From making a plan beforehand to the importance of retaining a sphere of your own space, the experts weigh in

Moving in with a partner is a big step and there are many things to consider.

For example, are you ready, are you at that ‘stage’ of your relationship, how will you divide your space, and bed, with someone else and what if their living habits rub you up the wrong way?

In order to avoid persistent squabbling over whose turn it is to wash up or feeling like you no longer have your own space, The Independent spoke to a relationship therapist, intuitive empath and couple who live together about the best way to navigate your new move. 

Christine Northam, a therapist at Relate relationship counselling, says before moving in with someone it is important to bear in mind why you are making that step. 

“You need to think very carefully about this because it could be seen by your partner, friends and family as a commitment to your partner that you may not be ready to make,” Northam told The Independent. “Decide whether you are moving in together because you see a future together or does it just suit you both financially?  Is it just that circumstances mean it is an option or is it something you truly want?  

“For some couples, an opportunity comes up to move in together and one is dead keen while the other us unsure.  You both need to want to do it. It is best to have some kind of rationale as to why you are doing it. There is a financial aspect as well as an emotional aspect.”

Rose, 24, and Sam, 27, from London, moved in together 18 months ago after dating for a year. 

“Sam’s tenancy ran out and we thought we would give it a go. I don’t think we ‘knew’, but we wanted to see. If you never take a chance then the relationship is just static,” Rose says.

For them, the chance paid off and they are now renting their second property and looking to buy in the next few years. However, just like with most newly cohabiting couples, there has been the odd issue.

“I have definitely had a go at Sam a few times for not cleaning,” Rose says. “Sam grew up in a house of boys and I grew up in a house of girls so we have had to learn a few things.”

Sam says he has had to become “less messy” while living with Rose while she has “chilled out a little bit” about having the house spotless.

Jean Harner, the author of Clear Home Clear Heart, says the way to manage different personality types when it comes to clutter and mess is to think about the other person’s current home situation before you move in together.

“So before you move in with someone, think about what their current space looks like, because they’re not likely to change their ways,” she told The Independent. “If you’re uncomfortable with their clutter, or alternatively, if you’re afraid to drop a crumb on their pristine floor, it’s time for a conversation about each of your individual needs in your new place together, including what compromises you can each agree to.”

Similarly, Northam draws on the same advice suggesting couples sketch out a plan on how to deal with any personal differences to ensure they do not culminate in a full-blown argument.

“Discuss what it has been like in the past when you have shared with other people.  What worked and what didn’t when it came to dividing up chores? Listen to each other and make sure you both input, then sketch out a plan.  Talk openly and honestly with each other about how you feel about chores and what you would prefer to do if possible. If there are points you feel particularly strongly about then say...  It is about modelling how cooperative you can be in the future.  If you can you can get this right you can get lots of other things right in your relationship - use it as a challenge.”

And if those arguments do happen, you need to let the feeling of anger pass before calmly sitting down and listening to each other, Northam says.

 

“Don’t use blaming language. Instead, if you partner isn’t pulling their weight, ask 'how do you think it makes me feel?' Take the bull by the horns and say 'this is what we agreed and it doesn’t seem to be happening.  What do you suggest we do about it?' Don’t take responsibility yourself -  instead hand it back to them."

Household maintenance and chores aside, another issue that can arise when living with someone else in such close proximity is whether you feel you are saying goodbye to your own personal space. Harner stresses the importance of retaining these individual spaces clarifying that you do not have to give them up just because you are settling down with someone.

“It can be so tempting, in your initial enthusiasm, to want to merge into total 'togetherness', but in fact, some boundaries are essential,” she told The Independent. “Each of you should define some part of the space that is yours and yours alone, whether that is a room, closet or even just a shelf. You will have plenty of other opportunities for togetherness."

Rose and Sam have specific sides of the bed, sofa and places at dinner but wonder if this has just happened out of habit. As far as making space for each other goes, Sam says there was a “cull of my trainers” as well as a throw-out of many t-shirts he no longer wears in order to clear enough space for two people in a bedroom.

Undoubtedly, living together can take your relationship to a new, more intense level where no matter how well you thought you knew each other before, you reach a new level of comfort and intimacy.

As Rose says: “I feel like we are more comfortable with each other. There is literally nowhere to hide, for example, we wouldn’t have talked about bowel movements before we lived together. Well, I wouldn’t have anyway.”

Jean Haner, Clear Home Clear Heart, Hay House UK, £12.99, is available now.

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