June 25, 2013 at 12:22 PM ET
Living together will make an already close relationship even more intimate. But sharing the same space means you'll see every side of one another, for better and for worse. So before you decide to take the plunge, ask yourself these questions to find out if you're really ready.
1. Are you moving in together out of convenience?
The most important question to consider is what your intentions are for wanting to live together. Saving money should never be the primary reason for cohabitating, according to Reef Karim, co-author of Why Does He Do That? Why Does She Do That? Two Relationship Experts Reveal the Naked Truth About Dating in the 21st Century. "The 'why' is a primary determining factor in what happens next," he says.
Why do you really want to live with him? Are you so in love that you can't bear the thought of not being together every night? Does he feel the same way? If it's about convenience and steady sex, or succumbing to pressure to take the next step in the relationship, don't book the movers just yet.
2. Where do you want the relationship to go?
Figure out what you want to happen next. Are you expecting a proposal? Do you want to live together and just see what happens? Your answers should match his, and if you're unsure, then wait until you are.
You don't have to rush things, says Wendy Walsh, Ph.D., author of The 30 Day Love Detox. "Couples who move in together [too soon] think they are auditioning the relationship for marriage, but they actually are eating up important passion time," she says, referring to the hot and heavy months of a new relationship. "When the relationship settles down, they are actually less likely to tie the knot." So be sure you're not just being impetuous and that you genuinely want to live together.
3. How will you handle finances?
Money issues are one of the most notorious causes of relationship tension—sometimes breakups—so make a financial plan before signing a lease. What if one of you makes significantly less money than the other? Are you sharing everything 50/50 or will one of you contribute more?
"Create a financial living agreement, especially if one person has more assets than the other," says Walsh. "This will save you from relationship-killing conflicts," she says, like arguing over a big purchase one of you can't afford.
4. Are you ready to know everything about each other?
Once you live together, the mystery is gone. "You're soon going to be a witness to all the habits and rituals that your boyfriend does when you live together," Karim says. "You may find them cute or completely irritating." Likewise, he'll get to see you, warts and all.
5. When will you get some time alone?
It can be hard to get "me time" when you're sharing the same space. But boy will you need it. Trust us, it doesn’t matter how in love you are!
How much of it do you need to be happy together? "Designate some alone time or time with friends. You don't have to do everything together," Karim says. "In fact, it's healthier if you both have friends or activities that allow you to express yourself once in a while, separate from your relationship."
6. How will you handle fights?
Right now, if you get into a spat with your guy, you can go back to your own place to cool off. When you live together, there's nowhere else to go. Scary thought? You might not be ready to move in just yet.
How you fight is important, too, says Walsh. "If you've developed good conflict resolution skills, [making up] should include an apology and the two of you becoming closer and more intimate. But if your conflict involves name-calling, someone playing victim all the time or the silent treatment, you have no business moving in together." You may have no business being together at all!
7. Are you prepared to check in with someone about everything?
Living together usually means a higher level of commitment, intimacy and companionship, but it can also mean less freedom. When you’re single, or don’t live with your partner, you aren’t accountable to anyone—you can come and go as you please.
When you live together, every decision you make affects one another, whether it's letting your college roommate crash on your couch for a week or having an impromptu dinner with a friend after work. "Making the decision to live together is about way more than sharing expenses," Walsh says. "Living with someone means merging all aspects of your life and making plans together."
8. How do you feel about getting rid of things?
If you've lived alone for a long time you probably have an attachment to most of your stuff and it might be hard to learn to share. You may need to get rid of some furniture and other cherished—maybe expensive—items in order to merge both of your things into one space. Can you do it?
"Sharing a life is just that. Sharing space. Sharing a bathroom. Sharing your stuff," Walsh says. "If this is going to bother you, you have to ask yourself if you are ready for all the big compromises of cohabitation."
9. Can you go with the flow?
Sure, you might have talked about everything from who's going to do the grocery shopping to how often you go out with friends, but if everything doesn't go according to plan, will you be able to roll with it? The reality is you have to actually live together to figure out what works best for the two of you. If you aren't ready to take a leap into the unknown, you should probably stick with what you know.
A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.