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Relationships

25 Things to Discuss Before Moving in Together

End goals, privacy, chores, and expectations about sex.

Key points

  • Cohabitation is a living arrangement where unmarried partners live together in an intimate relationship.
  • It can be beneficial for partners to talk about their preferences and expectations before moving in together.
  • Key pre-cohabitation discussion topics include communication, relationship negotiations, and household rules.
Victoria_Regen/Pixabay
Source: Victoria_Regen/Pixabay

Published in the June 2023 issue of Contemporary Family Therapy, a paper by Brown and colleagues discusses conversations that couples should have before entering into cohabitation.

What is cohabitation? Cohabitation refers to a living arrangement where people who are unmarried live together in an intimate relationship.

For a couple, the decision to live together is a major step, often indicative of a desire for greater intimacy and commitment. So, before the move, partners need to have conversations that help clarify their perceptions, preferences, and expectations.

Brown and collaborators divide pre-cohabitation conversations into relationship negotiations, household rules, and communication. These will be discussed below—in the form of questions partners need to ask each other before moving in together.

Relationship negotiations

Purpose of cohabitation

  • How permanent is the pre-cohabitation agreement? What is our end goal as a couple?
  • What are some problems that moving in together may trigger or exacerbate?
  • How will we share and organize the new space? Should we share our individual belongings or purchase new ones?
  • Does this location suit us both (e.g., proximity to family, friends, or work)?
  • How do we agree on the definitions of concepts, such as cohabitation, infidelity, monogamy, household rules, and shared labor?

Sex and romance

  • When or how frequently to discuss sex and intimacy—be it masturbation, pornography, contraception, frequency of sex, freedom to explore desires and fantasies, getting tested for STDs, or open relationships (e.g., swinging)?
  • What are the rules for discussing sex in front of other people?
  • Do we have the same expectations when it comes to date nights and holidays, including where to go, what to wear, and who pays?

Family, culture, and religion

  • How involved are we going to be with our own and each other’s families?
  • How to address family issues?
  • Which cultural traditions to share?
  • When to talk about sociopolitical issues, like the way race, gender, or disabilities affect our relationship?
  • How important is spirituality/religion to each of us and our families of origin?

Individual identities and shared identities

  • Do we plan to have separate spaces in the house (for some "me time")?
  • How to maintain our individual and shared time, goals, hobbies, and other relationships (e.g., friends, coworkers)?

Household rules

Chores

  • What is a flexible and fair way of splitting up the chores?
  • How to make decisions about grocery shopping (diets, brands), cooking (scheduling, leftovers), doing laundry (frequency, folding techniques), cleaning (vacuuming, doing the dishes), and outside maintenance (mowing the grass, shoveling snow)?

Budgeting, income, and debt

  • Do we have similar views regarding spending and saving, financial contribution, making shared purchases, bank accounts (joint vs. separate), debts (including debts from previous relationships), and systems of managing finances?
  • Should we make a budget (e.g., for travel, emergencies, large purchases)?
  • What are our financial resources (incomes, savings, and investments)? What about recurring expenses and bills?
  • When to revisit our financial goals?

Transportation

  • How to budget for transportation expenses—be it public transportation, renting a car, or maintaining a vehicle we own? How to share a car (e.g., drop-off schedule)?

Pets

  • Does either of us have any pet allergies? Who will be responsible for the costs and daily care of the pet(s)?

Guests

  • How long or frequently can we have guests over? How much notice is required?

Communication

Communication rules

  • When do we discuss relationship issues? Are we planning to use regular check-ins and, if needed, conflict resolution techniques or psychotherapy?

Privacy and social media

  • What is private? How do we differentiate privacy from secrecy?
  • How much time are we each going to spend on social media?
  • What are the expectations regarding posting about our relationship on social media?

Communication styles and needs

  • Should we set aside time to talk about our day, and to schedule time to discuss major relationship issues?
  • When bothered by an issue or feeling upset, how will each partner communicate those feelings? What verbal and non-verbal cues (gestures, body language) to look for?

LGBTQ issues (if relevant)

  • How “out” are each of us?
  • Might there be negative legal, financial, or social consequences to telling others about cohabitation? How to manage or reduce the negative consequences?

Logistics

  • What is each person’s daily routine?
  • How do we share our personal and professional schedules?

Goals and plans

  • What are each person’s plans and goals—be they related to physical health, mental health, emotional well-being, or finances and career development?
  • What are our future plans (e.g., marriage)?

Exit strategies

  • Do we have a plan for the possibility of relationship dissolution, including ways of dealing with legal issues?
  • How might we split the assets, liabilities, and debt? What about the marital home (e.g., mortgage)?

Takeaway

Many individuals who decide to live together do not take the time—or are not given the time—to have open and honest conversations that could help them learn about their partner’s desires, preferences, views, plans, routines, etc.

But relationship transitions can be very stressful without having these conversations. So, it may help to address communication needs and styles, sexual satisfaction, family relationships, division of chores, budgeting, or what to do if cohabitation does not work out.

Therefore, before moving in together, set aside the time needed to chat about the above issues. Consider these talks as opportunities to develop and improve skills in listening and expressing yourself, planning, perspective-taking, and building intimacy, which are skills needed for healthy romantic relationships.

However, if you find these discussions highly anxiety-provoking, or if you cannot come to an agreement on major issues, consider psychotherapy, particularly couples therapy.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.

Facebook image: GaudiLab/Shutterstock

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