So, you and the S.O. are taking the plunge and signing a lease together. Congrats! It’s a major step for any relationship, and an exciting time to become closer and start syncing up your lives even more than they already were. There are tons of benefits of going from playing house to actually living in one together.
Real talk for a sec, though: Living with anyone—especially your partner—has challenges. You’ll have to get used to each other’s rhythms, which, take it from me, you can’t know everything about until you live together. Some of those habits will click with your own—your taste in Netflix, maybe, or your commitment to healthy eating—but others won’t (think different expectations for cleanliness or rubbing each other the wrong way about things you had no idea pissed you off until now).
That’s why we talked to 10 women with ample experience in this department about the biggest things they wish they’d known to expect before moving in—so they won’t take you off guard when you do.
Don’t Assume Time Together will be Built-In.
“After my now-husband and I moved in together, I realized how different our schedules are, and how if we didn’t make a point of it, we might barely spend any waking time together. I think I assumed that we’d be spending tons of time together at home, but I get up early, he works late, I like to chill and recuperate on weekends, and he’s more likely to be out playing frisbee, riding his motorcycle, or whatever. So we had to learn to make a point of having dates, planning dinners at home, and together time.” –Blair, 29, San Francisco
Divvy up Chores—Ahead of Time.
“One major struggle of living together is cleaning! My husband and I have totally different concepts of what a clean house looks like—meaning his doesn’t quite live up to mine—and that’s something we are still trying to work out. I wish we’d talked about how we might reconcile our different standards of living before we’d merged our stuff and our spaces.” –Samantha, 30, Los Angeles
Find New Opportunities for Romance.
“Don’t laugh, but after I moved in with my girlfriend, little things like surprising her with dinner or picking up her dry cleaning became aww-worthy. When you live together, life’s more mundane moments tend to take over, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have their own sweetness. Having a glass of wine waiting when your S.O. gets home, writing them a little note that surprises them when you’re out of town—these tiny things are the stuff of lasting love.” –Sasha, 27, Los Angeles
Rules Can Help Keep the Romance.
“Making up very specific rules right from the get-go has been more sanity-saving than I would have predicted—and I only wish I could have implemented more! For example, we have a rule that whomever stays in bed last in the morning has to make the bed. My husband almost always follows this rule, whereas new rules (like never leaving dirty dishes on the coffee table overnight) haven’t stuck with him as well.” –Carly, 34, New York City
Have a Date Night in the Kitchen.
“My husband and I rarely cooked for each other—or even by ourselves—when we were dating. He was so cute when I moved in and I started to make us dinners; he said, ‘I had no idea you could cook—I better step up my game!’ And then when we started getting Blue Apron deliveries, he was empowered to spearhead some dinners, too. I think we were both pleasantly surprised about what we literally brought to the table after we moved in together.” –Kate, 32, New York City
Consider a Cleaner.
“I wasn’t prepared for how frequently my now-husband would invite his family to stay with us and how little he’d do to prep for each of their visits. The first time his parents came, I tried dividing up the to-do list between us—me cleaning the bathroom, him washing the extra bed sheets, for example—and I was mortified when I came home from work, the future in-laws were there, and my guy hadn’t done anything on his list. We stayed up until midnight waiting for their bedsheets to finish drying! But I refuse to turn into a maid every time my husband invites people to stay with us—so I’m hiring a maid for once-a-month deep cleanings that will calm a little bit of my anxiety about having a well-kept house.” –Krista, 35, New York City
Get on the Same Page About Your Amount of Stuff.
“I’m a not-quite hoarder, and my fiancé is an uber-minimalist—literally, he prefers completely white walls. So when we moved in together, we talked about how to meet in the middle, so that I wasn’t overwhelming him with my massive collections of clothing, books, and memorabilia. We compromised on how much art we’d have on the walls, how many books I could keep, and the fact that he wasn’t allowed to purge any of my stuff without asking—and vice versa. That respectful agreement has made coexisting in a small Brooklyn apartment so much easier.” –Emily, 29, New York City
Set Aside Time for Sex.
“Seriously, this rule isn’t just for middle-aged married couples. When you sleep together every single night, share a bathroom, and fight over who does the dishes, it’s easy to let sex slip into to-do list territory, where it feels more like an item to check off than something to luxuriate and enjoy. My boyfriend and I allot whole mornings, afternoons, and sometimes an entire Sunday to hanging out in bed and letting whatever will happen, happen. That way, we don’t feel rushed, and it keeps the physical chemistry alive.” –Sarah, 30, New York City
When You Need it, Take Your Space.
“Just because you’ve surrendered your individual leases doesn’t mean you have to surrender alone time. I didn’t realize that when I first moved in with my partner—we were on top of each other seemingly 24/7, and wound up bickering over stupid stuff because neither of us was getting quite enough alone time. Now, we’ll check in about each of our schedules for the week, and if he has a work happy hour, I’ll come straight home to have some me time, or he’ll get sucked into his favorite video games while I’m out at brunch. Coordinating alone time is just as important as keeping date nights when you live under the same roof.” –Courtney, 24, Portland, ME
Prepare to Let Some Shit Go.
“I was forced to learn which fights were worth having, and which I needed to start letting go. Nitpicking my girlfriend about when she’s planning on washing her dishes or why she feels compelled to blast EDM in the shower at 9AM—yes, really—was only putting her on the defensive, and making me feel like a nag. Now, if something’s really bothering me, I bring it up gently, and not when I’m super irritated. There’s literally no faster way to guarantee a fight. Also, I let the girl play the music even though it annoys me, because life’s too short, you know? Pick your battles, is all I have to say.” –Chloe, 26, New York City
Originally published September 2016. Updated September 2017.