What are the pitfalls of moving in with your significant other?
August 6, 2010 7:56 AM   Subscribe

My girlfriend and I are planning on moving in together later this year. I am 30-years old and have never lived with a significant other. I have lived with roommates in the past and for the past three years have lived alone. My question is: what sort of problems should I be aware of when moving in with a signfiicant other?

Obviously, some problems will be dependent on the personalities of the people involved, so I am looking more for the general sorts of issues that arise when couples move in together. I have grown pretty accustomed to living by myself and have compltete control over my apartment. I am not afraid of giving up some of that control and finding compromises in areas where her and I have different priorities (i.e. level of clutter). I am excited to move in with her and when we do move it will be to a new apartment, rather than our current apartments.
posted by Falconetti to Human Relations (39 answers total) 39 users marked this as a favorite
Make sure you give each other plenty of space, especially if your apartment isn't that large. Sometimes, you or your girlfriend will want to be alone, and that's okay. Close the door or take a walk.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:57 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Agree and be clear on the terms and conditions of your co-habitation.

You are not just sharing a flat, but also electricity, heat, food, cooking, cleaning, etc. etc. etc.
posted by three blind mice at 8:04 AM on August 6, 2010

You should be nice and share your stuff. Also, if it's cluttered and dishes are dirty or whatever, and you're annoyed, let it go.
posted by anniecat at 8:05 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Dishes. You will argue about dishes. Who's turn it is to clean up, who is going to clear the dishwasher, etc.

Same can be said for vacuuming, laundry, scrubbing the toilet, etc. You will have to adjust and find a system that works for you both concerning the details of household chores. Almost every couple struggles with this at first, so be aware that it could be one of the problems.

Decorating will also be a task, usually it is a fun one, but it can cause problems when she doesn't want your gigantic tiki mask hanging over the TV, or you don't want to paint the dining room powder blue.

Luckily the excitement of a new appartment and new life together will help you get through it all, just be sure that if something is causing either of you some resentment than it should be discussed right away so that at least if someone doesn't get their way on one thing then they will be able to get their way on some other thing.
posted by Vindaloo at 8:09 AM on August 6, 2010

Talk beforehand about what housework is necessary, how often and who should do it. Does your partner think that the bath should be cleaned by having a bath in it every now and then?

Talk about how you will handle household expenses - groceries, bills, and then big things like a new TV. What would you do if one of you wanted to get an expensive cable package and the other didn't? What if one of you wants an expensive holiday?

What if one of you wants to go out more and one of you wants to stay in?

Will you go on holiday together? What will you do with your holiday allowance?

Talk about debt and savings, if either of you have any. What would you do if one of you lost their job?
posted by emilyw at 8:10 AM on August 6, 2010

Pick up your stinky socks and keep the dishes washed, no matter whose "turn" it is.
Less is more. Don't let the place resemble a furniture retailer.
Oh, and most importantly: she gets two-thirds of the closet. It Is Written.
posted by BostonTerrier at 8:13 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, you guys may fall into a rhythm of staying in when you were always going out when you lived separately. Don't blame the other person for it. Just plan activities and going out times.

Don't stonewall or ignore each other while you're in the same apartment. If you have something to say, say it.
posted by anniecat at 8:13 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

From my experience, living together was the same as hanging out togetehr all the time. In the 3 experiences I had, one of us hung out at the others constantly - so it wasn't really a drastic change in lifestyle.

One thing that could be possibly annoying to either you or her is cleaning. I know it sounds like a stand-up comedy joke - but it's true. My boyfriend doesn't help clean up makes a mess. He does all the cooking and bug killing - so I usually let it slide.

It really does depend on the personalities though. I, for instance, don't need a lot of space or constant attention. Others may need a lot of attention at first, they may rearrange furniture when you're at work, have OCD tendencies, etc.

You will have to compromise on things such as who cooks - who does the dishes, home decor, buying/placing furniture, what to watch on TV (if necessary), making sure the other person doesn't mind having guests, etc.

And money. if you're both splitting the bills. If someone is a bigger spender - that could cause problems. or if someone is downright cheap. As long as the bills are paid and you're not saving up for something, I don't think it should matter what the other person does with their money. My boyfriend keeps spending his on guitar equipment. And well. Oh well, i guess.
posted by KogeLiz at 8:20 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are going to fight about money. Priorities of savings, what you spend on, how you spend it (cash or credit) are all stuff that you have done on your own, and your behaviors up to this point have been your own based on your own values and history. Your S.O. has her own values and priorities, some of which will not mesh with yours. Think carefully about your essential priorities, and also about the things on which you are willing to be flexible. Then talk it out, even though it seems boring and pedestrian. Topics like "Are you willing to give up a vacation to max out your IRA?" may seem like conversation killers, but being on the same page will save you grief down the road.
posted by pickypicky at 8:21 AM on August 6, 2010

This previous question might help.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:25 AM on August 6, 2010

Best answer: Remember that all of your behaviour is on display. One of you is going to watch more TV than the other, play more video games than the other, sleep in longer on the weekends than the other, drink more beer than the other, eat wonderbread and nutella instead of dinner more than the other, waste hours on wikipedia more than the other.

All of these things that you're used to thinking of being nobody's business but yours are suddenly going to be hanging out there.

I mention this for two reasons. First, you should prepare yourself at least a little bit for her to occasionally say something like "You're playing that game again tonight?" (or whatever your individual leisure activity might be). It's not an attack on you and, truth be told, most of us can gain from having someone to push us from our path-of-least-resistance at least a little. And secondly, you should try to remember that she's not used to having to justify her behaviour to anyone else either. So keep your mouth shut at least some of the time when she pours herself a drink at two in the afternoon on a saturday or whatever.
posted by 256 at 8:36 AM on August 6, 2010 [16 favorites]

Make sure you each have an "office" space that is yours and yours alone. Being together is great, but we all need alone time to recharge our batteries.

There will be compromises in setting up all the rooms - look for common ground and make sure that you BOTH give up as much ground as you take.

My husband likes ONE color. I like lots of colors. So we have rooms painted in a variety of shades that fall within that color group (my office is the polar opposite muah-haha!), and we're both happy.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:42 AM on August 6, 2010

"Clean" means different things to different people. Come to an agreement on what it means to the two of you. Set up a chore list and schedule if necessary.

Have you two agreed on how you'll split the bills, who will pay the bills, maintain the budget, etc? These things are very important to hash out from the start. Also, consider a contingency plan of what you'll do if one of you is laid off.

Discuss the thermostat, what temperature you're accustomed to setting it to, and how often you're willing to turn on the AC/Heat. This is still a point of contention for myself and my husband. My husband prefers to have a cold bed to snuggle into at night--whereas I'd much rather turn the AC off just before bed and rely on the fan for cooling instead.
posted by litnerd at 8:48 AM on August 6, 2010

for me, one really big thing was to assign a couple spaces that were expressly mine and his. they didn't have to be big- we lucked out and got a one bedroom apartment with three closets, so one is mine, one is his, one is shared stuff. this way if either of us has annoying stuff the other doesn't want to see/ deal with all the time, it goes in our own closet. also, this way if one person cleans, there's a spot to put the other person's stuff where it won't get lost. (theoretically. he still tosses my clothes into the hamper in his closet all the time, and it makes me crazy, but i don't generally say much about it because i suppose its what i get for leaving my shit around.) but you get the point.

other than that, housecleaning seems to be the biggest problem, so just try to hang in there and be forgiving. like when it comes to dishes, i won't avoid them just because i did it 'last time.' if i know i have done it the last TWO or more times, then i will say something, but to alternate every single time is too hard to keep track of and not really worth it. and don't get hung up on dividing everything evenly. some people just like certain tasks more and are better at them. like, he vacuums obsessively- i don't know the last time i vacuumed. but he sucks at cleaning the counters, and sinks, so i pretty much always do that. so although we don't divide the tasks down the middle, overall i feel it's equal. just try at all costs to avoid accusing each other of not doing enough or say that you are doing more, because i think more often than not BOTH people feel this way and it's a fight that always ends badly. unless things are clearly one-sided, it's not worth nitpicking.

lastly, try to get out of the house sometimes. as much fun as it is to be around each other 24/7, i do look forward to the times when he goes out with his friends and i get the place to myself for an evening. no matter how great living together is, some people just need alone time to recharge their batteries, and if you're around each other at home ALL THE TIME it won't take long before you start grating on each other. oh and one more thing- just try your best to be understanding. i had a sister who completely invaded my privacy all the time when growing up- not only stealing and reading diaries, etc but making fun of me mercilessly for whatever she found. i now have a complex where i get very uncomfortable when people go through my things. i've been cohabitating for a while now but i'd still get edgy when people open things of mine, even like school notebooks, etc. and i also compulsively clear my internet history. it has nothing to do with him and he's understanding so thats all good.

good luck!
posted by lblair at 8:59 AM on August 6, 2010

Hair. They shed hair. It gets everywhere. Be prepared.
posted by sid.tv at 9:08 AM on August 6, 2010 [16 favorites]

Can you get a place with two bathrooms?
posted by Jacqueline at 9:09 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cohabitation creates its share of new issues, but mostly I find that it amplifies old ones. Many truisms about getting along in a relationship seemed epiphanic once we started living in the pressure cooker of a small apartment.

In particular: all victories in fights against your partner are Pyrrhic.
posted by Beardman at 9:22 AM on August 6, 2010 [3 favorites]

Also be aware that she probably farts and poops, as do you. This can surprise couples. Yes, you're still obligated to find her sexy even if she stinks up the bathroom.
posted by gregglind at 9:37 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

The person who does a chore gets more authority over how it's done.

Corollary: Chores should get assigned to the person who has strong feelings about the right way to do them. If you care deeply about loading the dishwasher in a special way, you have to do it, and she does another equal chore.
posted by willbaude at 10:02 AM on August 6, 2010 [6 favorites]

1) Don't confuse roommate issues with relationship issues. She left her dishes out because she's a slob, not because she doesn't really care about you.

2) The best way to do split up chores, if you can, is to assign chores to the person who cares more about how well the job is done. The neat-freak is in charge of cleaning, the foodie does the cooking and shopping, the organized one does the bills, etc. Other chores go to the one who's carrying a lighter burden.

3) Negotiating between having space and being together is something you have to do constantly and gracefully unless you're freakishly similar. I have my own office, (mostly) my own chair, and at least a couple of alone hours a day (when feasible.)
posted by callmejay at 10:03 AM on August 6, 2010 [4 favorites]

(I should add I get those alone hours by working from home, by staying up late, or both.)
posted by callmejay at 10:05 AM on August 6, 2010

I know this might sound stupid and immature, but always apologize if you pass gas and if you know you're going to, go to the bathroom or another room. Unless you guys think it's humorous and it's your kind of humor.
posted by anniecat at 10:20 AM on August 6, 2010

Congratulations for moving in together. It is a good and big step. I would suggest, do not make too many rules. Let things fall in place as you settle in together. You will be surprised to learn new things about each other with time. Be positive and understanding in conveying your ideas to each other.
posted by jassi at 10:25 AM on August 6, 2010

I second pretty much everything above, but I'd also like to stress the importance of communication. That's true in any relationship, but it's especially important when moving in together. Be aware of your own boundaries (as well as your reasons for them, and whether they're more flexible—or not—than you previously thought). I once found myself in a situation where I acquired a live-in boyfriend—more or less, a temporary situation turned into a permanent one—and the complete lack of communication was extremely damaging. Don't let things fester; have the difficult conversations. You'll both be better off for it.
posted by divisjm at 10:32 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

1) It may not be a popular suggestion, but buy and store some of your food separately (maybe have a shelf in the fridge/cupboard dedicated to each of you). It's annoying when you plan on snacking only to find that your SO has eaten it, and one person will nearly always eat more than the other.

2) At the same time, cooking together is one of the greatest couples-type-things that you can do. If it's not convenient to do most of the time, plan at least a few times per week just to hang out and cook together.

3) Figure out your finances beforehand, and make it clear who is sending in which bill (better yet, have one person pay them all and the other can just reimburse).

4) Don't put everything in one person's name though, because you should both be building credit.

5) Oh, and surprise her by having a meal waiting for her when she gets off work occasionally.
posted by coolguymichael at 10:48 AM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get used to watching horrible TV.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 10:49 AM on August 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

Can you get a place with two bathrooms?

Weird--we've never, ever had bathroom issues. Desk issues and TV issues and video game issues and dish issues, sure. But sharing a bathroom with him has been way easier than it was sharing one with, say, five sorority girls freshmen year of college.

Find a system for things like dishes and cleaning that work for you guys--in our first apartment, we had a double-basin sink, would stack our personal dishes on either side, then rotate dinner/dish duty for the dishes for shared meals. It mostly worked for us (though we're glad to have a dishwasher, these days). But even with a system, I'd advise you to, every once in awhile, do something nice for your significant other--do their dishes for them, pick up one of their chores for them when you have time. My husband and I do this, and it always makes us feel happy and appreciative. It's nice to have the person you love do something really kind for you every now and then.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:55 AM on August 6, 2010

You DO NOT have to go to anyone's family Christmas, Hanukkah, Thanksgiving or any other celebration.

It's perfectly fine, normal, and healthy to politely decline and say you're doing your own holiday thing.
posted by Grlnxtdr at 11:00 AM on August 6, 2010

If you all are the sort who cook a lot of your meals, part of figuring out bills is figuring out who does the grocery shopping/meal planning.

It's different for every couple, but if you are ostensibly splitting chores 50/50 when in reality one person is assuming more of the work, it puts that person in the position of doing most of the work or enforcing the split. When one person has to act as enforcer it tends to lead to resentment on both sides. Sometimes it's easier to acknowledge that one person is assuming more of the work and adjust accordingly so that everyone is happy. Maybe that means hiring a cleaning service. It's all up to you.
posted by mandymanwasregistered at 11:14 AM on August 6, 2010

She may be nocturnal and you may not. Or vice versa
posted by A189Nut at 11:19 AM on August 6, 2010

If there are pets involved (yours or hers or both), introduce them early and be sure both parties understand what the critters need and what the house rules are. If she's used to sleeping with a dog on the bed and you're horrified by the idea, you need to negotiate this early on. Also, you need to discuss feeding/walking/litterboxes/cages/cleaning/etc., because pets have a lot of cleanliness and chore needs that the non-pet person may not have dealt with before.

If any of the parents or relatives are likely to have a fit about "living in sin", discuss it early on and don't repeat whatever they say to you in private until you're able to laugh at it. My now in-laws were all "why don't you just marry that girl?!?!" to my husband and my mother asked my husband how his family felt about "little bastards". If we hadn't known my mother, who has long since come around, was going to have a fit, I'm sure her comments would have been more hurtful. As it was, we just eyerolled and now it's a funny story to tell our friends.
posted by immlass at 11:42 AM on August 6, 2010

Agree on the importance of communication. Don't assume things. It shocked me when a partner turned out to resent that I never did any of his laundry. I never lived in a household where people did each other's laundry and actually get annoyed when people try to do mine. This same partner never said please or thank you; he thought that was "assumed" between partners. He's not a rude person; that's just how he was raised. Especially if you are new to cohabiting, you may run up against different cultures or ways people were brought up; don't be quick to attribute something like that to the other person being selfish.
posted by BibiRose at 11:49 AM on August 6, 2010

There's also this AskMeFi question from last month about divergent temperature preferences.
posted by Beardman at 11:54 AM on August 6, 2010

Not to be harsh, but I think the old standard about not moving in with someone unless you would marry them tomorrow is excellent advice. (Unless you live in NY or SF or somewhere with crazy-high rent.)
posted by Lesser Shrew at 3:39 PM on August 6, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, thanks for all the great responses. We live in NY, but moving in together is not about saving money (although that is a definite upside and rules out two bathrooms most likely). Luckily, we both are pretty good about talking through issues before they become problems, so many of these responses will help shape our discussions. We will be moving somewhere in Brooklyn, probably what realtors call South Slope. Anyway, I welcome more suggestions of course.
posted by Falconetti at 4:10 PM on August 6, 2010

From being the Felix in a living situation, one of the most important things I learned is that when I want something done, it's my job. It's not a question of whether your roommate *should* be doing something. No, really.

Try again = "Well, I did the dishes last night, so Oscar should do them tonight!"
You got it! = "I want the dishes done daily. Oscar literally doesn't give a shit if they're not done unless his parents are coming over. It's up to me to do them daily because that's my thing."

If I did them every night and didn't expect help from Oscar, eventually he would offer to do them. Also, if I started cleaning the house, Oscar would offer to help. YMMV.
posted by moons in june at 4:42 PM on August 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

If there is a significant amount of theater in your romance, a significant amount of suspended disbelief, this could be damaged as you each move in behind the scenes. Everyone's shit really does stink. On up days, you'll see the prep: facial hairs plucked and zits popped and toenails clipped and seventeen different lotions applied and so on. On down days, you'll see her without the benefit of any of that. (And vice versa, of course, Mr Metrosexual.) To minimize this, try to keep your grodier activities to yourself. Shut the bathroom door before you go into full maintenance mode. When you come out, come out smelling good and looking clean. Give her the sausage, not the sausage factory.

And get good robots.

If you have the space and the money, buy a good dishwasher out of your own money (don't try to split the cost out of different savings accounts or anything like that if you can help it -- you are doing this for you both) and become the master of it. It's easy as hell to wash the dishes when all that means is loading it up, turning it on, and unloading it an hour or so later. Easy, but you'll get a lot of credit for it.

Likewise with clothes: if you have the space and the money, buy a good clothes washer out of your own money and become the master of it. Washing clothes is easy when you aren't doing it by hand, but she'll give you a lot of credit for keeping her clothes clean and the laundry hamper empty.

If your robots keep the clothes and dishes clean, your life's a little easier.
posted by pracowity at 10:44 PM on August 6, 2010

Read this article. Then this one (including the link to the NY Times article in the 1st line). Learning to sleep with another person can be hard - don't let it be a deal breaker if simply sleeping in two different beds (or two rooms - for issues like snoring or vastly different work schedules) can lead to increased health and happiness in your daily life. Not to say there aren't benefits if you can work through the difficulties.

Don't let others' opinions determine what's right for you two (that actually applies to everything - not just sleep habits).
posted by birdsquared at 12:13 AM on August 7, 2010

Do not take each other for granted just because now you're constantly in each other's faces. Like mentioned above, just because you CAN be cozy lazy and squirrel up indoors all the time doesn't mean you shouldn't still try to make an effort occasionally to go on Real Dates and see each other as exciting. Aside from the super obvious stuff like being on the same page about chores and habits (all nicely covered upthread), that to me is the biggie. It is so easy to stop seeing each other as separate entities with inner lives that can still be foreign, yet to learn, exciting. Make an effort to still do that a bit.
posted by ifjuly at 9:08 AM on August 7, 2010

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