So you’ve been dating for a while and now things are moving into more serious territory. A generation ago you’d probably be talking about marriage but for 21st century couples, even those who consider marriage to be the long-term goal, an intermediate rung on the relationship ladder is often moving in with one another. Yet, to all intents and purposes, renting or buying a place together with your significant other is akin to marriage and if you want to avoid potential heartbreak then you need clarity to help you make the right decisions.

If it hasn’t already occurred to you then you should be aware that moving in and living with someone, even someone you love is difficult. The fact that so many couples end up divorcing should tell you that and just as no couple enters a marriage with the intention of getting divorced, so no-one moves in with their partner eagerly anticipating the subsequent break-up.

Moving home is a major decision at any time of your life and although it’s exciting when you set up home for the first time, doing so whilst encased in a romantic bubble could prove disastrous in the end. The romance is wonderful but moving in with someone is also something that above all needs careful consideration because the biggest obstacles a couple will face will come when they are living with one another. Successful relationships require honesty, diplomacy, openness and maturity.

So how do you know if it’s the right time to move in with your other half? Here’s some simple questions that you should ask yourself before agreeing to move in together.

  1. How well do you really know your partner?
    This isn’t as straightforward a question as it might seem. Many couples, regardless of whether they stick together or not will say that they only really got to know each other once they were living together. Of course if you’ve been dating for a significant period then you’ll know something, even a lot about your partner but what this person will be like to live with is on a whole different scale.
  2. What are your and your partner’s qualities?
    This goes beyond the usual intuition; it doesn’t really matter whether you and your significant other have the same standards, for example one of you may be happy leaving the dishes until morning, whilst the other insists on cleaning-up before bed. The question is whether both of you are flexible and sufficiently giving oriented so that you’ll be able to work out some kind of functioning arrangements that keep you both happy. If you or your partner is stubborn and self-centered then expect this to be more difficult. Of course, you’ll have differences but it is how you deal with these that will define your relationship as successful or otherwise.
  3. How does your partner spend their time when they’re not with you?
    This is important because the chances are that even after moving in with you they’ll want to keep up the same routines. If your partner has the boys round for a poker night once a week, or spends most evenings out then you should anticipate this and ask whether this is something you’d be comfortable with in your home life.
  4. What do you have in common?
    This is probably the most important question and it isn’t meant not be understood on a superficial level. There’s more to a relationship that liking someone’s company, their touch or having shared interests. Of course, these things are important in a relationship but the final piece of the jigsaw which allows you to create and develop some kind of deeper connection is shared life goals. You need all these and if the final part is missing then you’ll probably find that living together will eventually drive you apart.
  5. What are your expectations?
    This doesn’t extend merely to “I’ll take out the trash and you’ll do the dishes”; it’s not about agreeing to give X in order to get Y back. It’s always better in a relationship to focus mainly on what you can give to the other person, but this shouldn’t be at the expense of your own needs. Have a clear idea in your mind of what you want and expect from another person and talk about this before you start house-hunting with your significant other. The point here is about knowing yourself well enough to know what you can give and what you can’t give and how this might improve or impede a relationship which is moving towards a long-term commitment.
  6. Do you expect your partner to change once you’re living together?
    If you’ve answered yes to this question then you’re probably best advised to forget the whole idea. This is the biggest mistake that couples make; no-one ever changed unless they wanted to. If you’re expecting to see a partner transformed into your personal dream once you pick up the keys, then also expect to be disappointed. If the person you’re thinking about moving in with isn’t someone you’d like to live with right now then it’s probably not the best idea.

If you can communicate openly and honestly with your other half about all of these questions (and still want to go ahead after the conversation) then you should be good to go.

Stephen Duke is a professional writer and blogger. Previous incarnations include, fashion buyer, psychology teacher, dairy farmer and master decorator. He currently writes for Amazon Relocation, a New York based moving company, providing expert assistance in all aspects of the moving business.