How to deal with moving in with a partner for the first time
This week, our resident sexpert Olivia Petter delves into one of the biggest relationship milestones there is and how to navigate it
Friday 17 March 2023 By Olivia Petter Illustration by Mlle Belamour
Buckle up, my friend: you’re in for a ride. Of all the relationship milestones we will hit in our lives, moving in with a partner is arguably one of the most significant and, well, the most maddening. I’ve never understood how couples can get married without having ever lived together first.
Traditionally, of course, that’s what people always did. And in some cultures, those traditions are still upheld. But it involves some serious risk-taking. Because let me tell you something, dear reader, you never truly know or understand a person until you’ve lived with them – and that can be make or break for your relationship.
First things first, it’s important to ask yourself why you’re moving in together. Is it because all of your friends are living with their partners and you feel pressured to do the same? Is it because your lease is coming to an end and you need to find a new living situation quickly? Or is it because you’ve been with your partner for a certain number of years and feel like this is a natural – and necessary – next step if you want the relationship to progress?
If the answer to any of those questions is ‘yes’, I advise proceeding with caution. My point is that moving in with someone is one of those things people often do because they feel they ought to. It’s a box that society rewards us for ticking. And I’m here to tell you that it’s not a good place to start. If you’re going to move in with your partner, you need to make sure it’s for the right reasons so that you have a solid base from which to begin this rather strange journey.
Moving in with someone is a major commitment, but not in the way we think it is. No, it doesn’t mean you’re on a fast track to getting married and having children. But it does require a certain amount of dedication from both parties.
When you live with your partner, it adds another dynamic to your relationship – one based on logistics rather than romance. Think about all of the things you need to sort out: council tax, energy providers, where to put your recycling. Hardly the stuff of dreams.
Then there’s the simple act of living together. Being around someone constantly changes the nature of your relationship. You discover new things about them, like how often they do their laundry, how thoroughly they clean the kitchen, and how they organise their cutlery drawer (mine happens to be a treasure trove of paperclips and paracetamol).
You’ll have to find ways of splitting domestic duties, and navigate the art of getting into bed quieter than a mouse when one of you gets home later than the other on a weeknight. If you’re lucky, all of this will bring you closer to your partner, forging a deeper kind of intimacy that’s predicated on all of the silliness and solidarity that can come from the aforementioned foibles.
But you have to work at it – because it won’t always come naturally. Carve out time for each other, whether it’s having dinner at home on a weeknight in front of the TV, or going out to the local pub for a date night. If your partner has a habit or domestic quirk that you don’t like, tell them quickly. Don’t let resentment build.
Most importantly, be tolerant, patient and empathetic with your partner. Remember, this is someone you love; try not to let the fact that they leave their dirty socks on the floor get in the way of that too much.
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Olivia Petter is the relationships writer at The Independent and author of Millennial Love, which is out now in paperback with 4th Estate