First comes love, then comes
marriage wedging your splintery old high school desk into someone's breakfast nook. But the success of your cohabitation—be it marriage or be it four years of harmonious Netflix viewing—may depend entirely on how long you do or don't wait to move in.
Rent.com asked thousands of people without mortgages how long they hem and haw before making it official, what the hardest part of letting someone see you first thing in the morning really is, and how quickly you bail once the bloom is off the Ikea rose. Taken together, the results present some pretty reliable crowd wisdom: Look before you leap, for about six months to one year, to be exact. In infographic form:
Note please that it's just as unpopular to move in too soon (only seven percent of respondents felt under six months was OK) as it is to move in too late (only six percent of respondents felt two to three years was ideal). And waiting for more than three years is for suckers.
This makes a lot of sense. There is such a thing as rushing, and such a thing as dragging your feet, and neither one makes sense for good relationship momentum. You should know pretty well by six months or a year if things are going well enough to consider moving in; if you don't know by two or three years, then isn't that your answer? And I'm not even talking about marriage as the endpoint here, but simply the compatibility that is required for anything to last without making you want to launch your own personal voodoo doll cottage industry.
It's worth noting that a third of 18- to 24-year-olds thought people should wait to move in together until marriage, but I can only assume that's either because things are going so swell living with their parents, or they have devised a very clever way as a demographic to let you know they will never want to move in with you.
But there's what people think others ought to do, and what they do themselves. And according to the survey stats provided, respondents recommended something entirely more cautious than they themselves had practiced. Nearly 30 percent had moved in with someone in under six months, but only seven percent thought it prudent in retrospect.
People move in together too quickly for all sorts of reasons—because they think they are in love, want to get revenge on their last boyfriend, become hopelessly attached to each other from the get-go (*cough* codependent *cough*) or, probably all too often, someone's lease is up and why the hell not. Take a chance! Play the Russian Roulette of life and combine your silverware.
That happened to me. I had a boyfriend whose roommate was moving out of state. I think we'd only been dating a few months, and rather than be logical and let him simply crash with me while he figured out a better situation, we naively decided to find out just how shaky the relationship was. Verdict: Shaky. And shitty. Shitty-shaky. Worst kind.
That is why the site suggests spending full weeks at your mate's place with no breaks to test the waters of their grooming habits, late-night TV preferences (ahem, porn use), whiskey snores, and so on. Can you handle it? Does it endear you to the person? Or make you want to die? These are important questions.
To be honest, though, I'm not sure you'll really find the answers to these questions without moving in together first. You know how it sucks to try to get your first job because you need experience to get the job, but you need a job to get experience? You need to live with someone to find out if they are really good for you, but you should supposedly already know if someone is good for you before you move in.
Moving in is a gamble, kid, no matter how much you talk it out up front. In fact, it's the biggest no-big-deal gamble short of marriage you can take, and if you play it right, it will be just as hard to divide your stuff when it ends as divorcing. That's when you know you're really a grownup. Of course, the perks are wonderful—but you don't know that until you try it.
Other important questions, says Rent.com, are discussing things like how you'll split the bills and who will do what around the house. These are questions that also sound great in theory to ask up front but are near impossible to suss out, especially when you're in your twenties.
Living together is the first time many of us actually figure some of this shit out, like how to divide bills. Sure, 34 percent of people said they like to split things evenly, but there's no indication what evenly means—it could mean right down the middle, same amount, or an equal percentage of income. Nor is there any indication of what people really mean when they say they "cleaned" the bathroom versus what they actually did, which was not even touch the mirror with anything resembling Windex or a paper towel. Ditto for the kitchen, which some people have the nerve to call clean without wiping down any counters?
You'll figure it out. I suppose you could try to talk about this stuff up front, but it's far more likely you will find yourself re-cleaning the bathroom in a huff and trying not to be mad. Clean mirror hindsight is definitely 20/20.
Rent.com says you'll "have to learn to get to get along with each other even when you're both so annoyed with the other that steam is coming out of your ears," but I think there is a reason we invented doors (for slamming), cars (for peeling out in), and backs (for turning very dramatically away). They also suggest you can do a "practice round" of living together before moving in so you can see all the gross habits and moodiness before committing, when there will be "no escape."
Hey babe! It's just you and me this weekend, and please, I really want you to let it all hang out, ok? Farts out! Bathroom doors open! Toenail clippings scattered lovingly about.
I would counter that the most important thing you can probably do before moving in with someone is to scout how close the following things are to your place: bar, movie house, 24-hour diner, fire escape, costume store. Oh, and make sure your emergency fund can cover moving expenses. Really. Some 40 percent of the renters surveyed admitted that things ended while living together, but 62 percent stayed well past the breakup, from one month to up to a year, probably because they couldn't afford to move.
Finally, they suggest that you decide beforehand who will stay in the apartment if you break up. That's brutal, but not as brutal as pretending that whatever agreement you came up with, if not written in stone with legal binding, will still matter six months from now when it's all over and here you are heartbroken, only with a jointly purchased nicer TV, a dog, and a year's subscription of blue cheeses. Good thing 32 percent of those surveyed said the whole point to this life move is to find out if this person is truly "the one."
Image via Getty.