiting doesn’t aid in the success of marriage at all. As exciting as it can be to feel you’ve reached the next point in your relationship, moving in together is not always enough to sustain a relationship in the long run—especially if kids are in the mix.
But deciding to move in together is a normal part of evolving relationships. Some couples may conceive a child before they live together or may already have children from a prior relationship and are blending families.
When you and your partner decide to merge lives—and babies or kids are involved—there are some important conversations to have. Since different dynamics can impact a relationship when moving in together, here are three things to make sure you talk about beforehand.
Discuss Why You Want to Live Together
It was once widely believed that cohabiting was linked to divorce for those who decide to get married. However, University of Maryland Professor Phillip Cohen discovered an 18% reduction in divorce rates over a 10-year period. Instead of looking at why cohabitation leads to divorce, more people are looking at why it works for some people (which actually has a lot to do with social inequalities—but that’s for another article).
Statistics aside, figuring out you and your partner’s “why” on moving in together is something that needs to be discussed.
According to the Pew Research Center, 59% of adults between the ages of 18 and 44 have lived with someone they’re not married to. You and your partner may have chosen not to get married or one or both of you may not be ready. Even if you and your partner haven’t discussed marriage, cohabitation is a big step in a relationship that deserves some thoughtful conversations.
Discuss You and Your Partner’s Habits and Preferences
How many times have you spent the night at your partner’s place only to notice something that you wouldn’t necessarily do in your own home? This can look like leaving balled-up pieces of napkins on every possible surface or letting dishes pile up in the kitchen sink. It’s not about trying to pick a fight with your partner as much as it’s about creating an environment where you and your partner are on the same page.
It’s also possible you have different ideas for how that environment should look. It may seem small, but you don’t want to wait until move-in day to realize you actually hate the sofa your partner wants to place in the living room. To help minimize disagreements about differing decor ideas in your home, talk about your vision before moving in together.
One habit that shouldn’t be overlooked is the way you and your partner handle finances. It’s been said that money is the root cause of arguments in relationships. It’s possible that you prefer to make debit purchases while your partner relies solely on their credit cards. To avoid a lot of financial surprises, talk about the relationship both of you have with money and how you’ll be managing the household costs.
If Kids are Involved, Discuss How Changes Will Affect Them and Factor in Co-parenting
If you’re already a parent, then you are probably aware that kids love a good routine, whether it’s bath time or bedtime. The same goes for their living environment. As exciting as it might feel to know you’re moving in with your partner, it’s important to give kids time to adjust. If one or both partners have children, these are some of the most important conversations to have with each other, and then with the kids.
Starting the Conversation
It’s easy to forget that children are more aware than we give them credit for, but having a conversation with them about this upcoming change is essential. To help gauge how your child may feel about living with your partner and their children (if they are a parent too), here are a couple of conversation starters:
- “Mommy and ______ have been spending a lot of time together lately. How would you feel if they were to live here with us?”
- “I know ________ brings their kids with them when they visit. Do you feel comfortable when they are here or when we visit them?”
Moving in Gradually
Try not to rush the process. According to an article written by the family support organization Family Lives, consider staying the night at each other’s homes while the children are present.
Start off with one night during the weekend and, based on the children’s responses, you can progress to more. This helps kids adjust more gradually.
Merging Parenting Styles
From there, you and your partner should discuss your parenting styles. Who makes decisions regarding discipline? If co-parenting, how will the other co-parent(s) be involved? If parallel parenting, how will communication with the other parent be handled? These are important ongoing conversations and can position you to support each other when tough parenting moments occur.
Moving in with your partner is a huge step. Nothing in life is perfect, so don’t expect the process to be either. Merging your lives together is about choosing the next step in your relationship. It should go without saying, but your relationship and its success don’t have to be measured by statistics or what’s shown in pop culture. You and your partner get to decide what will or won’t work for you.