Illustration by Anja Silbar
Moving in together is one of the most momentous steps a couple can take—possibly even more than marriage, at least when it comes to the rhythm of everyday life. Before the big move, every time you saw each other was deliberate and special; now you’re picking up each other’s socks and witnessing one another’s weird bathroom habits. But with a little intentionality, cohabiting can be fun, gratifying, and even sexy.
We posed the question to our Instagram followers and Dame Lab Facebook members: What’s your number one piece of advice for a couple that’s about to take the domestic plunge?
The number one word we got was: communication. It’s time to make the implicit very, very explicit. "If you need space, ask for it,” said one person on Instagram. “If you need help with chores, ask!” Another Instagram follower agreed: “Set clear expectations,” they told us. “No one is a mindreader.” Dame Lab members had the same idea. One of them suggested getting very specific about your desires and boundaries ahead of time: “Ground rules, housework, cooking, bills, all that. The more you discuss, the smoother it’ll go.” One person mentioned prioritizing and even scheduling sex. Several of you recommended a written agreement, especially when it comes to finances. “It's not sexy, it's not fun, but it relieves a ton of stress if things ever go bad,” another person wrote on Dame Labs. “You need to lay out in advance who pays for what.”
“If someone needs some space or quiet, give it. It’s not against you!”
Our Dame Labs moderator, Sandra, emphasized the importance of communicating even when you’re supremely annoyed at each other: “You’re going to argue,” she wrote. “Learn how to do so constructively and don’t let arguments get stuck in a cycle. If the convo is going nowhere, take a walk, a drive, or go see a movie by yourself with your phone off. It’s easy to have the same argument over and over when you’re living with someone, so recognizing when it happens and trying to break the cycle is super necessary.”
Many people also insisted that everyone needs to protect their inevitable need for space—which doesn’t mean you don’t love your partner or don’t want to live with them. “Have a space you can go when you need to be alone,” one person wrote on Instagram. “Take yourself out to a weekly date/lunch,” suggested another. This also includes being understanding of your partner’s desires, too: “If someone needs some space/quiet, give it,” one person wrote. “It’s not against you!”
One member of Dame Labs floated the idea of separate bedrooms, or at least having the option, “even if it's just a really comfy sofa or guest bed,” they wrote. If your budget allows for it, this separate sleeping space comes in handy, “especially if you/your partner works odd hours, struggles with insomnia, snores, etc. Having another place to sleep, and no-fault policy for using it, can head off SO MANY issues.”
Living together also means you’re going to witness some very intimate rituals; a certain amount of mystery loss can’t be avoided. But some of you told us that trying to maintain a bit of privacy pays off. "Many years ago my now-husband and I moved in together, and it's always been unspoken that neither bothers the other in the restroom or when showering ( unless it's a party of two!),” wrote a Dame Labs member. “We share in everything, but have silently agreed that when I walk in to him playing Candy Crush on the pot, or he walks in to see me peeling a feminine napkin out of my panties...it takes away those little ‘acts of privacy’ that keep a relationship interesting and fresh.”
Remember, “Do NOT give up your ability to leave if necessary,” as someone wrote on Facebook. Moving in together does not have to be a permanent decision, especially if both people maintain some level of financial and emotional independence. Living with someone should be a conscious, active, intention choice: “Remind yourself every once in a while of the reason you chose to do this,” wrote a Dame Labs member. And of course, cohabiting is not for everyone. One Instagram follower’s top piece of advice for couples moving in? “Don’t.”