In New York City, finding a place to rent is hard, and finding someone to date is even harder. But once you get the hang of dating here and find a partner, it’s not uncommon to take the next step by moving in together quicker than you would if you lived elsewhere.
Sure, it probably makes sense: You crash at each other’s place most nights anyway. Moving in together gets rid of the annoying roommate factor, and allows you to save some cash by splitting NYC’s astronomical rent.
But accelerating a dating relationship to a live-in one has some risks. Couples who move in together too soon can end in disaster—there’s not much worse than going through a breakup and having to move out and find a new place—all at the same time.
So if you’re thinking of upgrading to live-in status, you’ll want to NYC-proof your relationship. Here are the questions to ask before you cohabitat—so you can keep the peace with your boo.
1) Are you an early bird or a night owl?
You may have learned this about your partner already during your sleepovers, but just in case their habits differ when it’s a day-to-day live-in situation, it’s a good idea to talk it out. It’s more about setting expectations, says Meredith Shirey, a marriage and family therapist.
“Does the early bird expect the night owl to pop out of bed at seven in the morning on a Saturday?” she asks. Talk about what's reasonable for each of you, and how you can compromise, if you have different ways of functioning.
2) How important is ‘alone time’ to you?
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“When cohabitating for the first time, the biggest change is that you’re giving up the safe space away from that person that you once had,” says Shirey. Maybe you or your partner need time by yourself to decompress after work, by taking a shower, meditating, or watching TV. Discussing your needs will help you learn one another’s boundaries.
Along with carving out alone time is the need to create personal space, especially if you’re sharing a small apartment (typically the case in NYC) or even—a studio. Lots of couples make small spaces work for them, with a few rules that you can learn.
3) Do you mind having guests over?
Bringing the party home can cause trouble if your partner is more of an introvert. While you should discuss this before cohabitating, you don’t need to have a playbook on how to navigate the issue, says Shirey. Just communicate your expectations about having guests.
If you’re from different backgrounds, ask what the role of family means to your significant other. While some cultures consider it rude if you don’t allow your mother to pop in as she pleases, unannounced guests are a huge issue for others.
4) On a scale of pig-pen to OCD-den, how tidy do you keep your place?
When it comes to cleaning, it’s not just about the division of labor, but also understanding what clean means to your partner. If you’re an obsessive cleaner and your partner is a slob, you’ll probably be resentful for doing more of the cleaning. Coming home and screaming ‘This house is a mess!’ won’t help either of you.
Instead, before you make the move, ask how the other defines what clean is, and how often you expect to clean your place.
5) Nightlight, fan, or other quirky sleeping habits?
Lots of people need a fan, sound-machine, or TV to fall asleep, but then there’s those who need dead silence—we’ve all got our sleeping quirks, but if they differ from your partner then it may require a compromise.
If you cannot change your sleeping habits, consider adjusting them slightly: set your fan to a lower speed or using the sleep timer on the TV.
6) How are we going to pay the bills—is it a 50/50 split?
Having money in the bank and sticking to a plan for finances is often tied to a sense of security for many people, says Shirey. That type of person may feel their sense of stability threatened by someone who is more casual about bills, and not careful about expenses.
Have a conversation about how you plan to pay the bills and set a budget for things like cable, and weekly groceries. Discuss whether you are inflexible about certain spending or saving habits. Don’t forget to talk about how you’re going to divy up the rent and bills. Splitting it 50/50 is easiest, but if there’s a salary difference, you may decide splitting it differently works best.
7) What’s next?
For some couples, just living together is the goal, but others see it as a gateway to marriage—although not necessarily right away.
“You see couples moving in early more in NYC than other markets, and New Yorkers tend to get married later, if at all, and have children later,” says Shirey. Be sure that you’re both on the same page about your relationship timeline. To avoid giving the other false hope, discuss why you’re moving in together and what your expectations are.
8) What’s our break-up plan?
Although it may seem pessimistic to prepare for a relationship’s demise while you’re picking out your new bedding, it’s something you need to consider.
“You need to prepare for the end in some way, and it’s better to have the conversation before you move in together,” says Shirey.
Ask: Who leaves and who stays? How are you going to split the furniture and other things purchased together? Who gets to keep what? It’s a conversation that underscores the serious side of your undertaking—and can protect you financially. As for your broken heart, that too will heal eventually.
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