07/09/2013 10:58 am ET Updated Sep 08, 2013

Cohabitating Fearlessly

So often I see couples for therapy who just recently moved in together after knowing each other for a very short time. The relationships seemed fine until cohabitation when problems then surface in a big way. When I ask what their motivation was for moving in together, it's usually a resounding: "to save money". They tell me, "His lease ends soon and we spend five nights a week together anyhow". Or, "Money is tight so we might as well have one lease instead of two". Although this might be best for the wallet, it clearly isn't best for the relationship.

The amateur financial planner in me says go for it. Make the smart financial decision. The therapist in me says don't do it. Therapist wins out every time: don't move in together. Ultimately you must decide: save money or save the relationship? If you're compelled to move in together, despite my advice, here's how to do your best to ensure that the relationship prospers nonetheless.

First, know the purpose. Is it being done out of convenience or is it the next step towards marriage? Be fully committed because any doubts will show and ultimately lead to troubles. Know that things will be dramatically different. There will be no place to retreat to should there be disagreements, thus, an opportunity exists to develop excellent skills in conflict resolution. Rather than sharing his place or hers, start afresh in an entirely new apartment. This will help you both avoid territorial issues. Decide what to keep and what to discard. Having duplicate ironing boards or vacuums will create clutter and stress in the relationship and imply that the move is temporary.

Regarding finances, know that a huge contributor to break-ups is money issues, therefore, figure it out ahead of time. As much as I encourage people to focus on strengths and to think positively, here's a case where it's important to think about "what-ifs" What if there's a break-up, how would the lease be handled? How is property to be divided? It may seem awkward but figure it out now, just in case. When things are good, discuss how to handle expenses. Either split them down the middle or contribute a proportionate percentage of your respective earnings, especially if there's a salary discrepancy. Contributing equally to a joint account reserved only for expenses will also help to manage money.

Finally, discuss expectations and needs and look at the new situation with optimism and an open mind as you learn new things about each other you never thought existed. Don't feel compelled to spend every waking moment together. Maintain your sense of autonomy and feel confident about the new phase of the relationship.

For more by Jonathan Alpert, click here.

For more on conscious relationships, click here.

For more advice on how to live fearlessly check out my book BE FEARLESS: Change Your Life in 28 Days.