Moving is the worst. Tensions run high, things break, and you find yourself questioning all of your values based on how many T-shirts you somehow own. Establishing a new home with someone in an attempt to merge your physical and material lives as a manifestation of your commitment to one another, aka Uhauling, takes the intensity of moving to a whole other level. Sure, it’s nice to have an extra person to help you carry boxes, but who will carry all of these feelings?
My partner Wynn and I moved in together in August, along with our friend Antonia. We experienced some ups and downs, but ultimately we emerged intact. Moving in can be a test of compatibility in many ways, which is pretty stressful when you’ve already put your deposit in. Here are a few tips for making the process manageable so you can get to the fun part — getting to live together with your partner and/or queer gal pal — and still want to talk to each other.
Be honest about your deal-breakers
When the three of us first sat down to talk about what we were looking for in a place, we agreed on quite a lot: price range, preferred locations, and avoiding a big apartment complex. But once we got into the details, our combined wish lists meant we were kind of looking for a unicorn. We wanted no carpet, some green space, two bathrooms, and preferably a third bedroom or office. Every time one of us found a place on Zillow or Trulia that seemed like a good compromise, someone would veto it.
Finally I called my friend who is a realtor and begged him to rescue us. He found us a place that meets all our criteria and also has some warts we never expected — the house is quirky to say the least, most of the blinds don’t work, and it’s across the street from an elementary school so traffic is a pain in the ass in the mornings and afternoons. No place will be perfect, but if you’re honest from the start about what you truly can’t budge on you can save yourselves a lot of time. It might be tempting to compromise and let your partner’s priorities win out over yours, but remember that you both have to be happy in a place for at least 12 to 18 months, and that the process will be easier if you start out with a realistic and clear set of things you both agree not to budge on.
Talk about your stuff with compassion
I’ve been a little nuts about putting stuff on the walls ever since I was a kid. As a teenager my walls were literally covered with band posters, movie ticket stubs, album art, greeting cards and other flat things that I could hold up with sticky tack. Although I’m older now and have started using frames and nails (or at least command strips), I still use my walls as a carefully curated gallery of my life. At first, the idea of another person putting their stuff on my walls too was very stressful.
Merging aesthetic preferences and personal belongings was one of the hardest parts of moving in together, especially since it meant leaving some things behind and compromising on others. I recommend starting the conversations about this as soon as possible. You don’t want to find yourself telling your partner that you really hate that particular Star Wars poster once they’ve already gotten it framed. Of course, some things you won’t realize until you’re in the space, and that’s when you get to embark on the task of making seemingly meaningless but somehow very emotional decisions together.
This part of the process is also a pretty special way to learn new things about each other. I found out that Wynn got their plastic police tape trash can as a present when they were a teenager really interested in forensic science. I explained that I may never get around to listening to all the records in my collection but I will lug them around for the rest of my life because they were the only thing I got from my dad when he died. As you encounter things in each other’s boxes, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Just do so gently or you might accidentally hurt your partner’s feelings when you talk about how excited you are to get rid of that dumb police tape trash can (sorry babe).
Figure out the finances
Money is fraught enough as an individual, but figuring out how to deal with finances with another person who has a different budget, priorities, and idea of how much curtains should cost is a whole ‘nother kettle of fish. There will be some big decisions to make — can you afford to get movers? How are you going to handle deposits for rent and utilities? Are you going to split things evenly or based on income level? Wynn, Antonia and I used Splitwise, an app that allows you to track shared spending between two people or a group, so that we didn’t have to keep up with who owed who $10 for moving day pizza. Instead, once we were all done with the move we just hit “settle up.”
When dealing with the money stuff, it’s important not to make assumptions. Before you spend $80 at the Container Store and log it in the shared spending, make sure your partner really wants a wall-mounting tie rack, a travel steamer, and three sizes of laundry delicate bags or they will come find you when you’re under three feet of cardboard and ask what the heck they owe you $40 for.
I also recommend starting to talk about money before you book the moving truck — Wynn and I started looking at each other’s YNABs about two months before the move — so that you don’t find out during crunch time that your partner/roommate can only afford the slowest internet speed or absolutely insists on name brand toilet paper when your budget calls for single ply. In fact, it was by talking honestly about money from the very beginning of deciding to live together that led us to decide to have a third roommate, which turned out to be an amazing decision for several reasons and one I certainly wouldn’t discourage you from considering.
Realize that everything is going to change.
I underestimated how different things would be once we lived together. I thought of it more in terms of logistics without realizing how much that would change how I felt. On the upside, removing the stress factor of figuring out who had to be where when and whose house Wynn’s favorite shirt was at has freed up a ton of mental space. On the downside, learning how to set boundaries on my space and time when we’re in the same building so often has been really challenging. For me, living together has already made me feel more settled and safe in our relationship in a way that has inspired me to return to activities that make me feel like myself, like playing guitar, writing and connecting with friends. Rather than fusing into a single entity and disappearing, we’ve both been more conscious about making choices that feel healthy both individually and as a partnership.
Still, I wish I had somehow prepared for the radical shift in the way I think about time, space, my individual self and my relationship. It has been a lot to absorb all at once and I have a feeling that process is just beginning. Now that we’re out from under all the boxes and have a few things hung on the walls, we’re ready for the fun, and the real work, to begin.