Why Moving in Together is Not Like Test-Driving a Car

This morning, Liz discussed how for some of us, moving in together is easy. Now, Emily is here to talk about how for others of us, moving in together can be damn hard. And you know what, no matter what camp you fall in (or maybe you fall in both camps on different days) you’re doing just fine. I also love that these posts explore moving in together both before and after marriage (because yes, both are totally valid options). Let’s do it.

“So how is living together going?!” My cousin is standing over the stove, working on dinner with beautiful photos of her recent wedding over her head. I’m sitting at the table, thankful that her back is turned to me, staring down at the napkin I’m twisting ever tighter in my lap.

“Okay.” I say tersely. I’m going for nonchalant, but I’m clearly unable to remove the anxiety from my voice. I’m definitely surprised when she starts laughing at me.

“Sounds about right.” She says sagely with a grin.

C and I met on a crowded metro platform at rush hour, and I was in love with him by the time I stepped off the train. We’d been dating for a year and a half when our leases simultaneously came up for renewal. We’d been living together for about three months as I sat with my cousin in her kitchen. I was losing my mind. Just the sound of C’s voice from the basement where he was playing video games with my cousin’s husband was setting my teeth on edge and prickling the hairs on my arms.

I was totally against living together before becoming engaged. I just wasn’t willing to put myself out there like that, especially when I was so sure about C. His desire to live together first made me feel like he wasn’t sure about me. Like he wanted to test-drive me, and I did not want to go back to the dealer, dammit. But I accommodated him, telling myself that the children of ugly divorces deserve a little extra patience. I’m so glad I did.

One of the hardest parts of moving in together is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a very public move towards commitment, and it’s hard not to feel like everyone is looking at you, scrutinizing your relationship and betting on whether you’ll make it. Subsequently, you start scrutinizing your relationship with a truly unfair magnifying glass. “He doesn’t fold his socks! He’s not responsible! He doesn’t love me! We’re doomed!!!!” Those are just the silly arguments—you also can’t avoid all of the real, gritty and emotional stuff that you used to be able to walk away from. You actually have to sit there and watch the reactions of someone you love while they find out everything about you—like the fact that you don’t share the remote. Ever.

In the first six months we yelled and fought so much, I couldn’t believe we were still finding things to fight about. I thought about moving out constantly, dreaming of a place of my own. I could barely face our friends and family knowing that I had miscalculated our relationship so badly.

And then it stopped. I remember lying on my back on our bedroom floor, tears running down my face. C was sitting on the edge of the bed with his face in his hands. He dropped to the ground and wrapped his arms around me, and we decided, out loud, that we loved each other and wanted to be together, even if it meant fighting like this all the time.

It was exactly what I needed to hear. I’d been on the defensive from the moment we signed the lease because I felt like I was being tested. I’m still not sure why that caused me to act like the most horrible version of myself, but it did. Once I knew that fighting was okay, I suddenly didn’t need to anymore. It was a moment of profound transformation where we went from being a couple in love to being a team.

That’s what my cousin was laughing about in her kitchen three months earlier. Moving in together is not just about the merging of the stuff and convincing C to put the toilet seat down, though that part is really challenging too. It’s hard. And fighting (or discussing, if you’re lucky enough to be a calm couple) about everything from the way the covers should be tucked to what it means to treat your partner respectfully is part of the deal. She knew we were ready to kill each other because she’d been there, just like lots of couples have. I remember how relieved I felt to hear that—we were normal. We could make it!

I used to believe that having a piece of paper and some rings would keep us safe from those horrible fights. I thought that if we were already married I wouldn’t be terrified of C finding out how selfish and mean I can be. The truth is that relationships are never “safe.” Even if you are married, your partner can leave or die or change their heart. Some of the strongest couples we know aren’t even able to get that stupid piece of paper! What did I think it was going to save me from?

For us, living together was a crucial step towards trusting each other and more importantly, accepting ourselves. Looking back, I think those are the two most important things a couple can have to protect them from losing each other. As we plan our wedding, we find new, creative (and most of the time, beyond silly) things to fight about, I’m so thankful for the things I’ve learned by living together. We’re already a team, and trusting that C won’t leave me, even if I can’t make an evenly spaced bunting garland, is so reassuring. I don’t think that every couple builds trust this way, and I hope most people considering cohabitating aren’t as insecure as I was, but if you are, remember that fighting is okay. It is just part of the journey, and one day, you’ll laugh about it.

Photo: Emily’s personal collection

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  • carrie

    “It was a moment of profound transformation where we went from being a couple in love to being a team.”

    This is so awesome. This is definitely something that happens, and it’s a really important crossover. I also very much identify with being a horrible version of yourself, but it was weird because that was one of the things that underlined the fact I was with my Person. And since he was my Person, I could show that bitchy, selfish girl (yes, girl) but that girl was NOT allowed to stay for long. That was a really important realization to me, and your quote above spelled it out beautifully. At least that’s how I related to it. I loved this, thank you for sharing!

    • +10 to awesome for your my Person reference, if you’re taking it from a certain TV show. ;)

    • Ahhh same… we fight so much sometimes, *always* over the silliest things. And it’s OKAY!! (Which doesn’t mean we aren’t working on it.)

  • Leigh Ann

    This sounds so familiar. What happened with us was only a little different — he didn’t really want to live together before marriage, but I needed “a step,” then after we moved in together (two years into the relationship), of course I thought the engagement was coming any day, but he wasn’t ready. We lived together for three years before becoming engaged, and the first year was really hard. It was exactly like you said; I was looking for those little “signs” all the time that we were right for each other, that he was really serious about me, etc. I cried A LOT.

    The good news is, after that first year, living together became much easier — really enjoyable, actually. And we did eventually get married. Some friends got married around the same time as we did and moved in together for the first time. We laugh smugly at the problems they are having (not really), because we know how big an adjustment period follows moving in together, and that it doesn’t mean they made a horrible mistake by getting married. No matter how many roommates you have had in your life (I’ve had dozens, he’s had only a couple, and not for long periods), when you move in with YOUR PERSON it’s a whole different ball game, for sure.

  • PA

    “He doesn’t fold his socks! He’s not responsible! He doesn’t love me! We’re doomed!!!!”

    I couldn’t help laughing – not mean-spiritedly, I promise! I’m just glad I’m not the only one who looks back on things and goes, “WOW did I make a logical leap.”

    I empathize with this so much. I’ve been writing this comment on every post for about a week, and then closing the webpage without posting it, and I think it’s finally time to post. Long story short, I’ve just lived through my own version of, “Once you have permission to see this as a thing that is stressful and causes friction, it’s like the tension disappears.”

    My fiance and I just, essentially, moved in together for the second time – he came back from his deployment and we immediately (I mean that – he picked up a UHaul the day after he got back to our state) moved into a house we had bought together while he was deployed. And everyone was all, “Oh, wow, he’s back, and isn’t it all sunshine and rainbows and unicorn farts full of awesomeness?” and I felt like this gigantic failure because we were having friction and stress …

    It was only when someone said to me, “Ah, yes, he’s come back from a deployment, you’re moving, and you’re first time homeowners, and you’re telling me you’re stressed… GEE, YA THINK?!?!” that I realized, “Oh, right. This is allowed to be what it is.” It was like the tension melted away.

    Also, and I’m guessing this happened to you and C, too – you learn what questions to ask, and things that might have been misunderstandings and friction before become easily cleared up!

    • Tre

      Yes! It’s so important to find spaces and people who let you feel how you really feel, without assuming it means you shouldn’t be together (or don’t want to anymore). It’s normal to have growing pains and the world becomes a safer and more supportive place when we’re allowed to feel real feelings, not just the ones we’re ‘supposed’ to.

    • ProjectWed

      As someone who went through the moving in together following deployment, I hear you, sister! Good luck, and you have support when you need it.

  • E

    Yes, living together is hard, people don’t always tell you this. I lived with a bf before I lived with my fiancé, and it was almost TOO easy, which masked a lot of the problems in our relationship. He didn’t mind doing dishes, so he did them all, I mostly cooked, and he was neater than I was so he was happy to spend the better part of a day dusting the bookshelves. But he was not even close to my “one.” FH? Horribly messy, I often find weeks-old food wrappers in his office, he HAAAATEs doing dishes so I end up doing them (which leads to endless irritation), leaves a fine dust of beard-hair on every surface of the bathroom, etc. etc. But I am madly in love with him and am so excited to spend the rest of my life with him, even if it means hiring cleaning staff. Also, our current house has two bathrooms and he has an office with a door, which has done wonders for our relationship. :)

  • NF

    While I agree that moving in together isn’t like test driving a car, for me it was a lot like a dress-rehearsal before a play. If it didn’t go smoothly, that didn’t mean we were going to call off our relationship/engagement, but it gave us extra time to work out the problems that we ran into. It gave us time to figure out how to fight when we couldn’t just run off to our respective apartments to get time to cool off before working out the problem, etc, before adding in any pressure that marriage added. And having the time to realize that it was okay that things weren’t always smooth was super important, whereas I think if we had waited to move in together until we were married I would have felt so much more pressure for things to be perfect right away.

    • Life is so interesting–my feelings about this whole thing are the exact opposite. Ha.

      For me, marriage takes the pressure OFF my shoulders for things to be magic-happy when we move in. We’re stuck together, now. If things are hard or something goes wrong, well, we’ll deal with it, because we’re married. Moving in together before the wedding would elicit the “must be perfect right away!” feelings, because I’d feel like we had something to prove–that we were making the right decision, or something.

      • meg

        Ha! Yes. We moved in just before we got engaged (logistical, not my choice, still a little bitter ;) But, yes. I’m more or less in this camp, but it’s so interesting that different things work for different people.

      • Denzi

        I want to exactly both of you at the same time. Just so you know. :)

      • NF

        To clarify, I didn’t mean that there’s NO pressure if things go not-smoothly if you move in before getting married (if the dress rehearsal for a play goes badly you’re going to be freaking out about how the actual performance will go) just that it gave an extra chance to smooth things out before we were actually married. (We were already engaged when we officially moved in together, it might have been different if we weren’t engaged yet, no way to know!)

        • I think these two ideas actually co-exist for us. Yes, living together has been a great way to smooth out problems and feel really strong in ourselves and our relationship before marriage. However, I think that things got easier (by which I mean less scary, and not necessarily less fighting) after C proposed, and I think it will get easier still after the wedding. It’s all about re-affirming the “team” concept. For me, those obvious signs of commitment are really important, but that is precisely why living together without being engaged was such a learning and growing experience.

    • Living with each other before we got engaged was a point of contention for us as well. Due to past experiences my fiance was adamant that he was not comfortable asking me to marry him until we’d lived together at least a year, and I was adamant that didn’t think it was super-healthy to live together before we were at the very least engaged.

      Making that compromise was hard for me. It’s one of those compromises where it goes entirely in one person’s favour because there really was no middle ground. It forced me to acknowledge that I can’t always have things my own way and really listen to his viewpoint and concerns.

      • Consider me waving and smiling from the other side of the no-middle-ground. I had the same issues, but I’m so glad we went for it. C’s reasoning was the same. You just have to remember that it’s not about you, or the strength of your relationship. It’s just what they need.

  • Thank you. Thank you for sharing how important it is to have that realization that being a team is so much more important than any fight you may have. My hubby and I moved in together when I was only 19, and still growing up (he’s seven years older.) Having to adjust to living with a partner was not an easy task, and included, like you, many fights and tears. But having that time together to learn and grow and change? I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

  • Denzi

    YES YES YES. Particularly believing before that “believing that having a piece of paper and some rings would keep us safe from those horrible fights.” It took me three months into marriage to realize that a: we are still bad at fighting, b: it makes me miserable, c: it is usually worth it because there is usually some forward motion, and d: the horrible fighting does not negate how awesome it is to be together the rest of the time. So now when I get “how’s married life?” my standard answer is “about 90% SUPER AMAZINGLY AWESOME, with a big, miserable ball-of-suck fight once a month or so.” And everyone I say this to has laughed and said, “That’s about right,” which makes the anxiety disorder-led oh-my-god-our-relationship-is-dooooooooomed part of my brain calm the fuck down even more.

  • I loved so much about this!

    First, “One of the hardest parts of moving in together is that it doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It’s a very public move towards commitment, and it’s hard not to feel like everyone is looking at you, scrutinizing your relationship and betting on whether you’ll make it.” YES, THIS. I just finished my first year of living “in sin” and the best way I can describe it to people is like going through puberty…the awkwardness, the deep desire to have it all be PRIVATE and never discussed with anyone…and then it’s made worse in this current age of social media/blogs/anonymous comments. Living together isn’t SO hard, but that “But what does everyone else think? What does this say about about me? And us?” is really hard and adds SO MUCH PRESSURE. Once I tuned that out (and the one friend in particular who was making her bets on us clear), I was amazed.

    And, like you said, it was because I felt like I was being tested. I made every little thing matter so much and the stakes were SO HIGH. Finding APW helped a ton (you mean I can cook more than he does and still be a feminist?!), as did hearing from friends who’d experienced the same struggle (“Oh, so you’re at The Point at Which You Freak Out Over Cooking and Feminism?” said with so much love and friendliness that I realized our fights were so normal, my angst was borderline cliche/adorable to those who’d been through it before). While not everyone goes through this, I think it’s SO important for those who do to talk about the struggle because, like puberty, it’s so easy to think you’re the only one going through it and it feels embarrassing, and that shame just makes everything ten times worse. But that moment when you realize you are normal is HUGE and I hope a lot of APW readers have that moment reading this post today!

  • I want to “exactly” this whole post!

    And I’m so psyched that it’s moving week, and OF COURSE this coincides with Meg’s and Liz’s moves. And is it too late to contribute to the content, or can I bang out a piece on moving in with my then-fiancee and mom-in-law-to-be? (Speaking of fighting…)

    • Maddie

      Send us that piece! If not this week, another, I’m sure. :)

    • On my things to do after my wedding I have a list of “things I should probably write posts on for APW” and moving in with/living with the in-laws is definitely on it. ;)

      • msditz

        Okay, if those posts get written, then I have to write MY perspective: living with my then-boyfriend (now husband) and my parents. It was…how shall I say this?…not at all fun not even a little bit.

  • MadGastronomer

    You know, I always thought that moving in would be really hard for me. Indeed, I thought I might never be able to do it at all. I don’t share space well. I’ve never successfully lived well with anyone before, including — especially — my family.

    It’s a good thing, then, really, that my fiancee moved in before we started dating.

    It wasn’t intentional. She had two weeks between when her lease was up and when, in theory, her new lease with roommates was supposed to start. I told her she could stay with me. Then her roommates flaked on her (she got a facebook invite to their moving party), and she kind of panicked, and I told her that since she hadn’t gotten on my nerves yet, she could stay while she sorted things out. And then a month later, while she was still trying to sort things out, we started dating, and eventually I told her that not only did she not have to move out, I’d really rather she didn’t. And after I realized that no, seriously, I could live with her, and it was going to be ok, and it was even really good, and she hardly ever gets on my nerves, I proposed.

    We’ve been living together for more than a year now, and it’s good. Everyone who knows me is completely amazed by this.

    • Brefiks

      So romantic comedy-ish! Love it : )

      • MadGastronomer

        It really was. We even have a meet-cute story. We spoke on the phone before we met in person — she was calling my restaurant to tell us that there was a big group coming in, only the person who gave her the number gave her my cell number instead, and I had to convince her that she didn’t need to call the main line, and she could just tell me — and then we she came in with the group, I was hanging out with them all, and when nearly everybody had left or was leaving, she tried to help me clear tables. We did pretty much everything backwards, actually.

  • Alice

    THIS. We went from long-distance to living together, and it was smooth sailing for the first few months. At some point, the newness of getting to see each other every day wore off and it was fight fight fight, so frequently. Reading about other couples struggling with the same issues is just so darn comforting.

    Shoutout to Meg for moving to Oakland last weekend. We did so too (down from Berkeley). We spent all day Sunday moving, and it was a success. Did we have all our boxes packed before friends showed up to help? No. Did we have the borrowed pickup returned before midnight? No. Did we remember to bring any silverware to the new house? No.

    But were there any angry words or screaming fights? NO FTW.

  • Lynn

    Moving in has been really hard for me. It hasn’t been hard for him because he just loves me and whatever it is, is whatever it is. We haven’t had any screaming fights. We’ve had me crying, him walking away before he hurts my feelings.

    For me the adjustment has been that I’m not on my own…and I really liked being on my own. I liked not having to worry about what someone else wanted for dinner (and trying to please his limited palette) or where they wanted to go (yes! I want to go to Jazzfest this weekend. No! I don’t want to lounge in the bed until 2) or what they wanted to watch on the television or how they wanted to spend their (our?) money.

    Letting go of that keen sense of autonomy has been incredibly difficult. Realizing that it isn’t about him fitting into the life I had but rather us building a life together has been a change in mindset that I’ve agonized over. It’s getting better…almost a year and a wedding into it…but there are still times when it is just so hard for me.

    • Edelweiss

      This. We did the move in together from a long distance relationship and it was HARD. Like Lynn writes, For us, it was like we weren’t just sharing space we were really sharing our lives for the first time in a completly different way than the obsessed with each other 4 day weekends and snap back to single life with my friends lifestyle I had before.

      We didn’t fight about how we kept up the house, we fought about how we spent our time. (and sometimes the fight was about soending time cleaning vs spending time frolicking at the park).

      We’re three years in and it’s better now, not because we magically hav the same priorities, but there has been a priority shift for each of us and we communicate better. Instead of sayin “I miss my life” (and, ouch, I did once tell him that). I say “I fill my bucket this way, and I haven’t done that as much lately. I need some time to do so, and I’d love you to join m, or I can go on my own.” and he hears that and doesn’t get offended and we s hedule that time together or for me to go off on my own. That’s three years worth of growth.

    • “Realizing that it isn’t about him fitting into the life I had but rather us building a life together has been a change in mindset that I’ve agonized over.”

      This is what I’m most afraid of. Not getting irritated at each other’s habits, not figuring out finances, not even figuring out how to live *with* each other instead of *next to* each other, but this. We’ve chosen not to live together until after we’re hitched, and it will be him moving into what is currently “my apartment”. I’m so used to being independent, so used to paying my own bills, buying my own food, making my own messes, that I’m now afraid that when he moves in, and the space and bills and messes are the same, I’ll still feel like it’s “my” life with him just now up in “my” space.

      We thought about getting a new place, but my place is plenty big, and the rent is a steal, so in the interest of saving money, he’ll be joining me here. Any insights from the other side as to how to make it “moving in together” as opposed to him “moving in with me”?

      • MadGastronomer

        I hear you. We’re still working this one out. I own my house, and my fiancee moved in with me (er, before we were dating), and making it ours has been a long and gradual process, made worse by the fact that I have a lot of stuff, which is everywhere, and I’ve never been very good at sharing space.

        What we’re doing, slowly, is picking new furniture together (we got a bigger bed frame that we’re refinishing, we’re going to get her her own dresser, we pick out other things together), and I made room for some of her favorite pieces, and the tiny room downstairs that has been for storing all my craft stuff we’re going to clean out and turn into her study (I already have the second bedroom set aside as meditation space for me, although she’s welcome to use it). It’s a slow process, and something we’re doing very consciously, but it’s working.

        We’ll know we’ve really gotten somewhere when we actually integrate our respective libraries.

      • Meagan

        A friend had a very similar situation (long distance boyfriend moved into her apartment of several years that was definitely HERS) and they solved this problem by actually taking all her stuff out of each room and mixing their stuff up and then using whatever worked in each space. They also repainted most of the apartment and even switched bedrooms. They eventually moved back to the quieter, darker bedroom, but that was THEIR choice, not her choice from years ago that they just stuck with. It is a lot of work, but if it makes it feel like a combined home, instead of him in your space, it is probably worth it. Good luck! I’m moving across the country to be with my FH in a few weeks and I’m both super excited and super nervous! But we can all do this!

      • Dawn

        I’m in a similar situation. My boyfriend moved into my house and after a year of living together I think it’s finally starting to feel like ‘our’ place instead of just mine. Partially it’s taken this long because he didn’t really come with any furniture (seriously, a recliner and all of his computer equipment and desk set-up is about it) so over the past year it’s been a slow process of small moves like replacing the tv stand (actually a cheap bookshelf) with a real storage unit made out of real wood, or hanging a pot rack so his pots were on display and used more often. Then this past weekend he bought a new computer desk and suddenly it turned into us remodeling the entire office with new desks, new paint, and much less clutter. For the last couple of days we somehow both just end up there standing in the middle of the room hugging saying how much we like ‘our’ new office.

        So I highly recommend redocorating at least one room so that it is not just yours but both of yours. I’d also recommend, if possible, figuring out how to do the bills so you’re not still paying all of them while he pays you back. My guy and I are both really slow movers and we’re only now starting to work on getting a joint account so all the shared bills can come out of there. Right now I still pay them all while he writes me a check and every time he hands me a check it kind of bugs me and makes me feel like we’re not paying our bills but rather he’s helping me pay mine. I’m not really sure why it bugs me as much as it does but I think that has been the theme for this last year — feeling like he moved into my house, like he’s helping me pay my bills, like he’s helping me with my chores and so on. The good news is we seem to have used passing the one year mark as a time to reassess everything so we’re also setting up a chore chart this weekend. So, chore chart, joint bank account (or whatever works for you) and redecorating if possible.

      • Katie

        I moved in with him when my landlord informed me that the apartment I had agreed to rent would not be available on time, and my current lease was expiring. I had a period of two weeks where I would be homeless, and the landlord was coming across as pretty shady anyways. So I moved in with him, in an upstairs bedroom of a college house occupied by a lot of our close friends. It really was moving in with him. I invaded his space

        I stayed there for about three months (sued landlord for breech of contract, that was fun :-/ ), and then we moved in together when we took the master bedroom of the same house. With just a little bit more space, I was able to designate “his” and “hers” areas (two desks, really), and everything else was our stuff stored together. We were financially independent, and while there was a mental accounting of “I bought this chair, and if we break up then it goes with me,” but we both bought things for us.

        If he has a lot of things, and you bring in a lot of things, you need to make the majority of them shared-use. A desk and a chair and a section of the closet can be “mine,” but the chairs and coffee table have to be “ours, except that I keep them in a breakup.” If everything is “his” or “hers” then you’re just going to be sharing space, not living together.

        We moved later to a 1br apartment, and then later bought a house, and those were both completely “ours” situations. When we got the house, we abandoned the “ours but mine” accounting. It feels like having both our names on the mortgage is just as binding as a marriage (next spring), and fretting over who the bedframe belongs to just seems petty.

        A really important thing to think about is bills. DAWN mentioned in another reply to not pay all the bills and have him pay you back half. That really enforces a “mine, but I let you live here” mentality. Before we were really committed, we split the bills down the middle so they would be more or less equal, but that I would pay the variable bills since I’m better at paying attention to things like power usage. He paid for internet and insurance, and I payed gas and power and water, and we both paid half the rent directly to the landlord. Now we have a joint account and I manage everything, but that’s just because I’m better at it.

      • Jennifer Lyn

        What I’ve seen work best is something to the effects of: you both move all your stuff into general space and decide together where everything goes, what gets sorted and how you’d divy up space so it’s agreed on.

  • Emily

    My boyfriend and I moved in together after 5 months of dating. My ultra-conservative family was very vocally against our decision. We moved in together anyway, knowing it was the right decision for us. The first few months were very difficult for me because every time we got into an argument, the tiny voice in the back of my head said, “See your parents were right…here comes the big I TOLD YOU SO if we broke up.” Yet, after each argument came open and honest communication between me and my boyfriend about who we are, what we want, and how we can achieve those goals by supporting each other. In spite of my familial challenges and the pressure on us during our transition, we grew into much stronger individuals, and a much stronger couple. A year and a half after moving in together, we are still living together, we are engaged, and I am so pleased we braved the storms. The family issue is still very present in my life, but living with my fiance has allowed me to become a stronger individual, who knows what is right for me, with or without the support of my family.

  • Michelle

    I needed to read this! I’m moving in with my fiance in about two weeks, and I’m already worried about the inevitable bickering that will occur when we’re permanently living in the same small apartment. We don’t fight a ton, but we definitely have different views re: food storage, cleaning, dishwasher organization, etc., and this leads to friction. I’m so relieved to see that this kind of thing is normal!

  • ‘The truth is that relationships are never “safe.” ‘

    True dat. Which is both the glory and the horror.

  • Oh man, love this post. My husband and I didn’t move in until after we got married, and then we went through the phase you described above, and I was FREAKING OUT that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life. It was really stressful for the first 12-18 months and scary to doubt myself and us and this big life decision we had made! My biggest thing was how angry he gets in the car, yelling when people cut him off etc, and something as simple as my husband losing his temper had me thinking we were destined for a lifetime of misery and how was I possibly going to be able to live with it? Or how would I tell my mom we were getting divorced??!! It kind of makes me laugh now, we’ve learned to show and live with each other’s less than perfect sides and thankfully have graduated into a calmer place, but it was a tough adjustment that I didn’t expect because I thought, duh! We’re married! We have the magic ticket, we’ll never fight and will live happily ever after! Hahahahaha. Anyway, whether a couple chooses to live together or not before getting married, I think it’s just helpful to KNOW that it’s very possible that there will be a tough and stressful adjustment period. It sounds dumb but nobody ever told me that, I was too in love to even consider that so it really surprised me when it happened. But it doesn’t mean that things are bad or that you’re destined for a horrible marriage/divorce. It’s very, very normal. Glad you’re feeling better :-)

  • Leah

    Thanks for this! I’ve been living with my FH for 2 years now, and not getting married until next year. We had a lot of raised eyebrows when we moved in together (it was pretty quick, and obviously not engaged yet) so there was a lot of pressure to “not regret it”. And every fight we had, I started thinking “OMG! Did we make a huge mistake? Do I want to move out? Is he going to KICK ME OUT?? OMFG!” I can see where the security of marriage (and perhaps both owning the house!) can ease that fear and make the move-in easier. But in the long run, I’m glad we got through all of that when we both had an “out”. Now I know that we can stick through the big stuff, and that we both truly want to be here together. He’s seen my ugly side, I’ve seen his, and at the end of the day, not only do we still want to come home to each other, we still want to commit to a LIFETIME of uglies together. That’s a pretty awesome feeling, I gotta say.

  • bellezyx

    Last night my fiancé jumped naked from the bed in the middle of the night, grabbed some kind of martial arts stick that he has apparently kept easily accessible (and yet hidden) for the four years that we have lived together, struck a kung fu pose and started investigating the worrying noise that had awoken him from his slumber. Satisfied that it was only a rat somewhere in a wall, he put the stick back in its hiding spot and returned to bed. I am profoundly glad that I have had four years of co-habitation to get used to these sorts of weird and wonderful behaviours. No one wants to be surprised by a 3.00am Bruce Lee impersonator for the first time on their wedding night.

    Disclaimer: I spent the rest of the night cursing and throwing shoes at the wall to make the rat go away. No one is perfect.

  • Oh man. I moved in w/ my now-husband right out of college. It was STRESS CITY, dealing with a lot of changes at once – graduating, moving to a new state, the actual act of moving, moving in TOGETHER, and me trying to find a job. I spent all day cooped up in the apt (with no money and no friends to go do anything) and I would smother him when he got home from a long day of work. And there were so many fights – about what went into which cabinet and how in the kitchen, about how you squeeze the damn toothpaste bottle, about chores and everything else that comes with not being able to go back to your own place if necessary.

    Once I got a job (2 months in) and we were in a more permanent place (rather than corporate housing) and things settled down, it was so.much.better. I know it’s not for everyone, and many people have religious or other valid reasons for waiting, but I am REALLY glad we lived together before being married, because I would have been TERRIFIED if that’s what the beginning of my marriage was like.

  • I’ve had two different “moving in” experiences with my husband.

    When we rented our first apartment together (four years before we got married) it was surprisingly easy. We had very similar views about cleanliness, finances, etc. and rarely had domestic quabbles. After living with roommates for so long, being alone together felt like a honeymoon.

    It was actually buying our first house (about a year before our wedding) that put some aspects of out relationship to the test. We bought a bit of a fixer-upper and soon we were fighting about home improvement stuff (what needed to be done when? what should we spend money on first? why aren’t you helping me scrape this sticky tile off the floor? you want to paint that room AGAIN?).

    Our first apartment had been small and pretty manageable, but the stakes felt a lot higher when it was OUR house. We had a lot of new projects on our hands and I think we were both afraid of screwing something up. We probably took some of that out on each other.

    We had a lot of fights that first year in the house, but they did help me learn more about what stressed out my husband and what things I kind of needed to back off from (and vice versa). Like maybe this project doesn’t need to get done RIGHT NOW. We’ve gotten a lot better about those things and I hope we continue to do so (’cause our house still needs a lot of love).

  • km

    Thank you SO MUCH for this post.

  • For my guy and I, our faith won’t let us live together before marriage. In our generation, this opens me up for ridicule from anyone who doesn’t share my faith (and a few that do). I’ve heard all sorts of things from people about why I’m a fool for this, but I feel like I don’t want to take a stepping stone approach to commitment. But for me, marriage is the goal of any relationship I’ve entered. Once I realized it wasn’t going to lead to marriage, I couldn’t ethically continue in it. For me, if I was committed enough to someone to move in with them, then I would rather get married anyway.

    • Marisa-Andrea

      You’re not as alone in this as it may seem. There are a lot of people who take this position. I personally don’t think moving in before marriage does anything prepare you FOR marriage. In my view, you aren’t married until you are married. But I also realize that for some people, moving in together is a necessary step for various reasons. To each their own. You do what works for you and your relationship.

    • I’m in a similar boat along with ya. The details are probably different but the end result is the same :)

      My guy and I have been together 6 years, engaged for a few months. For years, oh, 2-6 we’d constantly be asked why we didn’t live together (“eh, don’t need to” was usually my answer). The funny part has been the reaction of people who don’t know us so well. The conversation usually begins with friendly inquiry (“you’re engaged? Congrats! Do you guys live together already?”), to astonishment/concern (“you don’t? Do you plan to before you get married? You don’t? How long have you been together??”), to relief (“Six years? Oh, well then, you’ll be fine.”)

      It seems that the longer you spend dating, the more accepting our peers become of your lack of co-habitation. Really, I think they’re all just worried about us, and don’t want our marriages to start off badly :) I don’t know what the minimum amount of time is, but it seems six years is a solid amount for “them” to believe you really, truly know each other and stuff.

  • Tracy

    Great article. My fiancé and I went through an argumentative period shortly after buying a house together (before we were engaged). It’s wonderful when you come to the realization mutually that you are in it for the long haul, even when it gets hard for awhile. It makes you stronger and better prepared for godknowswhat the future holds.

    Oh, and I love love love the Clouds Rest pic! What an amazing place.

    • Thanks! That’s when we decided to move in together – 10 days of backpacking and sharing the same smelly tent in Yosemite. We figured a 1 bedroom apartment would be no big deal after that. Surprise! haha.

  • Maggie

    Thank you SO much for this. My boyfriend and I moved across the country–alone–and moved in together after 3 years of dating throughout college. Leaving my friends and family to move to another part of the country for a job a month after graduating college was stressful & sad enough, but pair that with moving in together and arguing about the most ridiculous things (what do you mean, you sort every piece of clothing you wash by color?!), I found myself being very vague and secretive to my friends and family about how the state of things were with living together. It made me feel so guilty about leaving all of them behind. I didn’t want to admit to anyone that it may have been a mistake, based off the amount of arguing we did and how every argument led to me questioning if I’d made the right choice. It’s been about a year now, and while we still argue from time to time, it’s gotten better. Having time & space to ourselves makes a big difference. We also got a dog which does wonders for the spirit and can cheer up anyone after any argument :). Thank you for making me realize again that I wasn’t/aren’t alone in this.

  • Jess

    My fiance and I have just started to move in together. Although (because of work) he won’t be able to live with me until June, we started moving his stuff into (now) our apartment (and his name is on the lease as of May 1). I was unpacking the books he was bringing and I asked “do you want our books mixed together or separate?” which he thought was a silly question. I remmebre feitting his books into mine alphabetically by author and thinking “wow, it’s going to be REALLY hard to remember whose books were whose”… and thinking about how for the first time my books were mixed in with someone elses. It was a huge realization for me and all of a sudden I thought “These aern’t MY books and HIS books… they are OUR books” in a very emotional way. Has anyone else experienced a weird sensation like that, when you realize that your stuff is “you plural” rather than yours and his?

  • You seem sincerely happy and I wish you well, but your post eerily reminds me of how I felt when I was with my ex boyfriend, which I want to share, because on the other side of the coin, sometimes it’s hard because it’s wrong. I had a really hard moving in with him because of my neatness/his messiness/his lack of interest in doing household chores/etc. We fought a lot because he picked a lot of fights and I hated it (i’m not a fighter). After fights, in the morning would come moments of relief when we realized we wanted to stay together and at the time I really did feel that way. But those fights kept happening, I kept dreaming about moving out, and years later I finally did because I realized that not only did I not like living with him but I also didn’t like him as a person. I just moved in with my new boyfriend and it feels easy because our we see much more eye to eye on how to lead our lives, even down to the cleanliness of our apartment. Everyone has to decide what they are willing to compromise on in relationships and living situations, but having been through this, I encourage people not to settle.

    • I’m so glad you wrote this! I’ve definitely been in a “living together” situation like this as well, before I met C and I think that there are some distinct kinds of fights that go with moving in together. There are always red flags like low self-esteem, “going for the jugular” in fights, not seeing eye-to-eye on the future that are indicative of an unhealthy relationship. Those things never happened with C. We had the kind of fights that stem from both being overwhelmed, scared and having different approaches toward the same goal. They were the kind of fights where you learn something about each other every time. I agree that no one should settle, and that sometimes living together is when you find out that you don’t work well together. Then you should say enough is enough. my message is that if the way you happen to learn about each other and adjust to change is by fighting, it doesn’t always mean that your relationship isn’t working.

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  • Stephanie

    Thank you so much for writting this and for all the commenters!!

    Although my boyfriend and I have only been dating for 6 months, we have lived together for 3 now. Last night we had a fight about whether or not the lights should be on while watching tv…lol I have never met someone whom I feel more compatible with but lately started questioning our furture.

    I am 30, moved out of my parents at 16 and havent lived with anyone since 18. People ask hows it going and I feel the need to pretend like everything is just peachy at the risk of their dissaproval or saying it was too soon and I told you so.

    Thank you all for making me feel like this is normal and just an obstacle to overcome before a beautiful future TOGETHER in OUR home. :)

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