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How Can a Couple Know They're Ready to Live Together?

Don't just let it happen; be deliberate.

Key points

  • While cohabitation is not marriage, the two arrangements do share similarities.
  • Traveling together is a wonderful way to gauge your compatibility as a couple.
  • Moving in together for financial reasons is not a good basis for your decision.
Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash
Source: Priscilla Du Preez / Unsplash

Many people come to therapy wondering if they are ready to move in with their partner. They may ask questions like:

  • “We spend all of our time together. Should we just move in with each other already?”
  • “My lease on my apartment is ending soon. Should I move in with my partner instead of finding a new apartment?”
  • “We’ve been together for three years now. Isn’t it time we lived together?”
  • “I keep suggesting that we move in together, but my partner deflects the topic. What should I do?”
  • “My partner wants me to move in but I don’t feel ready even though we have a great relationship. Why is that?"

Cohabitation, or moving in together, is a sign of commitment. You likely see the relationship growing into a marriage.

There are several perks to moving in together: you save on living expenses, you have more intimacy, you can adopt a pet together, and so on. On the flip side, there’s a chance you may not like what you see. What if your partner expects you to do most of the housework? What if they have their friends over too often?

The decision to move in together is a big one and it can have serious consequences for you and your relationship. Here are three tips to help you make that decision.

#1. Don’t just ‘let it happen’

Here’s a scenario to consider. You’ve been spending a lot of time together at your partner’s apartment. You’ve only been seeing each other for a few months, but you enjoy waking up next to each other, making breakfast together, and ordering in and watching Netflix together after work. One of you points out that you’re pretty much living together already.

Why not just move in, update your address, and make your living arrangement official?

While it may seem tempting to move in together on a whim, don’t do it without carefully considering what you are signing up for.

Living together changes relationship dynamics. For instance, if you get into an argument with your partner when you have your own place, you’d just have to go home to get some space. But, if you live together, where can you go to be alone with your thoughts?

Or, consider spending habits. Say you make considerably more money than your partner and are used to buying expensive groceries. Who foots the bill at the checkout counter?

It is important to understand that staying over at your partner’s house and living together are two very different things. Have a conversation about why you want to move in together and set up some ground rules for both of you to follow just like you would with a new roommate. Deciding to live together for financial reasons or as a way to make up after a fight is not a good basis for your decision.

A study published in the Journal of Family Issues found that moving in together to ‘test’ the relationship indicated poor communication in the relationship and low relationship adjustment, dedication, and confidence. The same study also showed that couples who moved in together for this reason had higher levels of attachment insecurity and showed more signs of depression and anxiety.

Living together is a new and important step in the relationship. Do not let someone else or your circumstances pressure you into taking the plunge.

#2. Travel with your partner before deciding to live together

Traveling together is a wonderful way to gauge your compatibility as a couple. Use it as an opportunity to decide if living together would be a good relationship move.

When you travel with your partner, you are both outside your comfort zone. You are in a new place where you don’t know anyone. You both need to plan your trip together, sleep in the same hotel room, and witness each other’s habits without getting annoyed at each other. Simply put, you are stuck with each other for the duration of your trip, which is what cohabitation can feel like.

If the trip doesn’t go perfectly, you will know what you need to work on to make your relationship ready for the cohabitation phase.

#3. Don’t move in together unless you like each other’s friends

A recent study published in Social and Family Dynamics showed that disapproval of a partner’s friends significantly increased the rate of divorce in married couples.

While cohabitation is not marriage, the two arrangements do share similarities.

Your partner will likely want to invite their friends over from time to time. Unless you genuinely enjoy their company, you may feel forced to play host to them.

When you and your partner share the same house, you need to jointly decide who can and cannot visit. Remember, your house is their house, too. They have as much say as you do about who can come in and how often.

If you already like each other’s friends and spend a lot of time in each other’s social circles, there will be less friction once you decide to move in together.


Cohabitation is an important and rewarding milestone in your relationship. However, it is not the same as spending a few nights at your partner’s house. It is a sign of a deeper commitment. Be clear about what you are getting into so that you may avoid unpleasant surprises.

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