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Dennis W. Neder
This week, let's explore the issues involved in moving in with your significant other.

Some people view this as a prelude to getting married; others see it as a natural "next step" without a further goal. Either way, this is a big commitment on the part of both parties. Of course, I'm talking about setting up house as a couple, not simply sharing housing costs as roommates.

Before you just jump right in and set-up house, you'd better consider what you're really doing here. Moving in together is just like getting married without the format commitment. This is a big step - one you shouldn't take lightly. Just like you shouldn't jump into a marriage, you shouldn't jump into living together.

There are many good reasons to move in together - security, finances, emotional support, etc.; but the primary reason should be to take your relationship to that next level. Many couples do this as a precursor to getting married - something of a "test drive". In fact, I can't imagine why anyone would get married to someone that they haven't lived with first.

Consider, however that statistics show there is a slight increase in the likelihood of divorce among couples that live together before marriage. I believe that this is because many couples find that they aren't as compatible as they first thought, and go ahead with the marriage anyway because that was the goal of moving in together in the first place!

If a couple's goal of moving in together is to test a possible marriage, this should be a clear understanding up front. There should be goals and each partner should have the freedom to say that they are or aren't comfortable getting married. This doesn't mean that the relationship has to break up however! Many relationships work just fine when they aren't constant live-in's. This needs to be understood up front. Just because you can't live with someone doesn't mean that you can't love him or her - and continue seeing each other from different residences.

[How to Get Started]

So, how do you go about setting this up? First - TALK! I've seen too many couples that just agree to move in together like roommates and then try to work out the details after the move. Don't do this! Both you and your lover deserve the luxury of having the details worked out in advance. Spend some time, and commit your agreements to paper (see below for some links that may help here). This doesn't have to be a formal, notarized document - just something you can refer to now and in the future when questions arise - and they WILL arise!

Next, consider your present situation. If one or both of you own a home, you may want to rent one or both of them out and establish a "neutral ground" for the new relationship. On the other hand it may be preferable to move into one home and sell the other. Consider all the factors in making this decision: length of time left on the mortgages or leases, the monthly payments, upkeep costs, taxes, size and age of the home, condo or apartment, and of course; location, location, location!

Next, consider your possessions. If you're moving into one partner's place, it isn't reasonable for the partner moving to just throw everything away and move in. There is going to have to be some type of "merger" of property. What isn't brought into the new home may be placed in storage. Further, things that were there before the move-in may also be put in storage to make room for the new things. The key to making this work is compromise from both partners. Few people want their things removed, or to have to do without things they are used to. So, find a balance that works before the move occurs.

Before all this happens, both partners should mark their things so that they know who owns what. I recommend that you both create written inventories of what you have - including what is going into your "love nest", what is going into storage, and what is being sold or given away. Yes - I know this isn't very romantic, but consider what you're really doing here - you're creating a business relationship as well as an emotional one. Both things that will be brought into the house as well as things that will be stored should be marked. If you have duplicate things (which is quite likely), you may want to have a garage sale or simply give them away. Remember however, that if things don't work out, you're going to want to have them back or replace them.
Dennis W. Neder

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