In my role as a family lawyer I help people navigate the end of their relationship, I know what to do to help people get through their most difficult seasons. Also a part of my role is that I get to really understand relationships. I have heard countless stories of what went wrong, countless stories of what went right and I have heard many other professionals speak about the common experiences of the couples they meet.
Recently, a friend of mine declared to me he was pretty sure he was ready to move in with his partner. The conversation that followed was super inspiring and I think super important. So, in typical Kiarah fashion, I have compiled my thoughts below- What does someone who really knows relationships think about the critical step of two people moving in together?
Savings and Debt
Your initial discussions when considering moving in together should aim to get to the bottom of exactly what is happening right now for each of you.
Understanding the current ability for both of you to save, your current income positions and if any debt currently exists is really important. There is no right or wrong way to have the discussion that has to follow this step, no one can tell you whether you are comfortable with cohabitating with a partner who has debt or cohabitating with a partner who earns significantly more than you or has a significantly greater amount of savings than you. However, it is incredibly important that you at least have that information shared before taking that all-important step of sharing your space.
We all know that sharing your home with somebody involves buying a bunch of stuff, paying rent and of course paying for things like groceries and the general costs of household upkeep. You should have a discussion now with your partner as to how you intend to share these costs with them.
Your partner will have their ideas and you will have yours, there is no right or wrong way to share finances- I have seen it done where everything is shared equally, I have seen it done where things are shared proportionately for an almost ‘percentage calculation’ depending on each other’s income situation and I have also seen things divided in completely different ways where somebody meets all additional expenses and the other meets all of the rent.
Within these broader decisions, there are even more decisions to make. Some couples who share things equally divide things down to the last cent at the checkout at Woolies, some operate a joint bank account for only shared expenses, while some people operate a joint bank account where all of their joint and sole expenses are met.
The most important advice I can give here is to make sure that you are both on the same page with your decisions and what it means if the worst were to happen. I have seen some people become really shocked where one party has met the costs of the mortgage for the entire relationship and the other person has met all other expenses, and the person who did pay the mortgage feels they have more of an ownership over the home than the other.
This question is best answered with some technical advice but just know that contributions that we do make during the relationship, especially where relationships last a really long time, become less of a mathematical equation and more of a global look at things if you ever were to separate. I only say this in the sense that no matter how you choose to share your finances, you should also discuss what that arrangement means if your relationship were to end, will both of your contributions be considered the way you want them to be? Are your expectations clearly known?
Choosing Your Space
The next step is the exciting part of deciding where you are to live. Some couples will elect to move into a home one of them already owns or rents, some will decide to move into a new space. Be careful about your expectations here in terms of whether, if you are looking for a new home, that new home is suitable to both of you and what you want to use that new home for. You must also be up front with each other about what existing assets mean in the event of a relationship breakdown. If one of you owns a home or owns any larger assets generally, bringing these types of things into a relationship can have a legal impact and legal advice should be sought to this point. Not to sound like a broken record, but, it is all about having discussions, sharing expectations, and understanding where the other person is at from the beginning, so we do not face any shocks if things were to go wrong later on.
Division of Labour
In this section, I am adding another discussion point for you both to think about– how will household labour be divided in your relationship? Are each of your work schedules equal? Does one of you work incredibly long hours while the other does not? Do you think that should play a part in how your household labour is divided?
There is no right or wrong here, but again it is all about sharing expectations now rather than later.
Thinking About ‘Way Down the Track’
Because I have had the opportunity to learn from a lot of people about what contributed to the end of their relationship, I am going to go off script here and give a piece of completely unsolicited advice, advice you certainly did not ask for. However, I am incredibly passionate about healthy relationships and I find this one step incredibly important –
Is this also a good time to start thinking about “way down the track”?
By this I mean are you on the same page about kids or lack thereof, are you on the same page about wealth building, are you on the same page about how your careers will look and what you expect of the other person to help you build that career, and what that career might mean for your family. Really, this step is just a conversation and there are resources from professionals out there to help you both discuss this. I have seen it a lot where these discussions are not held early enough and people become disappointed when things don’t live up to expectations that were never communicated.
It is an incredibly exciting time to be considering moving in with your new partner. It is filled with a lot of excitement and joy, and so it should be! If you are an over-thinker like me, you are probably reading this blog to gather as much information as you can before taking a huge step. I hope the suggestions above help make this exciting time a little bit more exciting and help you feel a bit more on the same page as well.
Any questions? Flick them my way! You can find me at firstname.lastname@example.org.