When the Little Mermaid traded her voice for the chance to pursue Prince Eric you probably didn’t stop to consider the sacrifices she was making. Instead, you watched sea creatures and birds cheer on their first kiss, and a rainbow appear as they tied the knot.
You know what you didn’t get to see? Eric and Ariel arguing over recycling while unpacking their first kitchen together.
Such a big transition warrants a careful look, and with decades of pop culture pushing happy-couple-clichés on you, it can be hard to know what to consider before signing a lease with your significant other.
When you move in together, pay more attention to what your relationship needs rather than what society tells you it should. These 8 important questions, laden with tips from millennial dating experts, will help you ignore the external nonsense, and ensure this big step is good for you as two individuals in a unique relationship.
1. Why are you moving in together?
Whether this transition is born out of convenience or not doesn’t really matter if you’re both ready for it, but be brave when you question the motivations for the move.
Maybe your lease is up so the timing is more right than the dynamic. It takes courage to end something comfortable. Remember, your commitment to your own happiness is more important than a commitment to a landlord.
2. Where do you see this relationship going?
You two may have been a slow boil with a ‘just seeing how things go’ approach at the beginning, but there’s nothing chill about moving in together.
Have a serious conversation about your relationship before signing a lease together. It may not be relevant today, but before you share an address, make sure any big plans you have for yourself won’t stand in the way of you sharing a life together.
No matter how good you are at moving like an adult, moving sucks, and moving out because of a break up sucks even more. Being upfront about your expectations for your relationship long-term will make sure moving in together will be worth more than a few good tiktoks.
3. How are your finances?
Get ready to worry about bills, bills, bills. And renters insurance, and groceries, and a bunch of other expenses. All those things that were none of your business at the beginning of your relationship could become your problem.
Even couples who choose to keep finances completely separate should know what they’re getting themselves into when relying on someone else. Talking finances is especially important if you’re going to end up splitting most things. NYC dating expert Lindsey Metselaar, who also hosts of ‘We Met at ACME,’ suggests ripping off the bandaid when it comes to talking money:
“You start splitting basically everything, so make sure you know each other’s financial situations ahead of time.”
You may decide that one of you will cover more rent and utilities, or that you’re going to split everything 50/50. Either way, the decision should be based on both your financial realities.
About one-third of couples report money as their number one source of conflict, according to Investopedia. So just be real about any hidden debts, or trust funds, that could change the dynamic of your relationship and the finances of your new home.
4. What household responsibilities are off-limits for you?
It’s easy to portray yourself as put together and a master of adulting at the beginning of a relationship, but once you throw cohabitation into the mix, your bad habits will show up sooner or later. Aatara Johnson, millennial dating guru from the Tarascope podcast, suggests talking about the new house dynamics:
“Who’s paying what bills, grocery shopping, cleaning the house, cooking, etc.? You don’t want to assume your partner’s responsibilities and then have those assumptions lead to unnecessary arguments.”
Nobody likes a sink full of dirty dishes, but if you like touching sponges even less, let bae know not to count on you. Maybe you can’t stand sorting the recyclables but excel at keeping track of utilities. Your new apartment will be full of chores and tasks, so there’s bound to be something to barter with.
You don’t have to become Martha Stewart to stay lovable, but be honest about your shortcomings and deal-breakers to keep each other accountable.
5. What are you afraid to share with your partner?
Moving in together is a great time to check in about how you can show yourself a little more self-acceptance, and an important opportunity to let your partner provide that same kind of validation for you. Christen Turner, of Matchmaking for Millennials, suggests a practice run.
“Live in each other’s spaces for at least one week, be honest about who you are and what you do in your space.”
No, we’re not just talking about how you bought a pack of socks to delay laundry day that one time…
There’s plenty of stigma surrounding things like mental health, imperfect families, and past relationships, but a healthy relationship means accepting the hard parts too. (Here’s 52 questions to bring you closer together and be honest in new ways.)
6. What does ‘me-time’ mean to you?
Even if you’re lucky enough to be moving in with your favorite person in the world, there are going to be nights when you hate each other. It might have everything to do with a tough day at work, but the day will come when the sound of your favorite person in the world breathing will make you want to scream.
Being able to say ‘I love you, but I need you to not talk to me for the next hour’ is one way to get your ‘me-time’ in. Another is staying invested in your friendships. Millennial Dating Expert Ari Taylor, advises to keep your own identity:
“You should keep your own identity. Even when you’re consumed with a romantic relationship it’s important to continue to nourish other relationships.”
Don’t forget you’re not the only person in the relationship who had friends before you met, so give each other the personal space to stay individuals, too.
7. How can you keep your relationship special after the move?
Big milestones, like moving in together, can feel like a finish line, but the best relationships are a work in progress… forever. Watching ‘The Good Place’ may have been your special thing in its first season, but now that you’re together on the couch more nights a week than not, keeping your special from becoming your mundane is hard.
Nicole Amaturo, a personal growth and self-love coach, warns not to abandon romance:
“It’s so easy to forget about dating each other when moving in together because we confuse general time being in each other’s company with actual quality, intimate time together. And there’s a HUGE difference.”
8. What are your expectations for your lifestyle?
Whether you’re planning on an organic-only policy, or rigging the whole place to a smart home system, make sure you’ve made your preferences and expectations clear.
Turner warns that ‘silent expectation is the death of any relationship.’
The good news is that the two of you get to create your new normal. So if you can’t stand throwing away food or are committed to a no-shoes-policy, make your preference clear before calling the movers.
Moving in together can be a big decision, even when it feels perfectly right. Dinner plans are now together by default, and that’s no small adjustment, even for the most codependent among us.
As long as you’re as committed to clear communication as you are to each other, you can relax. Even if there’s a villainous sea witch trying to break you up, you both have voices and the tools to identify how to make each other feel at home.
Now, figure out how to cram in both of your furniture into your new small living room, and while you’re at it apply for Lemonade renters insurance, to cover your stuff and more in your new happy home.