As St Valentines Day approaches, Rebecca takes a look at taking the plunge and moving in together
Living together is a huge step. It’s exciting, there are plans to be made, paint colours to be chosen. But how are you going to manage when you can’t agree about which sofa to buy, or how you’re going to split the bills? Talking about it now, will save you time, money and heartache if doesn’t work out as planned. Even the happiest of relationships can experience bumps in the road when the question of money rears its head.
Money is a frequent source of worry, and we often shy away from discussing it. Whether you’ve had past experience with debts, or you’re a saver not a spender, being open and managing expectations is crucial –how do you know what your partner is going to expect from you (and vice versa) unless you talk about it? Mediation isn’t just for solving problems, it can help avoid them in the first place, and having a ‘Living Together Plan’ can help you navigate the journey that you’re embarking on.
Here are our top tips.
Understand which language you each speak
This isn’t as crazy as it seems as we all have our own ways of sending and receiving messages. If they are not the same, this leads to misunderstandings, so we’d recommend a little research to start with! It’s not conflict that’s damaging because it’s normal to have different views and opinions. But unresolved conflict can cause resentment, and ultimately, talking different languages is why relationships break down.
Think about your experiences of growing up – if you come from a ‘shouty’ household, you might find it comfortable expressing your opinions, or arguing with raised voices. But if your experience is of a house where different views weren’t discussed, you may opt out of any conflict whatsoever. You’ll need to find a way together to talk about subjects that are important to each of you, where you each feel heard and valued.
There are some great tools online, some of which are fun to do together. Have a look at www.5lovelanguages.com/.
Our in-house psychotherapist specialises in family dynamics, and can join session with both of you, or help you individually to manage your conversations.
Once you know how to communicate in the best way possible, you can start talking about it. Make it normal to discuss your finances. Money is an emotive subject, lots of people are worried or insecure about it – it’s often the elephant in the room.
Although you may not want to disclose to each other every aspect of your personal finances, it is important that you each know the basics. You’re probably going to be paying bills, rent or a mortgage from your income, so it’s helpful to know what that is – the base that you have to start from. We recommend that you use a budget planner to look at what the monthly or annual costs will be, and we’ve created our own.
Talk through what you’ll each contribute to the joint expenses, so that you have an idea what you might have left over to manage your personal expenses.
Running your home together
Is packing the dishwasher your strength? Does your partner iron beautifully or love cooking? Try not to get caught up with managing everything ‘equally’, and talk about what your strengths and weaknesses are instead.
You’ll probably also need to talk about how you each manage time together or by yourselves, for example one of you might be a night owl and the other is up with the lark, or you’re navigating how to deal with things when one of you is a meat eater, and the other a vegetarian.
Think about what you’d each like if it doesn’t go as planned
This is one of the hardest things to do when it’s the furthest thing from your mind. You’re never going to split up right?
If the worst should happen, it’ll be much harder to work through if you’ve never talked through the ‘what if’s’. Recollections will vary, and feeling hurt may cloud how we make decisions. So talk it through at the beginning, and have a plan.
You could also think about reviewing your plan after say, 6 months of living together, to make sure that it’s what you expected. You may not have got it right first time, understandably, and it can be tweaked wherever your circumstances change. Think about using an impartial mediator who will help you focus on what’s important to each of you. The cost of a couple of well used hours could be far less expensive than untangling your relationship later.