My fiancee are moving in together. How can we make this successful?
May 18, 2017 9:55 AM   Subscribe

My fiancee are moving in together in about a month. We've been together for around three years. It's been a long time since I had a roommate. What tips can you provide about adjusting from living alone for years to co-habitating with the person that you are going to marry? Thanks!

If it's helpful information, she's a student and I'm a professional, so we both like things nice and quiet. We looked for and found a place together that we're both more of less satisfied with.
I have two cats that she's not too wild about (the cats will have a yard for supervised outdoors visits and plenty of room to run around).
We're living in a two bedroom so that we can sleep apart when one of us could use a night of better-quality sleep.
Both of us are fairly independent and used to spending quite a bit of time alone or not with each other (although she's more social than I am).

I'm really excited to move in with her and I love her to death, but I'm aware that there is going to be an adjustment period and I'd like to get some tips on how other people have navigated that so I can replicate the successes and (hopefully) avoid the failures. Thanks!
posted by Fister Roboto to Human Relations (20 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Doing stuff together is great but so is doing stuff apart. Some nights we will watch some netflix or play a board game or two and some nights she will get on her computer to work on her writing and I will internet/read/netflix watch stuff she doesn't like. Being doing EVERYTHING together all the time when you already live together can totally work for some people but we have found each having our own alone time too is really nice.
posted by Captain_Science at 10:19 AM on May 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Have a really clear division of labor regarding household chores that you're both 100% okay with and will not hold resentments over. My husband and I had a vague plan to "share" chores for our first years together, but once we really got down to specifics in dividing stuff up it put a stop to so many dumb arguments. If the trash needs to be taken out, I tell him and he does it. If we need eggs, he tells me and I go to the store. We have our things and we do them and that's that.
posted by something something at 10:19 AM on May 18, 2017 [25 favorites]

We're living in a two bedroom so that we can sleep apart when one of us could use a night of better-quality sleep.

Fantastic. Make one yours and one theirs, even if in the end you habitually sleep together. When me and my beloved moved in together we had an agreement that when we got home, we'd have a brief chat and then go off for half an hour to do our own thing. No getting shirty if someone needs alone time.

Equitable housework. My favourite measure of equitable is that everyone has the same amount of leisure time.
posted by threetwentytwo at 10:23 AM on May 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Plan some time occasionally, for each of you, where the other person is not in the home at all.

Equal amounts of leisure time is a good goal.

Don't get caught up in gender roles regarding who is more suited to which chores.
posted by TORunner at 10:47 AM on May 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Expect some things to change. Don't make assumptions. Be willing to communicate and compromise.

Expect the possibility of more conflict as the two of you try to figure out a new cohabitating groove.

Nthing labor discussion. Nail it all down. Also talk about how each of you envision certain tasks. Maybe one person likes laundry washed, dried and put away promptly and the other is content to have a basket of wrinkly clean clothes next to the dryer for a week. Who does this task and what timeline do they use if these differences exist?

Tease out beliefs about chores, discuss what you each have seen in domestic life and family roles growing up because I can guarantee it will show up somehow in the present. The more you talk about what you grew up with, the easier it is to have awareness when the past becomes present and the less likely you are to personalize or mis-attribute behaviors.
posted by crunchy potato at 10:50 AM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

I think the positive about cohabitation after living alone is that you are both used to taking care of things yourselves. Presumably, neither one of you is a stranger to doing dishes or taking out trash or cooking dinner. That's a great way to be with a spouse - cooperate on taking care of everything.

I think the bad thing is that about cohabitation after living alone is that you are both used to having your living spaces exactly how you want them, exactly how you left them. That will change.

Four things I've learned first hand:

1. You (as the current inhabitant) can take steps to help her feel the place is her home. (As opposed to moving into your place.) It can feel unequal and a little uncomfortable to be the one moving in. What you do can vary - rearranging furniture, painting the walls, hanging new art are all possibilities.

2. Thank her for everything she does. Always. My wife does this, and it's great.

3. The great thing about engagement and marriage is that you are making a long-term commitment. You're in it together. It helps to keep that in mind, it can turn a conflict into an opportunity to improve things.

4. The amount of toilet paper used will more than double, way more. Buy a bunch. Put a few rolls tucked away in reserve.
posted by Cranialtorque at 11:42 AM on May 18, 2017 [9 favorites]

Fantastic. Make one yours and one theirs, even if in the end you habitually sleep together.

I would recommend against this, because one of the best parts about moving in together is that you can now spend the night together without one of you having to do without your perfect lamp/pillow/nightstand/ipad and charger setup.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 12:08 PM on May 18, 2017

Evaluate all your stuff as a whole so she's not the only one throwing out her stuff - make it as if you're both moving into the space. It may even be helpful to move some things around so that it's new for both of you -- this prevents her from not knowing where anything is and having to ask about everything.
posted by batter_my_heart at 12:38 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Nthing everything already said, especially the toilet paper. I have no idea where it all goes. Okayokayigive & I were roommates before we were partners. We've been living together 3+ years and still have conversations about our home life & cohabitation.

An honest chat about housework makes a world of difference. Are there chores you actually LIKE doing? Absolutely abhor? Could care less? The sooner neither of you are entirely miserable about chores, the better. Also, discuss what each of you perceive as "clean" (they will be different), and find a middle ground.

Sit down and honestly talk about finances, if you haven't already. And I don't mean in a macro-level 'where do we want to be in 10 years'. How are joint bills going to be paid? Is one person (and their personal account) become the 'house manager', and track money? Are you splitting up who pays what bill? Are you going to open a joint card/account together for shared things and both pay into it? Are you saving up for your wedding? If so, how will that slot into your new budget structure? What about future planning (even if it's 'dump it into one spot and deal with it later')? Your budgeting will become both easier and harder at the exact same time.

Identifying/scheduling alone time is absolutely necessary. But also try to schedule together time as well. It can be a weekly 'date' night (even if that's just watching Netflix together), it can be a monthly trip to a show, it can be a 15 min errand out together that can normally be done alone. For instance, when we are both really busy, we try to schedule 'car wash dates' or 'Target run dates', just to make sure there is some bonding time.

I agree that you shouldn't necessarily have two separate beds, bonding happens even when you are asleep. You won't get used to sharing a bed with another person until you do it for a while. (And even then, sometimes the couch is REALLY nice.) However, you do need to identify individually spaces for each of you to escape to when needed.

Get a shared calendar. Put everything on it. Color code, at least by yours, theirs, both. Keep it up to date. Discuss it regularly.

Be open to communication, some bumpy roads, and enjoy!
posted by RhysPenbras at 12:46 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

If she's not wild about the cats, don't expect her to do cat-related chores or maintenance. Maybe don't even ask, except on rare occasion. Be conscientious about their boxes, and if they're damaging anything of hers.
posted by ApathyGirl at 1:11 PM on May 18, 2017 [8 favorites]

Best answer: You need to decide well before you move into the new place whose clothes will live wear. Closet fights are horrible.

You really need to know each other's bathroom habits in advance. And I don't mean closing the door or leaving the seat up or down. I mean, where the towels go to dry: rack, hook or over the shower rod. Where the toothpaste will live. Cup or little holder thing for the toothbrushes. Soap dish or no. Liquid soap or bar soap on the sink. Will _all_ personal care products be relegated to the bathroom. Again, here, fights over space happen and are stupid and avoidable.

Sorry to say, but your cats will die someday. Discuss _now_ with her your desire to get new cats after that happens, which you are likely to want and she is likely not to (I speak from very personal experience here, with a non-cat-liking partner and my cats ((they were, pretty much in every sense, my cats even after moving in together)) gone now and she fighting my desire to get two cats and so begrudgingly "agreeing" to get one that I don't know if I would want to bring a cat into a home where both people don't love it immediately).

Food. What kind, and where will the nonperishables live. Go through all your kitchenware and plates and cutlery beforehand and agree what will come and what will not.

Books. Whose get prominence and where will they live.

Whose TV comes? Whose stereo, DVD player, etc.?

Be warned that any thing, even a very little tiny seemingly insignificant thing, that you do not discuss beforehand is very easy to get set in stone and become all but undiscussable once, say, a year has passed. Or at least not discussed without an undue amount of stress and grief.

It's going to be very weird for both of you at first, and no telling for how long. That said, it is also pretty wonderful.
posted by old_growler at 2:05 PM on May 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

Also, even once the chores have been settled, there is possibility of resentment in the future: i.e., "Goddamnit, I am sick to death of doing the fucking dishes every goddamn time." Be prepared for that, and discuss in advance any possibility of switching off or skipping for a bit. Or just bite the bullet and accept that you agreed to do it, even if you grow to hate it, and try not to hate the partner for it.
posted by old_growler at 2:07 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Do chores when you see them. It's infuriating to find a sink of dirty dishes waiting for me when I get home if my partner has been there for hours.

Get housecleaning help if you can possibly afford it. Even every two weeks makes a huge difference; you won't have to scrub toilets, etc. Even with this, you'll still have plenty of cleaning up to do, but the more you can farm out, the better.
posted by fingersandtoes at 2:45 PM on May 18, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, seconding the every-other-week housecleaning. We'd probably have killed each other if we didn't do that.
posted by old_growler at 3:18 PM on May 18, 2017

Figure out how to handle mail/paperwork. Where will it go before it's read? How does it get filed? How long do magazines hang around? How is the physical act of paying bills managed.

What are guest policies? Can you invite someone over for the evening without asking? What about an overnight? What about a week? What if it's your parents? A friend she doesn't like?

If you're reading in a common area can your partner interrupt? To chat? Only for urgent things? How do you like for people to get your attention if you're working on something?
posted by DarthDuckie at 3:29 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Oh boy. My wife and I moved in together as boyfriend/girlfriend. My sister came to visit and asked how it was going. As I went to say, "It rules! We're having such a great time!" my pre-wife answered "Oh god, it's so difficult".

The two of you will have things about living situations that you agree on and many that you don't. The gnarly thing is that many of these are baked into you from however your parents raised you. For example, my parents weren't huge on constant tidying. We'd let things get bad and then do a big clean. My wife was expected to keep a really tidy house all the time. I'm sure you can see the friction. Multiply this by n# of issues and it adds up quick!

Communicate a lot. I found it VERY helpful to make a list for myself, to take 10 minutes when I got home and go "Okay, dishes are done, shoes are on the shoe rack, socks aren't on the floor...". And this will be hard, because you'll both be annoyed. It'll take co-communication, but also a matter of personal drive to bother to resolve it. I knew that it hurt her more than it annoyed me to fix it, so I put the work in. You'll have to do the same for each other.

Also: Consider couples counseling! The kinds of issues you'll face as your relationship gets more serious will change. The tools and attitudes we gained in counseling have been INCREDIBLY beneficial to us. Keep it in mind- It's not just for life & death situations, but for all of the day-to-day difficulty of trying to intertwine your lives.
posted by GilloD at 4:25 PM on May 18, 2017 [3 favorites]

There's actually a really great article from Oprah on 20 questions to ask before you get married:

I know you're just moving in together, but a lot of these questions are actually geared towards living together for the first time. The best and most important thing you can do to make this a smooth transition for both of you is communicate your expectations ahead of time. I highly recommend having a glass of wine and answering the questions ;) Then once you're living together, continue to talk and check-in on how you think things are going, or maybe even areas where you thought things might have differed in the process.
posted by alipie at 5:40 PM on May 18, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also how do you make decorating decisions or other major purchases? In our household, we determine we need something, I do a bunch of research and come up with 4 or 5 options and then my partner picks one. He does get to say he hates all the choices but then he has to have actionable reasons why so I have clearer parameters when I come up with another set of things. I like researching stuff, and I have much more fiddly likes and dislikes about things, and I have strong opinions on how to get the best price for things. This is a good way to pick dinner places too. Someone lists 3 or 4 choices and then the other person picks one or offers an alternative.
posted by DarthDuckie at 7:47 PM on May 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

Turn the second bedroom into a guest bedroom and study. Make it so that one of you can escape there if you want to have some alone time. I used it to geek out whilst she could watch crap TV in the lounge.

Get a weekly cleaner. Ensure that you pay them to clean and not tidy up.

Use an app like Splitwise to track joint spending. That way it doesn't matter who pays for the milk and bread.
posted by mr_silver at 9:34 AM on May 19, 2017

Having one part of a couple move into the other part's place is practical. However - and I've seen this play out in my own life and in many friends' lives - it makes a huge difference when you go out together and pick out a new place for the both of you to live. It may seem like a silly thing, but the vibe will change completely - for the better, too.

Also, we hold a weekly house meeting to talk about domestic stuff. We do this somewhere public (often we go out for breakfast) and find that the public setting helps keep disagreements civil.
posted by agentmitten at 11:46 AM on May 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

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