Recently, I’ve noticed that more couples are coming to me seeking help before moving in together. While I’ve done pre-marital counseling for many years, what is surprising is that unmarried couples who plan to live together want help too.

Some of these folks have never lived with another person and are looking for basic information about how to get along. Others complain about certain frustrating tendencies in their relationship and want help to prevent them from becoming problems.

Pre-moving-in counseling aims to provide: 1) Realistic expectations for what is involved in becoming a couple;  2)  Basic communication and conflict-resolution skills. This lack of understanding is, often due to the lack of preparation provided by families or our educational system;  3) A review of the common adjustments and pitfalls couples living together for the first time face.  Here are the basics:


Reviewing a couple’s expectations is important because those expectations are often unrealistic. Many don’t appreciate the enormity of the psychological change involved in becoming a partner.

Over the years I’ve found that couples erroneously believe that living together will be just like living apart and that the transition will be automatic and seamless.  While some folks do it more easily than others, the normal adjustments require understanding, intentional negotiations and planning.

When moving in, it’s important to expect some level of anxiety. this is because any change in a routine may create uneasiness and upsets in a relationship.  Sometimes couples misunderstand these kerflufies as an indication of a serious relationship problem.  Most often, they aren’t.

Having realistic expectations involving the process of getting settled in a new living arrangement means understanding that change is difficult. Anticipating a stressful period of adjustment can normalize the difficult moment and prevent needless worry.

Likewise, it is important to understand that working things out does not just happen. It takes effort and patience. Unrealistic Expectations: The Importance of Recognizing and Reality-Testing Them. | Pastoral Counseling Syracuse NY (


In addition to realistic expectations, good communication skills are important to maintain good relations during a time of change as well as going forward. The decision to live together is a perfect time for a couple to learn and perfect their communication skills .

I-statements are the key to constructive communication. In addition to expressing a person’s feelings and wants, they also provide a way to express anger constructively and without attacks or name-calling.

Learning to process anger and restore a reasonable state of mind is necessary to successful conflict resolution and to negotiate win/win outcomes.

In addition to having realistic expectations and skills, here are some common potential problems.  Anticipating and working on them in advance can greatly reduce the stress of learning to live together. Chores, finances, emotions: Tips for couples moving in together – Vox :


There is no one way or correct approach to learning to live together. That said, it is important to understand that these issues don’t just take care of themselves.  Here are some fundamental issues that each couple needs to work out:


Couples often expect since they love each other that they will agree on most things. And when they don’t they will easily be able to negotiate a compromise.  While learning to negotiate is important, some differences can’t be resolved. Accepting your partner’s differences is a fundamental hurdle to overcome.

Each individual is unique and no couple matches up perfectly. Nonetheless, it is in our human nature to prefer sameness.  Once a couple overcomes the need for sameness and accepts each other’s differences, life gets a whole lot easier.


No two people handle money the same way. Not surprisingly, conflicts over money are the #1 source of relational strife. Couples need to anticipate and discuss how they handle finances and come to an agreement on how spending, saving, bills, etc. will be managed.

Sylvia Porter is an excellent resource for providing information about the different ways finances are handled between couples.    Sylvia Porter’s Money Book: How to Earn it, Spend it, Save it, Invest it, Borrow it, and Use it to Better Your Life: Sylvia Porter: 9780385084840: Books


The second most common issue for new couples is in-law relations. Getting along with spouses and family members is a predictable challenge. Without clear boundaries, an in-law’s presence and influence in the couple’s new life can be the source of problems.

Typically, it takes some time for each person to individuate from their family and recognize that their partner is their #1 concern. This transition is complicated by parents who have difficulties respecting the couple’s boundaries.


Sometimes couples unrealistically believe that living together means that they do everything together.  Sorting out privacy needs and individual activities is another adjustment that needs to be openly discussed and agreed upon.


Closely related to privacy and individual issues are space concerns.  Each person needs their own stuff and space and each person’s boundaries need to be respected.

For example, things like what side of the bed you sleep on or where stuff goes in the bathroom or closet are easy to figure out. Issues concerning personal space and neatness also need to be discussed and worked out.


Sex usually isn’t a problem when a relationship is new and people are living apart, The time apart creates anticipation and eagerness for having sex when the couple can be together.

When a couple lives together, however, access greatly increases opportunity.  Thus, differences in sexual interest and desire are exposed. Again, understanding that no two individuals have the same level of interest means that a compromise will be needed.


Due to ignorance and a lack of experience, many couples assume that transitioning to living together is automatic.  Not surprisingly, many are shocked to discover that living together is a lot different than dating.

Fortunately, it is never too late to learn. If you’re planning to marry or live together, check out your expectations and review your communication skills. Some of the tips listed above can make your transition from living as an individual to being part of a couple easier and less frustrating.

As always, if problems seem too difficult, seek professional help.

Rev. Michael Heath, LMHC, Fellow A.A.P.C.  July 6, 2024.