When you’re partnered up with someone, one of the next logical steps in the relationship is to cohabitate. If the relationship is still fresh, though, this brings up the question: How soon is too soon to move in together? For instance, is three months too soon to move in together? What about six or nine months? The short answer: It depends. According to Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of I Want This to Work, there are a few foundational relationship elements you must establish before you’re ready to share a home. Keep reading to learn what they are along with more tips on how to know if it’s too soon to move in together.
How Long Should You Wait Before Moving In Together?
In general, Earnshaw says the quality of the relationship matters more than how long you’ve been together. One of the most essential elements of a quality relationship is having the ability to communicate about difficult topics without becoming critical or shutting down. Instead, she says, you both express curiosity (i.e., you ask open-ended questions like “Can you tell me more about that?”), have the willingness to expand your mind based on the other's beliefs, and can come up with win-win solutions if needed.
Earnshaw adds that it's also important to give yourself enough time to observe how the other person acts outside of the relationship. “This means paying attention not only to how they treat you but also to how they treat others and live their lives,” she says. From there, you can better assess if how they live their lives and interact with others aligns with your values.
So, is three, six, or nine months too soon to move in together? If the couple hasn’t yet ticked the above boxes, Earnshaw says it may be too soon. But if you’ve established those foundational elements, then it may not be too early. Earnshaw notes that things work out great for some couples who move in together quickly but may not for other couples who wait a long time before living together. Again, it’s not a matter of time but rather relationship quality.
What To Talk About Before Moving In Together
1. Your Motivations For Moving In Together
When you're considering moving in with your partner, having a clear and honest discussion first is essential to ensure it’s the right decision. The first thing to talk about: What are your motivations for moving in together?
“The greatest risk of unhappiness after moving in together isn’t necessarily how quickly you moved in together, but rather whether the relationship has asymmetrical motivations,” Earnshaw says. “An asymmetrical motivation, for example, might be one partner wanting to move in together because it is cheaper than living apart while another partner wants to move in together as they see it as the next step towards marriage.” In other words, you should be on the same page about why you’re moving in together.
2. What Living Together Will Be Like
The discussion should also touch on what it will be like if and when you do move in together. For instance, Earnshaw says, if one of you is upset by something the other person did, how will you talk about that and deal with it once you live together? What’s the plan? She also suggests digging into the details such as who will be in charge of which chores and home tasks and how you'll manage your finances and pay the bills.
How To Know The Right Time To Move In Together
Discussing those two key things can help clarify whether or not it’s the right time to move in with your significant other. And again, signs that provide a green light include the ability to discuss difficult topics and having observed how they interact with other people.
Most importantly, though, the biggest sign that you may be ready is that there is reciprocity in the relationship. “Both people should believe the relationship provides them the support, love, and motivation they need to have a life that feels even better than it did before,” Earnshaw says. “This does not mean you have to benefit in the exact same way, but you should find that the relationship makes both of your lives easier than it was when you were apart.” This way, neither partner feels like they’re giving more than the other, making sacrifices, or putting themselves in uncomfortable positions to keep the relationship going.
If the relationship passes the above tests and you’re still unsure whether it’s too soon to move in together, Earnshaw advises holding off and taking the time you need until you’re both certain.
Can Moving In Together Too Soon Ruin A Relationship?
If you haven’t established a strong base, yes, moving in together too soon can ruin the relationship. During the first year of a relationship, Earnshaw says people tend to be in a honeymoon phase, which makes it challenging to see things you don’t want to see, such as the other person’s bad habits, for instance. And once you share a home, it all comes to the forefront. “When living together, you will quickly learn what your partner’s values are and how they like to live, and you will need to navigate this alongside your values and how you like to live,” she says. “If you haven’t built a strong foundation, it might be harder to problem solve through this. You might also find yourself surprised with who your partner is.” And, she adds, if you learn the relationship isn’t right for you after moving in together, it can make it more challenging to leave it.
So if you do move in together before the one-year mark, Earnshaw’s advice is to first ensure you’ve had clear and direct conversations about it and that your intentions, goals, and values are in alignment.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, a licensed marriage and family therapist and author of I Want This to Work