Vision to the Rescue:
The Must-Have Conversation Before Moving In Together
“Hey babe, could you spare some time to put away your clothes today?”
This is a question my partner hardly ever asks me, so after him watching my ‘exploded’ suitcase on our bedroom floor for 2 months after our trip to Slovenia, I’m mostly amazed (and appreciative) at how long he’s tolerating my mess.
Overall, he and I have the most curious relationship when it comes to household chores. Both of us are convinced the other person does more around the house than we do. We’ve been living together for almost 4 years and in this timespan, we haven’t fought about household tasks once. Which is wildly different from the experiences both he and I had with other partners. Why? And how do you make sure your coliving situation flows nicely, and not just when it comes to chores?
Two managers, one business
When I hear people about moving in together, it’s usually either because of feelings (romantic or close friendship) or because of shared finances. And both of these reasons are legit. But in my experience, neither reason is sufficient. In the end, living together isn’t about how much you love each other. It’s about how compatible you are.
Sharing a house (assuming this involves shared spaces) is much like managing a business together. Your house is the business, and you’ll want to align on what it (and your cohabitation) looks like. How will you organize your spaces (from big ones, such as the living room, to tiny ones, such as the fridge)? How clean do you want everything to be? What about pets? What about energy consumption? What about the amount of money you’re willing to invest in improvements and repairs? You don’t have to be in agreement on everything, but ideally you’ll find middle ground on the things that matter to you.
Now, imagine 2 managers managing a business in very different ways, but more importantly – with very different objectives. That’s a recipe for continuous and often stressful negotiations. If you don’t see eye to eye about what living together should look like, you’re bound to get into fights every time one of you does or doesn’t something the other firmly disagrees with.
The reason my partner and I don’t fight about chores is that we have the same level of mess tolerance. The other reason is that both of us believe in personal responsibility – when he runs out of clean clothes, he doesn’t complain – he does the laundry (for both of us). When I’m bothered about dirty glasses on the coffee table, I don’t complain – I put them in the dishwasher. I’m not saying you should agree with us that this is the best way to manage your household, but I am saying your life will be way easier if you agree with the people you’re sharing a space with.
What does your ideal household look like?
When people ask whether they should move in together, the answer isn’t always clear. But your vision can help you. If everyone involved in the situation gets clear on their vision for living together, you can compare notes and decide whether you are compatible. And if you’re not… well, best to try and negotiate middle ground before you invest in living together. That’s why it’s important to get a good idea of what each of you is looking for.
When it comes to cohabitation, some matters are practical, while others are emotional. It’s not just about chores, it’s about creating a safe and comfortable space for everyone involved. Here are some topics worth discussing:
- Financial commitments, both periodic (like rent) and incidental (like paying for repairs)
- The look and feel of any shared spaces
- Inviting other people into your shared space
- Your routines and the impact of those on the other person
- Shared activities
How to approach this conversation?
The biggest challenge in defining your shared vision on living together is staying true to yourself first. That’s why the very first step in having this conversation is compiling a list of questions, and then sitting down separately to answer them.
For each question, such as “How would you like to divide the household chores?”, write down your ideal situation as well as your minimum acceptable situation. For instance, my ideal situation would be that we have a cleaner who takes cares of the chores, and my minimum acceptable situation is that my partner and I contribute roughly evenly to a standard that’s at least acceptable to both of us.
While doing this, DO NOT discuss your answers with the other(s). In fact, don’t even share your answers. Each of you has to do this truly separately, and focus on what would really work for you.
Then, once you’re done, take turns sharing your ideal situation. Again, don’t engage in negotiations or discussions. Make it clear that this is the ideal, and that you can both negotiate later.
At this point, you’ll likely discover some things that are ideal for both of you and some things you don’t agree on. The ones you agree on are easy – you’re in alignment! It’s the ones that you disagree on that are challenging. Now, look at those one by one, and try to figure out:
- Is your ideal situation within the margins of what’s acceptable for your partner?
- Is your partner’s ideal situation within the margins of what’s acceptable for you?
- If the answer to at least one of the above is ‘yes’ – who cares most about this particular topic and what’s an acceptable middle ground?
- If the answer to both is ‘no’ – is there any situation that’s not ideal, but at least acceptable to both of you?
- If the answer to this is ‘no’ – is this topic a dealbreaker for either/any of you?
As a sidenote – if you move in with multiple people, regardless of your relationship, make sure everyone is involved in this process.
Shed those rose-colored glasses
Naturally, love – of whatever nature – helps find compromises and go the extra mile to make it work. But in the end, it’s compatibility more than anything that will help you figure out whether it’s a good idea to actually move in together, or if it’s a better idea to find a housemate who is more aligned with your vision of a dream home.