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It seems first comes love, then comes moving in together. But how can a couple possibly know whether they're really ready for this momentous step? Here, our expert reveals five signs you can search for before you co-sign a lease.
1. You've dated a year or more.
You may feel you're ready to shack up after only six months, but April Masini, relationship expert and advice columnist, says that couples who've dated a year or more are better prepared to live together. "Living together is romantic — at first," she explains. "But over the long term, it's a part of the relationship that has to be managed. Expenses, chores, nitty-gritty surprises such as snoring and bathroom habits are all not sexy and not romantic, but necessary challenges." After enough time together, she says, you'll be less surprised and more adept at understanding those challenges.
2. You're not moving in together to avoid a financially difficulty.
The wrong reason to get a romantic roommate, Masini says, is to ease your rent burden. "Couples who are financially stable do better living together than couples who move in together because they can't afford to live alone," she explains. Couples who do, she warns, often find themselves in frequent financial fights. Plus, she adds, money is fluid — and if your only reason for moving in together was financial, you may find yourself moving out when you make more money. "It's much better to move into together because you want to be together, not because you want a rent break," Masini says.
3. You've lived on your own before.
You may think you're better prepared to live with your partner because you're used living with someone else. But Masini warns it's more important to live alone — or independently, with roommates — before you live with you love. "Singles who've lived on their own, been responsible for rent, utilities and food shopping are a lot more prepared for sharing those responsibilities than people who go from a parent's home, where mom and dad still paid the mortgage and the utilities," she says. "It's less of a culture shock to go from having lived alone or with roommates to moving in with a lover, than it is to go from a parent's home to a lover's home."
4. You want to get married.
You know you love your significant other or you wouldn't be talking about taking this particular plunge. But Masini says marriage should be on the table before you sign a lease or take over half the master closet. "If you've been dating each other and you're ready to get married living together is a great way to get closer to that decision," she explains. "In-law problems, money issues and lurking exes will become clear when you live together before taking the next step. It's a great way to feel more sure — or see the red flags — when it comes to marriage."
5. You're mature enough to discuss a prenuptial agreement.
Says Masini, "Love may conquer all, but divorce attorneys will beg to differ. If you're mature enough to be able to discuss the importance of a prenuptial agreement, and can hammer one out and still see romance ahead, you're ready to move in together." It's uncomfortable to discuss these details, of course. But, says Masini, "living together is full of all sorts of not so sexy events like losing a job, death of a parent, illness, accidents, difficult kids and step-kids, and if you can deal with the grown up and business side of relationships, you're definitely more ready to move in together than a couple who can't or doesn't want to deal with this."