For many couples, moving in together seems like the obvious, cost-efficient next step for their relationship: You save money on bills, have someone to help out when bulbs and vents need changing, and you get to hang out with your best bud every night.
Far too often, though, couples slide into cohabitation. That lack of forethought can have a huge negative impact on the relationship later; studies have shown an increased risk of divorce and marital dissatisfaction for couples who move in before making a clear mutual commitment to each other.
Worried that you and your partner may be moving in together too soon? Below, relationship therapists share six signs that you need to press pause on your move-in plans.
1. You’re using it as a way to gauge your relationship’s strength.
Moving in together shouldn’t be a litmus test for whether your relationship is on sound foundation. It should be a decision made in full faith that you’re already on solid footing as a couple and totally excited for the next step, said Kurt Smith, a therapist who specializes in counseling for men.
“Living together should be a step taken only when it’s evident that the relationship and both of you are ready for the change,” Smith said.
It’s an equally bad sign if you’ve given no thought whatsoever to what a move-in could mean for the relationship.
“If there’s no hesitation or questioning of the decision, that’s a concern, too,” Smith said. “Blindly and overconfidently walking into this relationship transition is a mistake.”
2. You’ve yet to have your first big argument.
Sorry, couples of a mere three months: It may seem romantic, but it’s probably ill-advised to move in together. Why? It’s very likely you haven’t yet had the kind of serious arguments that really test a relationship, said Isiah McKimmie, a couples therapist and sexologist in Melbourne, Australia. (For instance: What’s the game plan if one of us loses our job? Will we eventually have kids and how will we raise them? How involved will we allow our in-laws to be?)
“Seeing how our partner reacts when an argument or difficult conversation arises is an important factor in deciding whether or not to stay with the person,” McKimmie said. “If you can successfully manage arguments before and after the honeymoon phase, living together will probably be more harmonious.”
3. You haven’t talked about money.
Conversations about money and financial goals are far from sexy, but they’re necessary. If you avoid them, you might end up arguing about money. And couples who argue about finances early on are at a greater risk for divorce than other couples, regardless of their income, debt or net worth.
Money talks are even more important if you plan to cohabitate, Smith said.
“There needs to be conversations about how bills will be shared, what each person earns and how much debt each you each have,” Smith said. “Being transparent about these things is evidence of a mature relationship that’s ready for the big step.”
4. There’s another roommate involved and they’re uneasy about the move-in.
If you have a roommate ― maybe you rent a two-bedroom with a longtime friend, or share your home with your kids from a previous relationship ― it’s imperative that you include them in this discussion early on, said Ryan Howes, a psychologist from Pasadena, California.
“You may love the idea of cohabitation and feel like your relationship is ready for it, but if others under the same roof don’t agree, you could be entering into a miserable arrangement for everyone,” Howes said. “Moving in together isn’t just about love; it’s a practical decision as well. And if the practicality of it raises stress levels for others, it might be better to wait or move somewhere else together.”
5. You see it as a Band-Aid for problems in your relationship.
Moving in isn’t a fix-all for existing problems between a couple, said Amanda Deverich, a marriage and family therapist in Williamsburg, Virginia. If you’ve experienced a relationship crisis ― an affair, for instance, or some other lapse of trust in the relationship ― what you may need now is some space, not shared living quarters.
“For some troubled couples, moving in together can sometimes be a hyper-healing impulse to solidify the relationship,” Deverich told HuffPost. “Usually, it’s better to take time to understand how the break of trust happened, though. Identify what needs to be in place so it doesn’t happen again, and practice those strategies over time to be sure the relationship is strong.”
6. You feel like your partner is pressuring you into the move.
Sure, moving in together is a weighty decision, but it shouldn’t feel like a huge gamble on your part. If you’re apprehensive about it and need constant reassurance from your partner that this it’s going to work out in the end, you may want to go with your instincts.
“A little apprehension is normal, but if your body is sending strong signals that tell you it’s too soon, that red flags are waving, or that you’re just not ready, don’t force it,” Howes said. “This is the ‘trust your gut’ instinct people talk about so much. Don’t rush it; waiting a couple of months until you feel ready to fish or cut bait might make the most sense.”