Moving in together is an obvious next step when you’ve been dating for a while. Cohabitation saves you money and for many couples, it’s a great testing ground for marriage: If you get along living together, why not take the big marriage leap?
But sometimes, merging your lives and stuff makes you realize that maybe you were better off when you lived in separate spaces. In that case, un-moving in together might be the answer.
When you un-move in with your partner, you stay together ― you don’t want to break up! ― but recognize that, for the time being at least, returning to the previous arrangement of living apart is best for both of you.
“I think many couples realize that they are constantly fighting because of differences in cleanliness, daily habits and other unexpected behaviors,” said Amy Rollo, a psychotherapist in Houston Heights, Texas. “In times like this, moving out can help the couple stay together while alleviating the stress.”
An un-move may mean a temporary living arrangement. Or you might find that separate spaces make sense in the long-term. This all might sound a tad unconventional, but who said your relationship needs to follow charted territory?
“There is no rulebook to a relationship,” Rollo said. “You know what you are wanting more than any expert out there. Don’t be afraid to advocate for your needs.”
Intrigued by the prospect of un-moving in together? Below, Rollo and other therapists share a handful of signs that you’d be better off alone, together.
You moved in because it made financial sense.
Many city-dwelling couples slide into cohabitation because rent prices are through the roof, said Alena Gerst, a psychotherapist in New York City.
“Where I live, I have seen countless patients and personal friends move in before they’re ready because someone’s lease was up and it just made more financial sense,” Gerst said.
The arrangement might be good for your wallet but bad for your relationship or individual baseline happiness, said Caroline Madden, a marriage and family therapist in Burbank, California.
“It makes sense: Couples can’t get get enough of each other at first,” Madden said. “They figure that they are at each other’s place so much it’s like they are living together. Then someone has a fight with their roommate or their lease is up so then they move in together. Then the honeymoon is over. The fights start regarding household chores and bill paying.”
In situations like this, you might want to consider moving out after your lease is up.
You were happier in your relationship before the move.
This one seems obvious, but it’s the sign that’s most telling: Think back on your lives prior to moving in together. Were you happier and more satisfied with your relationship? Was consolidating your space your undoing? If so, un-moving in can be a smart move, said Karla Ivankovich, a counselor in Chicago, Illinois.
“Living separately again might give you the chance to work on these issues,” she said. “See if your partner feels the same way: Stress the importance of the relationship but address the flaws not previously part of the relationship, until you moved in together. But also make sure you stress your commitment and that you want to rework from the ground up.”
If this sign is present in your relationship, you also might want to try couples’ counseling.
“Moving out might solve the thing that showed the relationship difficulties, but it doesn’t fix the underlying issues,” Rollo said. “This is also a time a couple needs to have a talk to determine what their goals for the relationship are. Maybe they want to marry one day, or maybe it’s time to talk about making things more casual.”
You have kids and living separately again would benefit them.
Un-moving in might make the most sense for couples where one or both partners have children from previous relationships. Sometimes maintaining separate residences until the kids are out of the house is ultimately best for all parties.
“Sometimes the parent wants the non-parent to help out more, sometimes less. Sometimes it is too much change for the kids,” Madden said. “I think some couples get caught up in how happy and in love they are and rush to move in, forgetting that the kids have had their whole world blow up with their parents getting divorced. The kids might not be ready to deal with a new adult in their lives at home.”
Your schedules and social needs don’t mesh.
Your move-in may have made you realize your lifestyles are incompatible, Gerst said. Living separate, complementary lives means you never have to deal with your partner’s weird work schedule or nocturnal ways.
“If one of you is a night owl or works third shift, and the other partner works from home or has a 9-to-5 job, it may be better for everyone’s sleep and sanity to keep separate homes,” she said.
Maybe your social schedules are wholly at odds, too, Gerst said.
“If one of you is an extrovert and enjoys hosting parties and going out, while the other one of you really needs quiet time and solitude, but your love trumps these differences, then each of you having your own home could be a wise solution,” she said.
How to talk about it:
If you want to float this idea with your partner, do so sensitively. Lead with the fact that you don’t want to break up, or even take a break, you just need some physical space, Rollo said.
“The way a conversation starts determines how it will end the majority of the time,” she said. “Let them know you love them and want to continue in the relationship. Then start with an ‘I’ statement (a statement that starts with ‘I feel ... ’). ‘I’ statements help the person receive the information better without getting defensive.”
Then, try the “positive sandwich” method of bringing up a touchy subject, Gerst said.
“Start by genuinely expressing your love for your partner, and your devotion to the relationship,” she said. “Then you can broach the news that you think you should un-move and why.”
Your boundaries ― and your partner’s ― need to be clearly defined at this point, too.
“You are living apart, that doesn’t mean you’re free to flirt with other people,” Madden said.
Lastly “remind your S.O. again how much you love them and your hope that this new arrangement will bring you closer and still allow you each to be yourselves,” Gerst said.
If you’re both on the same page, let the un-moving process begin. (Your call if you want to go halfsies on a U-Haul truck.)