This is a guest article by Aloysa, a creator of My Broken Coin. In this article, Aloysa offers five conversation starters for couples considering moving in together.
Based on my own personal experience I can tell you that expectations of your significant other change as soon as you move in together. All of a sudden, you expect him to make the bed, walk your dog, wash the dishes, and put the toilet seat down. He wants you to cook him breakfast and dinner, pack his lunch, buy a six-pack on the way home from work, and listen to his rants about his favorite football team.
But what about your financial expectations of each other? How often do you discuss them?
I strongly believe that when people decide to move in together, they should know as much as possible about each other finances: bank account balances, when the car will be paid off, how much money you both earn, what monthly bills you have to pay including alimony and/or child support.
If you don’t know that much, you really don’t know anything about each other and should stop reading here.
Conversation #5: What are you waiting for? Pay it already!
What is your bill paying style? This is something that can be very important in your life together. Let’s say you pay bills in advance, but your significant other waits till the last minute. Potentially it can create a problem for both of you. One gets nervous that a bill is not paid yet, while the other is stress-free till the “payment due” date.
Resolution: sit down together, go over your bills and figure out what needs to be paid. Make a spreadsheet or a schedule with the due dates for payments, decide when the bills are expected to be paid, and, most importantly, don’t forget to stick to that schedule!
Conversation #4: Who is paying for that dinner?
The complaint that I often hear from my cohabitating friends is related to a very trivial but tricky question: who should pay for nights out, especially if expenses are split 50/50?
Most of the time my romantic girlfriends expect that dates will be covered 100% by their partners. Some of my pragmatic guy friends assume that if they are splitting everything else 50/50, date nights should also be split the same way. Unfulfilled expectations could cause tension in the relationship, and feelings can get hurt.
Resolution: Nothing can kill romance in the relationship faster than resentment caused by money issues. You have to decide together what is expected of each other when you go out. If you expect a romantic dinner that he covers, tell him about it. If you want her to pick up her portion of a tab, talk about it.
Conversation #3: You owe how much?!
Your relationship should be open and honest. There should not be any hidden surprises such as your credit card debt, taxes you owe to the IRS, or student loan balances.
One of my friends was shocked when she found out by pure accident that her boyfriend, with whom she was living for about a year, owed $70,000 in credit card debt. When she confronted him about it, his response was, “It is my debt. Don’t worry about it.” His debt became hers when they started looking for a house together and could not qualify for a house they wanted because of his credit card debt.
Resolution: Pull a free credit report for each other, and be open about your debts. I know that not everyone would agree with this idea, but if one day you decide to get married, have kids, and buy a house, you will be glad you did it.
Editor’s note: There’s a related discussion that’s worth mentioning, as well. Before you begin cohabitation, it may be a good idea to discuss whether you and your significant other should be considering combining financial accounts now, later, or never. Depending on the state where you live, there may be statutes that define how individual property may become common property regardless of whether you combine your accounts, but it’s a discussion that should also come sooner or later.
Conversation #2: I need some cash! Please?
Both of you are individuals with different interests, life views, expectations, different bank accounts and different bills. Bills change over time. Your bank account can get overdraft fees. Or you simply spent more than you expected.
One of my friends came back from work to find out that the water was turned off in the house because her live-in boyfriend did not have the money to pay the water bill. He did not dare to ask her for help, and they ended up with no water for a few days.
Resolution: It can be difficult at first but it gets easier every time you do it. Ask for help if you need it. The worst that can happen is you will have to explain why you are short on cash. The best thing that can happen, you will have an uninterrupted supply of water!
Conversation #1: What are we looking for?
I have a few friends who have lived with their boyfriends and girlfriends for three, four, five years and they now feel the drive to make their relationship legal has flown the coop. Before you decide to share your lives and your bills, it is always a good idea to discuss how both of you see the future.
Do you know what his or her timeline is for marriage? Do you even want and plan to get married? If you don’t discuss it early on, she might start thinking that he is with her because it is convenient and cheap. He might think that she is using him as a stepping stone until someone better comes along.
Resolution: Just because you are moving in together, don’t assume that you both have the same intentions and share the same goals. Relationships tend to stall and drift. Natural progression stops, and you are left guessing what the future life holds for the both of you.
Talk long and hard before you make your final decision to move-in, ask questions and please, never assume anything.
What discussions do you expect to have or have had prior to moving into the same living space as your significant other?
Published or updated January 2, 2012.