220,000. No, that's not the number of pictures of rose bouquets posted to Instagram last Thursday -- but you're not far off. According to a 2012 TIME report, an average of 220,000 wedding proposals happen on Valentine's Day each year, comprising 10 percent of the annual total. These engagements might come after a couple has been living together for some time; while others mark the next step towards sharing your home and lives together. But whether you've moved in pre-engagement, pre-marriage or waited until that knot was tied, there are common challenges that will arise, and ways to overcome them and maintain a stress-free home with your partner. I've talked to three couples, each of whom decided to move in together at different points in their relationship, to find out how they keep the peace in their new love nest.
Deciding When to Move in Together
While many couples still choose to wait until marriage to move in together, it's no longer the norm in today's culture. Pre-engagement and pre-marriage cohabitation is now more common than ever, with the number of unmarried couples living together in 2010 being 15 times that in 1960. For more on this and stats on relationship survival statistics, see MyMove.com's Infographic on Cohabitation. The findings published in it surprised me; having lived with my now-husband for several years before we got married, I can attest it was the best thing for our relationship. It strengthened our partnership, and there were no surprises or doubts when we decided to get married. Of course, there are pros and cons to each situation, and ultimately every relationship should make its own set of rules.
If you're dating someone seriously, sharing a home can make sense for both your relationship and your finances. After a year together, New York City resident Sean Gallerani moved into an apartment with his boyfriend. "When you live in a place like New York City, where the rent is high and the real estate market is hellish, the choice of moving in with a partner becomes a little simpler," Sean explains. "We both agreed it was the right decision and a big step in the right direction. We knew we were in love. We enjoyed each other's company, and we already were learning to live well together."
Michelle Collins, freelance food writer and blogger behind The Economical Eater, moved in with her fiancé after three years of dating. "Wait until you're ready," Michelle advises. "My fiancé and I easily could have moved in together a year before we actually did, but neither of us felt quite ready yet." When the time was right, moving in together was a great next step in their relationship, and Michelle adds, "We were both also in a good place financially to find a place we knew we would love, and could afford."
Others take a more traditional route. My Move's own Alex Silberman and his wife Amanda waited until after their wedding to move in together. As Amanda explains, "For me, the decision was based on wanting to wait to share a space and my life with someone until I had the security of marriage." Alex adds, "We had always said that, as long as we were financially able to wait, then that's what we would do. I hadn't put a lot of thought into it before I started dating Amanda, but I appreciated and respected her beliefs. We dated for a long time, and we knew that we wanted to spend our lives together, but we never felt the need to rush any part of our relationship."
Tips for Keeping the Peace at Home
Lay out your expectations. What are your nonnegotiables when it comes to sharing a space with someone? What are the daily routines and lifestyle norms that you'll need accommodated? If you and your partner both know what to expect, the transition of moving in together will be much smoother. "Think about the things that are incredibly important to you in your living space -- the 'I-can't-live-withouts' -- and be vocal about them before you move in," Sean advises.
Compromise. You've laid out your expectations, you've heard your partner's, now it's time to find a middle ground. As Alex puts it, "No matter when you choose to move in together, understand that you're going to have to sacrifice something!" And it's not necessarily a bad thing. Understand that habits you've formed while on your own (both good and bad) may need to be adjusted to accommodate those of your partner.
Communicate. Communication is crucial in maintaining a happy, stress-free home. "Know what you need when you are stressed, and tell your significant other. That way, when the little bickering that is inevitable happens, you both know how to support the other," Amanda recommends.
Be comfortable being yourself -- but don't get overly complacent. "When you live apart from your boyfriend, you have the ability to hide some of your 'crazy,'" Sean explains. And it's true. That passionately awful singing in the shower, your tendency to watch day-long TV marathons of Real Housewives, those occasional lazy weekends when you wear the same sweatpants three days in a row -- now your partner gets to see all that.
Being comfortable letting your significant other see all sides of you is important, but it's also crucial to avoid complacency in the relationship. Remember that you are a couple first and foremost, and roommates second. Work to keep your relationship thriving by planning date nights or taking time to appreciate the little moments you spend together.
"Our favorite part [of living together] so far is the teamwork that goes into making a marriage and a home work. We can have fun doing anything, and it's been great turning household chores into little games and contests," Alex explains. Amanda agrees, advising couples to "Enjoy the small stuff. Turn house projects into dates so you're both becoming invested in your new shared space."
Maintain balance between your individual life and your life as a couple. Michelle's best advice for couples who have moved in together is "Honor your significant other's space. Just because you live together doesn't mean you need to hang out 24/7. It's important to commit to being individuals, while still supporting one another." And you may find that this is more challenging than you'd think.
As Amanda reveals about moving in together, "So far the only challenge is sticking to our individual schedules. Because I'm living with my husband, who's my best friend, it's not like a roommate who has a completely separate life."
Embrace their quirky living habits. Chainsaw snoring aside, it's often the little quirks and strange daily habits you discover after moving in together that make your partner all the more endearing. Since moving in together, Sean has learned that his boyfriend habitually walks around the apartment with his headphones on while he listens to podcasts, and that he likes to meticulously fluff pillows. In return, Sean has revealed his own quirks. "I can eat an entire box of E.L. Fudge Original Cookies in one sitting -- and I wasn't joking when I told him I would watch Sex and the City everyday if I could!"
Alex says he's learned that Amanda copes with stress by baking. "If I see the oven's on, I know something's up!"
And along with the over-fluffing of pillows and other quirks, you are bound to discover new talents and traits post-move that you never knew your partner had. Michelle had the pleasure of learning just how patient her fiancé could be. And Amanda reveals, "I've always known how great of a cook Alex was, but now I know he wasn't just showing off for me while we were dating!" (As a side note, in Alex's opinion, it's not necessarily his kitchen skills that Amanda has been lucky enough to enjoy, but his love of professional football.)
Ultimately, all three couples agree that if the time is right, moving in with your partner just simply can't be beat. It requires adjustments and compromises, but if you're both willing to put in the work, it will only strengthen the relationship. "Living with your best friend is so much more enjoyable than anyone told us it would be," Sean explains. Alex echoes this sentiment, advising couples, "Smile -- your new roommate is your best friend!"
If you live with a significant other, what advice would you give for successfully sharing a home and keeping the peace with your loved one?