If you've ever been in a long-distance relationship, you know how challenging it can be. Even in a day and age where we can FaceTime our far-away significant others, there's nothing like being able to connect in-person. That's why pretty much all long-distance couples inevitably do one of two things: break up or move in together, or at least to the same city or town. If you're in the latter group, congratulations! This is a big step in your relationship. While it's undoubtedly exciting to think of finally having the chance to see your S.O. whenever you want, the transition may be challenging. We asked two relationship experts to share their best tips to help you navigate these unchartered waters and successfully live with your love.
Consider moving without living together first.
Even though you'll initially want to see each other every waking second once you finally share the same zip code, it might be in one or both of your best interest to ease into this transition slowly. Consider beginning with just a move to the same town, then move in at a later date. "I've seen some long-distance couples make the move to their partner's city in a step-by-step process—they got a job and rented a place for a few months or even a year so they could see their partner regularly without all of a sudden being on top of their every move," says Paulette Sherman, Psy.D., relationship expert and author of Dating from the Inside Out. "This allows the partner who is new to the city to develop friendships, participate in activities, and create a routine so feel grounded and happy in his or her own life."
Plan a few longer visits.
While this is not always feasible given individual's work and social commitments, if at all possible, Dr. Sherman suggests planning a weeks-long vacation or visit to your significant other's city to test the waters. "Often, before long-distance couples move in together, they've had some longer trials of cohabitation that are at least a week long, if not a month," she says. "Ideally this would not be a romantic vacation in Bermuda, but a less glamorous visit that reveals how you will live together and deal with each other's daily habits."
Set realistic expectations.
When you're so used to missing your boyfriend or girlfriend and counting down the days until you see each other next, the concept of living together might seem like the best thing ever. While you will certainly have wonderful moments once you move in, you may also have your share of disappointments, too. That's why Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., a professor at Oakland University and author of Finding Love Again, stresses the importance of setting realistic expectations. "Living together in the same place will be different than you imagine—maybe for worse or for better—but the simple act of acknowledging this will help ease the transition," she says.
Discuss your deal breakers.
It's normal in relationships for one partner to want or need a bit more personal space than the other partner, however, this something that should be discussed as far in advance as possible. "When you're in a long-distance relationship, you can idealize the other person because you don't see them 24/7 in real time," explains Dr. Sherman. "But when you live together, there's an immediate impact of your daily actions on the other person. Discuss these things ahead of time to avoid a rude awakening once you're bunkmates."
Come clean about pet peeves.
While maintaining your long-distance relationship, you might have concealed a few housekeeping habits from your partner—or vice versa—for example, the fact that you hate flushing the toilet in the middle of the night or you never, ever make your bed. Although your partner might not have noticed these things—or may have just let them slide—once you move in together they may bother him or her. "Everyone has different standards, so it can be good to discuss what bothers you most to see if you can be in the same page or if compromises can be made," says Dr. Sherman.
Put time together on the calendar.
Now that you live together, you might not think to plan as many date nights or weekend getaways as you did when you had only days or a week here and there to spend together. But, even when you sleep side-by-side each night, it's important to have regular dates. This helps ensure that your time spent together isn't solely time spent on the couch, washing dishes, doing laundry or discussing your finances.
Recognize that one person may have moved into a new city or town.
Unless you're high school sweethearts who are both moving back to the hometown in which you grew up, one of you is probably "new" to the place you're now calling your mutual home. When this is the case, it's especially important to be sensitive to this person's feelings, since he or she is in a new place, with new friends, maybe a new job, new doctor, or new hairstylist. "If you're the other partner, be sure to support and be patient," says Dr. Orbuch. "This is your territory and town, so give extra support and recognize that the transition will be challenging."