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12 Things Every Couple Needs to Know Before Moving In Together

You might never have thought to create a "breakup plan" until now.

There are a lot of reasons why moving in with your significant other makes sense: it's cheaper, it's convenient, and, most of all, you'll get to spend as much time together as possible. But at the same time, living together before marriage is a huge step and should never be taken lightly. After all, breaking up is way harder when you share property or a lease and being in such close quarters (even with someone you love!) can reveal things you never would have known otherwise. Ahead, we asked the experts for the things every couple should know about living together before marriage.

You should talk about what the move means for your future

It's tempting to brush off moving in together as a natural next step in the relationship, but don't assume your partner sees it the same way you do. "For some people, it's a matter of logistics and saving money," says licensed counselor Simone Lambert, PhD, president of the American Counseling Association. "Other people are looking to test-drive the relationship and figure out if it's a good fit for them." Whether you plan to keep things casual, get engaged, or maintain a long-term unmarried relationship, make sure your significant other is on the same page before you start living together before marriage.

It's smart to create a "breakup plan"

Even if you have every intention of staying together forever after you move in together, it's impossible to know what the future has in store. Just in case you do end up breaking up, create a plan about logistics like who gets the house and who gets the dog, suggests licensed relationship and sex therapist Lisa Thomas of Online Couch. "You have to figure stuff out like it's a business," she says. "It's unromantic, but at the same time, you need to be responsible and independent so you have a plan and don't end up in a bad situation." After all, it's easier to make these tough, emotional decisions before tensions rise.

Some partners get lazy when cohabitating

Dating is great because every moment you spend together is special; you've blocked out time for each other and are probably focusing on 'us time' instead of sitting on your phone, says Thomas. But that dynamic can change when you're with each other every day and night, and you get comfortable (maybe a little too comfortable) with having your partner around. "When you're living together, make sure you're scheduling dates or prioritizing time to spend with each other," suggests Thomas. Even if life gets in the way sometimes, that couple time can keep the spark strong.

You might be considered more like "part of the family"

Cohabitating will probably change your relationship with your partner's family. Family events that you might not have been expected to attend before could suddenly turn into commitments, Thomas points out. For better or for worse, you'll probably be more ingrained in the family, so prepare for more time with your partner's relatives.

Your social lives become more intertwined

Family obligations aren't the only ways your social life will change; even though you used to go out with your friends any time you wanted, or invited friends over without giving it a second thought, you'll have to take your partner into consideration if they're living under the same roof, says Thomas. You might want to come up with a check-in strategy for when plans come up, she says. Maybe one partner is always up for an outing as long as the calendar is clear, but the other would prefer to give a formal yes or no before being committed to any plans. It's up to you to figure out a system that works before you begin living together before marriage.

You might start to see (and reveal) your not-so-good sides

Cohabitating usually means letting your guard down—and not necessarily in a good way. "In a relationship [living apart], we're often on our best behavior," says Lambert. "When you're in your own home, it becomes much harder to maintain that best behavior." Come up with strategies for when fights start to brew. Try taking a "time-out" when tensions are escalating, or meeting with a relationship counselor to help work through the new problems that might crop up, Lambert suggests.

You'll have to figure out the breakdown of chores

When you're living apart, each of you probably settled into a comfortable routine for doing chores. Some like to keep a place spic and span, while others don't mind leaving the dishes for tomorrow—which can create tension when one partner is sick of the mess, and the other feels like chores are a waste of time. "Talking about that on the front end is helpful in terms of expectations," says Lambert. Discuss how clean you expect the home to be, which chores each partner is responsible for, and how often they should be taken care of.

Bills don't have to be 50/50

Finances are always a hot-button issue, and household bills will likely be the first issue you'll come across. Some couples like to split bills 50/50, but that's not the only option, says Thomas. You might choose another route, like paying based on a percentage of income, but it's important to have that plan in place before the first bill arrives.

Finances could become more of an issue

While bills are the most obvious money problems that pop up when you're living together, they're not the only financial decisions you'll face. "Money goes from managing your own finances to living together and sharing expenses," says Thomas. Spenders and savers might clash more when their lives become more intertwined. Before living together before marriage, discuss what a comfortable budget looks like to you and how much you plan to save each month.

Religious differences could become more pronounced

You don't need to follow the same religion to have a healthy relationship, but it's a good idea to talk about beliefs and traditions before moving in together. Before you moved in, heading to a religious service every weekend might not have affected your partner's schedule. But once you're cohabitating, that means time they'll be left home alone. Thomas recommends having a chat about how you'll be spending big holidays (religious or not) and whether either of you will be expected to start attending services.

Your move could affect your kids (if you've got any)

Communication is key in every relationship, but it "can be particularly challenging when parenting is involved," says Lambert. If one partner has a child who will be living with you, a counselor specializing in blended families can help guide kids and adults alike through the household changes. And if you and your partner are having a baby together, you'll need to prepare for the changes not only to your living situation, but also in the responsibilities and expectations that go along with raising a child.

A cohabitation agreement will offer protection

Perhaps the least romantic thing to address is what will happen if tragedy strikes. "If something happens to one of the partners … a formal estate might not be recognized if there's not a marriage in place," warns Lambert. Creating a cohabitation agreement—either keeping it informal or getting it notarized—will give both partners something to fall back on if tragedy hits, says Lambert.

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