Can Moving In Together Help A Relationship?

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Shorter Version


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“It’s easy to get wrapped up in sharing everyday life with a partner. It’s fun to get lost in love and romance. It’s the best. But, holding on to yourself, while doing that is the most important thing.”    

~ Brittany Murphy

My husband and I didn’t encounter significant issues once we married. Why not? Perhaps, it was because we dated for 10 years before cohabitating (Hello high school sweethearts) or maybe, it’s because we didn’t move in together until we were engaged. Regardless of the reason, I can say that moving in together helped us prepare for life as a married couple.

We were in our 20s at the time and new to the “adult game,” so the “married game” was mind-boggling for us. We moved into an apartment together after becoming engaged – about a year before our wedding. And, boy, was it a shock to the system.

How will moving in together change your relationship?

It is common for young people to “shack up” as a way to mimic the feeling of being married –sans the “official legal document and label.” And, with the economy the way it is, it honestly makes sense to share the financial responsibilities, if your money is tight and the idea of moving back in with good old Mom and Dad is…well, kind of depressing.

But, will moving in together help or hurt your relationship? It depends on a variety of factors such as your age and maturity level, your willingness to sacrifice and compromise, the condition of your relationship at the time, your ability to communicate in an effective way, your ability to fight fairly, your financial situation, and your personalities, habits, quirks, goals, intentions, and pet peeves. Whoa! That’s a lot.

In fact, according to a 2012 study, cohabitating as a way to “try out being married” typically has a higher risk of infidelity (cheating), relationship dissatisfaction, conflict, indifference, and poor communication. These individuals also tend to put less effort into the relationship and have less faith in their relationship’s ability to go the long haul (actually get married one day).

On the flip side, a 2018 study on cohabitation found that couples, who cohabitate, are also more likely to experience higher levels of happiness and relationship satisfaction. Researchers also found that these couples were more likely to “stay together” than married couples. And, for some couples, cohabitating could lead to a stronger bond once married.

Could it help your relationship…?

So, could moving in together help your relationship? It depends on who you ask.

While living together can feel like a “trial marriage” –i.e. dividing household and parenting responsibilities, splitting the bills, making decisions together, sharing living space with each other, and spending more time together, it can also cause frustration, boredom, conflict, confusion, and dissatisfaction in the relationship.

Can you determine the outcome before you pack up and move in together? No, you can’t. You just have to take an in-depth look at your relationship and roll the dice. 

Keep in mind, however, that if you move in together and it’s not what you expected, it may be hard to leave your current living situation, which could damage your relationship even further.

More specifically, once you move in together, both of you will be responsible for bills – i.e. rent or a mortgage, utilities, and other financial responsibilities. You may also share a child or children, pet(s), furniture, and/or other inanimate items, so you won’t be able to just get up and leave if things start falling apart.

What to do if it’s not working

So, what should you do if living together just isn’t working out for you? Well, many couples, especially the ones that are financially dependent on each other, continue to live together, eventually becoming “ships passing in the night.”

In other words, they become emotionally distant from each other until relationship dissatisfaction, hostility, and resentment set in, destroying any remnants of love they once shared for each other. Sadly, some of these couples opt to get married even though they’re unhappy because they feel it’s what they are “supposed” to do after moving in together.

But, despite these distressing findings, some current studies indicate that cohabitating isn’t as frightening as originally thought. In fact, some researchers suggest that cohabiting couples may be just as happy and satisfied as couples that “tie the knot.” These studies imply that couples who live together fare just as good or better as couples who get married. 

The long and the short of it

The likelihood that moving in together will improve or strengthen your relationship is 50/50. It will not help you determine how committed your partner is or how strong your relationship is but it will help you determine how well you work together to accomplish goals and work through issues.

Moving in will also help you prepare for marriage – as it did for me and my husband. It will help you see what “married life” will look like for you. It will teach you how to share, be patient, compromise, sacrifice, communicate, co-manage, and pick your battles.

Will you still experience conflict? Absolutely. Moving in together or maintaining separate residences will not prevent disagreements but, if you plan to spend your lives together, it can highlight issues you need to work on.

As for my husband and I – we are still together and thriving 13 years later.




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Actionable Steps


1

Give your partner space

Once you move in with your partner, you’ll need to respect their personal space. Find something to do that does not include your sweetheart. Go out with friends, spend time with family, develop a workout routine, read, start journaling, develop a hobby, volunteer, sign-up for a class, try out new recipes, etc. Be independent. Do things that make you happy, but do not necessarily involve your partner.
 
I’m not suggesting you do this all of the time but crowding your partner will only make them question why they agreed to move in with you. Doing your own thing allows your partner to do their own thing. So, find something fun or productive to do, and give your partner the space they need to thrive individually and as your partner.

2

Maintain regular communication

In other words, TALK – every day and multiple times a day, if possible. Regular communication is essential for any relationship, and especially important once you move in together. You have shared responsibilities now that need to be addressed daily. So, make time to check in with each other every morning (i.e. upon wakening or at breakfast), on breaks or at lunch, and in the evenings (i.e. during dinner or before bed).
 
Devote 60+ minutes a day to communicating (talking with each other). Chat about your days, dreams, goals, future plans, wants, needs, things you like or love, and even your pet peeves. Also be open, honest, and respectful during these times. 
 
And, don’t forget to throw in a compliment or word of support and encouragement; it will make your partner feel loved, supported, and valued.

3

Have realistic expectations

Be realistic. Don’t set your expectations so high that even you could not achieve them. Healthy couples, married or unmarried, don’t expect their partners to be superheroes. Just like you, your partner is human; he or she will make mistakes from time to time. If it is not a catastrophic mistake, forgive him or her and move on to the best of your ability.
 
It’s not easy to forgive and forget. But, I’m not suggesting you “forget” what happened, I’m suggesting you forgive or at least try to forgive your partner if he or she messes up. I’m also asking you to make your expectations realistic. Don’t ask for more than what your partner can do. This is especially important if you want to move in together to improve your relationship.
 
A good way to determine your expectations? Ask yourself if you could achieve them. If not, then you should probably reevaluate them and set more achievable ones.

4

Read more on this topic

If you’d like to learn more about if moving in together will help your relationship, check out the following articles, reviewed by our professionals: 7 Ways Moving In Together Can Change Your Relationship, 9 Things No One Tells You About Moving In With Your Significant Other, and Will Moving in Together Ruin Your Relationship.

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About the Author


Dr. R. Y. Langham

Dr. R. Y. Langham

Ph.D. in Family Psychology

Ree has a Master’s in Marriage and Family Therapy (M.M.F.T.) and a Ph.D. in Family Psychology. She spent over ten years counseling families, couples, individuals, and children on adjustment issues such as blended families, same-sex couples, dysfunctional family relationships, relationship issues, etc. Now she writes for famous health organizations and is a published author.
Full Bio | LinkedIn


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