Too Soon to Move in Together? 21 Signs You’re Ready

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There must have been at least one time in your adult life you were confronted with this question: “How soon is too soon to move in?” If you’re wired for commitment and marriage like I am, then you probably asked the same question a few times.

Moving in too fast can be a decision you later regret, so it's perfectly fine to ask yourself, trusted friends, or even a relationship therapist “Is it the right time to move in?” A good rule of thumb is to look for signs you’re ready to move in together.

That, of course, is just the starting point. You and your partner have to be willing to set and abide by certain ground rules of cohabitation. Getting clarity on specific responsibilities upfront will help minimize teething problems associated with living under one roof.

And, honestly, love has nothing to do with it. Couples are happier when their relationship is healthy and functions as a physical and emotional safe haven.

Once you start living together, you’ll finally get to see each other’s true character. The question is, are you ready for that along with the challenges of being in each other’s faces daily? Moving in is also the litmus test to determine whether marriage is a possibility.

That said, let’s find out how long to date before living together, the signs you’re ready, and warning signs you should take a rain check.

What Does Moving in Together Really Mean?

Moving in together can mean different things to different people depending on their culture and belief system.

I like to think of moving in together as living as a couple, under the same roof, while carrying out day-to-day household responsibilities as a team. So think again if you thought waking up in each other’s bed on the weekends or having a toothbrush and underwear at each other’s apartment meant living together.

According to PODS.com, “Moving in together means seeing all of your partner’s sides, every single day.” Thinking of it that way kinda sounds scary, right? After all, you may have only seen your partner's best behavior so far. Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a New York City clinical psychologist, says it means that “…you are making a significant investment in the relationship.”

Hopefully, you’ve expressly committed to each other and have a solid plan for creating a happy life together. You'll have to be ready to mix finances, make decisions together, and share household responsibilities.

Successfully cohabiting also calls for both parties to be capable of self-regulating emotions and behaviors. Psychologists call it self-awareness, and there are at least 15 Signs Someone Lacks Self-Awareness.

How Long Should You Date Before Moving In?

Fewer people than you think actually ask this essential question every couple should ask before taking the dive. Relationship experts generally agree that couples should date longer than six months and get to know each other well before taking the plunge.

According to Dr. Brenda Wade, a psychologist in San Francisco, California, two years is the average timeline for heterosexual couples… while same-gender couples make the move within six months.

Personally, I think the biggest clues are emotional, mental, and financial preparedness. The heart might be screaming, “Let’s do it!” However, you need to put aside feelings driven by oxytocin (the love hormone) and get practical. Be honest with yourself, are you truly ready?

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Relationships are exciting when you can be yourself around your partner and they get you, quirks and all.

Years ago, I made the rookie mistake of moving in too early. It was less than six months into the relationship. We loved each other and ended up getting married. Unfortunately, it quickly ended in divorce, as neither of us had the emotional maturity (at the time) enough to cope with the responsibilities.

To be fair, every couple’s circumstances are different and so is their level of maturity. For example, a couple in their 40s or 50s with marital and cohabitation experience might handle living together seamlessly even though they only dated for a couple of months.

Red Flag Warning Signs You’re Not Ready to Cohabitate

More and more American adults are choosing cohabitation over marriage, according to Pew Research center. Even though couples may feel it is the next best thing to do, some could have missed the early red flags in relationships that suggest moving in isn’t such a good idea. Warning signs of potential ‘danger’ include:

  • You’re not in love
  • One party wants to keep their option open
  • You argue over petty stuff
  • Difficulty working as a team
  • Unwillingness to compromise
  • You’re not comfortable mingling finances
  • At least one of you is unemployed or struggling with addiction
  • The relationship is abusive or codependent

21 Signs Moving in Together Could Be the Right Step

Excited yet apprehensive is a common feeling to have when weighing your mind on living with your partner. The apprehension part of it is meant to encourage you to look at all the pros and cons and use the findings to determine if you’re truly ready.

Grab a pen and paper and create a checklist of the following 13 signs it’s time to move in. Create little checkboxes to check YES or NO near each sign. Checking Yes to ALL could provide the confidence needed to go all-in.

#1. You’ve Dated for at Least Three Years

Sorry! Steve Harvey's 90-Day Rule doesn’t apply to something as serious as living together as a couple. The euphoric or honeymoon phase of the average relationship typically lasts about six months to two years. Geroge Levinger’s 5-Stage Relationship Model refers to this as the attraction and acquaintance stage.

Deciding to cohabit anytime before the end of the getting-to-know-you stage may not be the best idea. You still need to cycle through Stage 2 (buildup/determining compatibility) or Stage 3 (continuation/consolidation/commitment). These stages typically run from years three to five.

During the love phase (Stage 1), we’re usually wearing rose-colored glasses. We're operating more on emotion and more likely to overlook our partner's not-so-nice behaviors. During stage 2, we tend to no longer find each other's quirks and bad habits okay and question if we are compatible. CHECK “Yes” if it has been three or more years.

#2. Long-term Commitment Has Been Established

You’re more than likely in the safe zone to consider moving in at or after the continuation phase of the relationship.

The love hormones have settled and the relationship is more stable. In fact, you've committed to an exclusive long-term relationship.

By now, you’ve seen each other’s not-so-positive traits and behaviors full-fledged. You annoy and irritate each other from time to time, but not enough to overshadow the positive experiences.

More than likely, the relationship has been threatened by at least one major crisis, e.g., financial problems, and survived.

#3. You Trust Each Other

According to relationship writer and author, Olivia J. Scott, in her article, Moving In as a Couple: Is it the Right Time? couples should date until there’s trust and commitment before agreeing to cohabit. She added that “Cohabiting too soon can ruin your relationship.” 

Trust is the most essential ingredient for a lasting, healthy relationship. According to Levinger’s model, trust and transparency develop during the buildup and continuation stages.

It helps the relationship to blossom and reach its full potential. A discussion on marriage may have also taken place.

#4. You Actually Get Along

Relationships are exciting when you can be yourself around your partner and they get you, quirks and all. However, no matter how much chemistry you have, if you’re not getting along, hold off on moving in.

You probably already moved past the commitment stage of the relationship and are at the conflict or crisis stage. According to Levinger’s relationship model, Stage 4, or the deterioration stage, is where communication breaks down.

A breakdown can happen for various reasons, such as the behavior of the parties or refusal to make a long-term commitment, such as marriage. These represent flaws in the relationship that can be a constant source of conflict.

#5. Your Lifestyles Are Compatible

Cohabitation can be successful if your lifestyles are in sync with each other’s, as far as the important things that matter. Drastically different lifestyles and personal habits can put a strain on the relationship.

Imagine that you’re into healthy foods and your partner isn’t. This could mean having to prepare two sets of meals, which can cost more money and prep time.

Or let’s assume your partner has a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea. You may experience sleep interruptions as a result, leaving you feeling cranky and lethargic the next day.

Quality sleep is a fundamental need, and unless you agree to sleep in separate rooms, moving in should be delayed until there’s a solution. You can still build a successful relationship if you continue living separately for the time being.

#6. You Both Agree to Move In

You can’t just pack up your stuff and show up at your partner’s house and tell them, “I'm moving in.” You guys may be very much in love, but they need a heads-up. Being happy in love doesn’t mean that moving in is automatic.

To achieve a happy, healthy relationship, you have to communicate your needs and intentions and respect personal boundaries.

Several discussions have to take place and an agreement reached on cohabitating before calling U-Haul. It's a serious and life-changing commitment and both of you should willingly agree.

As great as things are between you too, the idea of sharing the same space has to fit into your and your partner’s long-term relationship plans and goals.

#7. You See Eye-to-Eye on Expectations and Responsibilities

The first order of things before packing up your belongings is to have a discussion and be clear on what moving in means to each of you. Once you’re on the same page, it’s time to talk about future expectations.

You should agree on shared responsibilities such as chores and paying household bills. Some old-school guys are willing to be the sole breadwinner with the expectation that you'll perform homemaker’s duties, such as cooking and cleaning.

If that works for you, fine. The bottom line is that both of you are clear about what you’re signing up for.

Other important discussions can entail who’s allowed to visit or overnight at your home. A common source of contention is having relatives or friends show up unannounced or providing room and board without the approval of the other partner.

#8. You Share Common Interests

Sharing common interests can help preserve and even deepen your bond. According to Psychology Today, couples tend to have healthier relationships when they share similar passions or interests, such as politics or helping disadvantaged people. They usually have something in common to talk about and that helps bring them closer.

Maybe you like the same kinds of movies. I’d fall a tad bit deeper in love with my partner if he liked psychological thrillers. That doesn’t mean you need to mirror your partner’s likes and dislikes the way narcissists do when they’re love-bombing someone they’re planning to exploit.

#9. Both of You are in a Good Financial Position

Taking the jump has its benefits. One household could mean less money spent on overall expenses. However, you still need to have a solid financial plan to accommodate changes and emergencies. It’s true that financial conversations can be a sticky subject, especially if you like to keep that aspect of your life private.

However, it’s only fair that you both have an idea of each other’s financial capability for a long-term relationship that involves merging lives. You’re able to plan better for the future and minimize any tension surrounding money.

You have no idea how much loss of essential services due to unpaid bills trigger quarrels. Certainly, money isn’t everything. At the same time, you can’t pay rent and run your household on love.

#10. You’re Fine with Not Being in Total Control

Relationships work well when you’re interdependent instead of dependent or codependent. Furthermore, a power struggle can ensure when both of you are competing for dominance.

In traditional man-and-woman relationships, there’s a general understanding that the man will assume more control as the head of the household.

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Cohabitation can be successful if your lifestyles are in sync with each other’s, as far as the important things that matter. 

Even if you’re an independent woman, you’ve got to be okay with surrendering some control or at least agreeing to shared and balanced power.

It shouldn’t matter who’s making more money. Remember the reason for cohabiting is to build a life together and pool your resources to make it a success. If you’re unwilling to give up your independence, you can always consider a female-led relationship where the man willingly allows the woman to take charge.

#11. You’re Comfortable Sharing the Same Physical Space

Almost everyone has little peculiarities that can make cohabiting stressful. The first thing that comes to mind is the age-old issue of the man leaving the toilet seat up. While that’s a non-issue for me, a lot of women are irked by the habit.

I will definitely have a problem with my partner not cleaning up after himself. For example, leaving his clothes on the floor and pee on the toilet seat. Some people hate dishes in the sink, while others can’t stand having a partner that snores.

If sharing the bathroom, kitchen, or bedroom will make each other uncomfortable, then it can actually be a dealbreaker.

#12. Your Communication Skills are on Par

Good communication is another key sign you’re ready to shack up. Relationship experts have long established that communication can make or break a relationship even if the couple is madly in love. You both have to know how to assert your needs, let each other speak, and listen actively.

You don’t always have to agree, but you should respect each other’s opinions even if they don’t align with your beliefs. Both parties should also be willing to engage in open and honest communication and offer support and feedback. All of these aspects of communication help to build trust and intimacy.

#13. You Know How to Manage Conflict

Conflict is something you can’t get away from in a romantic relationship. What matters is how you fight. Fighting fairly and against the issues instead of against each other are two good strategies for effectively resolving disagreements.

While you don’t always have to address a matter in the instant moment, you should deal with it at the earliest and most convenient time. However, responding with emotional distancing or silent treatment only causes issues to fester and loss of intimacy and trust.

#14. Your Schedules Allow You to Spend Quality Time Together

What’s the point of living in the same household if you’re hardly seeing each other? It runs counter to the reason most people get together in a single household, which is to maximize bonding time.

I’ve seen households where one partner was leaving for work just as the other one is returning from their job. Adjusting your work schedule could be a solution if it's possible.

It might be a case where your work is physically or emotionally draining and you just want to relax alone once you're home. If this is going to be the nature of the relationship, then you’re probably better off living on your own than risking a breakup.

#15. There’s Mutual Respect for Personal Boundaries

Living together comes with a fair share of challenges and many changes. Less privacy than you’re used to while living alone is one of those iffy things. Healthy boundaries should be in place to encourage respect for each other’s privacy. It’s not fair to say you’re living in the same home, therefore there’s no boundary or privacy.

You’re still separate individuals and the right to privacy doesn’t change. You should be allowed to continue password-protecting your phone or laptop and keep sensitive information, such as your social security number, private. Even married people insist on maintaining a certain degree of privacy.

It's different if there's a reluctance to share information about each other's background, e.g., to ensure no one has a criminal record. Things like that could negatively impact the outcome of your relationship.

#16. Children and Pets are Welcome

Single men and women with kids deserve love and a chance for healthy long-term relationships. They shouldn’t be shunned because kids are involved. Granted, when kids are part of the relationship dynamics, the decision to cohabit has to be handled with greater care.

You have to fully trust your partner and the children should be completely comfortable with living together as a household.

Don’t forget about your pet. Cat or dog, fish or guinea pig, pets should be welcomed. Welcoming kids and pets is a show of empathy and compassion. You shouldn’t have to leave your kids or pets behind as a condition for moving in. Only a selfish, unloving, and unempathetic partner would suggest that.

#17. You’re Not Moving In for Convenience

The motive behind the decision has to be for all the right reasons. Taking the step thinking it’s a solution to a problem is like setting yourself up for failure.

Here are examples of non-legitimate reasons to set up house together: wanting to keep a close eye on your partner (trust issues) or wanting to financially depend on your partner (financial convenience).

Thinking shacking up could lead to marriage faster isn’t a good reason either. Not only is it unfair to put pressure on your partner to tie the knot, but these motives can cause a breakup. You should also strive to retain a level of financial and emotional independence. This will prevent a codependent relationship from developing where your partner feels burdened as a caretaker.

#18. Your Relationship Has Survived its Fair Share of Conflicts

Every relationship has its ups and downs. How you handle personal issues and setbacks can make a difference regarding the longevity of the relationship. In fact, many relationship experts agree that conflict is healthy.

What’s interesting to note is that disagreements don’t always equate to a deterioration of the union. It can happen in the early stages of the relationship when you’re still learning each other’s behavioral traits and trying to determine if you're compatible.

When handled maturely, however, healthy quarrels can bring couples closer since they’ve overcome something together. Drawing closer instead of breaking up is how you know you’re seriously committed to making things work.

#19. It Feels Like the Next Natural Step to Take

Like marriage, cohabiting is one of those things that shouldn’t be rushed to avoid failure. I remember I was barely going out with a guy and he created space in his walk-in closet for me to leave my clothing.

We’d never even had our first emotional embrace and it felt like he was ready for me to move in. As flattering as it was, it was bizarre at the same time. You already know how that ended.

Whether you’ve been in a relationship for months or years, it must feel like the right step to take in the natural course of things. The more committed you are to each other and to establishing a long-lasting relationship, the more likely it will feel like a natural transition to the next relationship phase.

#20. You’ve Done a Mock Cohabitation

When you’re trying out a new TV network, you don’t just buy a whole-year subscription. You make a smart move by signing up for a trial period. If you're lucky, it's a free trial, with nothing to lose.

So why wouldn’t you do a trial live-in instead of diving in head-on, not knowing what to expect? Surely, spending weekends and holidays together is great.

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Drawing closer instead of breaking up is how you know you’re seriously committed to making things work.

However, everyone puts on their best behavior to secure the relationship. Living together is different. You have to be in each other’s faces all the time, tolerate each other's moods, and navigate challenges.

Pretense goes out the window and you'll begin to see each other's true character. So CHECK “Yes” if you've played house and are confident you two are compatible and can truly stand each other.

#21. You’re Not Second-Guessing the Idea

If, after going through the first 20 signs, you’re still second-guessing the desire to live together, then follow your gut instinct. Cohabitation is a decision you must be clear about since it involves time, money, and emotional energy to make it successful.

It's better to wait until you’re 100% sure than have to move back out shortly after unpacking your belongings.

Final Thoughts on How Soon Is Too Soon to Move In

Believe it or not, there’s a right and wrong time to shack up. All of the 21 signs are important to your decision-making, and since this is a major life decision, I must say the goal is to answer “Yes” to ALL.

Remember to be completely honest with yourself when assessing the signs. Even if you have one or two “NOs,” it’s not the end of the world. It could mean the relationship is still in its infancy stage and growing.

Whatever you do, remember that living together can be successful if you have a solid plan and both you and your partner have determined from the signs that the timing is right. Try 11 Core Value Relationship Examples Couples Should Follow to build a healthy relationship.

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