The thought of moving in with your significant other might put you on cloud nine, but floating off before you have some important and necessary discussions can be dangerous for you and your relationship. "If a couple is moving forward and has decided to have a long term, live-in commitment, they need to look in every area for potential conflict," says Robert Weiss, relationship expert and author of Out of the Doghouse. Conflicts can spring up from wells you didn't even know existed—you might be young and totally zoned in on your career now, but if you decide you want to have kids down the line and you realize your partner doesn't want them, things could come crashing down fast. Kids aren't the only potential point of contention—there are a lot of things you should discuss before you move in with your significant other. From our experts, here are the 8 most important questions for you to ask your partner before you sign the lease.
1. Are we on the same page?
You might think moving in together means you're just a step or two away from a big, white wedding, but your partner could be on a different page entirely. "You have to know what your partner is thinking," says Jeannie Assimos, Chief of Advice at eHarmony. "In his mind it might be, 'Hey, this could be fun and save us money,' and you might think this is the next step before you get engaged." Obviously, those two opposing mindsets will create conflict—so make sure you have that conversation before you move in together, rather than after. If you're in two different places mentally, it might be best to hold off and wait until you're on the same page.
2. How are we handling the lease?
"It's important to get real about real estate," says relationship expert April Masini. "If you're moving in with your partner, discuss the lease, and if you have one, read it." Knowing what's in the lease before you sign it is super important—and having your name on it is imperative in the event of something going awry between you and your partner. Nobody likes to think about it, but if your name isn't on the lease and things get messy with your partner, they could demand you vacate whenever they want—and you'd have no right to stay there, even if you have been pitching in on the rent.
3. Do you want children?
This might seem silly, and it might not matter today, but if you think you're in a relationship for the long haul, it's going to matter someday. Weiss speculates that this question is one of the biggest, most important questions that marriage counselors bring up before a couple walks down the aisle—so make sure you ask it, no matter how awkward it might feel at the time. Talking about having kids doesn't mean you're going to act on it anytime soon, but letting your partner know if you're planning on having children or not and finding out what his or her thoughts are on the topic can save you both a lot of heartache in the future.
4. How are we going to maintain a sense of independence once we're living together?
"A healthy relationship requires healthy separateness," says Assimos. "Codependency is really unhealthy." In an era where we're all just one text message away from constant communication, this can be easy to forget, but once you and your partner move in together, it becomes twice as important to remember. Assimos says it's important for couples to remember they cannot rely on another person for happiness, even if you live with them. So keep your hobbies: If you like reading alone at the park, do it; if you know your partner prefers to go on his morning runs solo, let him have that space. It's important for both of you to maintain a sense of self, and it will make your reunions later in the day that much sweeter.
5. So, lets talk about sex...
This conversation is often overlooked, but it's important. Assimos says it's important to ensure you and your partner are compatible before you move in together, and sexual energy is a part of that. Expectations should be managed before moving in, not after. Weiss also says it's important to be honest about sexual habits that might hurt your partner to avoid them feeling decieved because you didn't disclose something. "Lies are the beginning of breaking intimacy," he says. So, if you have a habit you know might make your partner uncomfortable, this would be a great time to fess up. If your partner has a habit of watching porn ever day and has never even mentioned they were into that sort of thing, you're probably going to be upset if you discover the habit on your own. Give your partner the same courtesy you expect from them, let them know what you're into and how often you're going to be willing to get down and dirty. In the long run, this conversation will be good for both of you.
6. Who is going to pay for what?
Masini recommends establishing who is going to pay for what right off the bat. "It's easy to get into arguments down the road when one of you expects groceries to be split evenly, and one of you expects the person who eats more to pay more," she says. "Same goes for inequities in income. Some partners think that the person who makes more should pay more, and that's fine, as long as it's not a surprise." Remember that date you went on where you wanted to split the check and the guy threw a fit? Awkward, right? Well, it'll be ten times worse when it's about monthly bills or rent. Figure it out early and avoid the argument—you won't be sorry.
7. Who's cleaning what?
"Most conflicts can be avoided as long as you discuss them first," Assimos says. "So, talk about the chores before you move in. Say something like, 'I like to vacuum so I'll handle that, what do you like to do?'" This conversation sets the precedent that both of you will be contributing, and ensures that (hopefully) nobody will get stuck doing something they hate all the time. If one of you is a neat freak and the other is a slob, there should probably be some compromise—the sink might occasionally have dishes in them for a little too long, but if the messier of you can agree that their dirty clothes with hit the hamper instead of the floor, you're on the right track.
8. How are we going to keep the romance alive?
It's really easy to take someone for granted when you spend a majority of your time with them—and it's easy to stop making an effort to keep things romantic, too. "Relationships take work and energy whether you live together or not," says Assimos. "It's important to still keep that person as a top priority in your life; schedule date nights together, don't stop that just because you're living together. And just make sure you're still doing the little things that will make them feel special." Small gestures can make a big difference, and they don't have to be difficult or expensive—it can be as easy as packing him a lunch on his busiest workday, or him surprising you with breakfast in bed after a stressful week. Don't let date night turn into movie night every weekend, either. Go out and do something new and fun, or hit up the restaurant you both love. Quality time is more important than a high quantity of time, so make sure it remains a priority.
Moving in with your partner should be exciting, and asking these questions will help you get the uncomfortable conversations out of the way ahead of time so you can enjoy your time settling into your new living arrangement instead of stressing about unexpected differences and conflicts. They might not be your favorite topics, but trust us, they're worth talking about. In the end, it'll save you from a ton of stress and unnecessary conflict.