There used to be an expected trajectory when it came to relationships: You would meet, fall in love, get married and then move in together.
Nowadays, it’s more common to share a roof before binding yourself to your loved one in matrimony (if you choose to be bound at all).
According to the Australian Institute of Family Studies, the number of couples living together before getting married has jumped from 16 per cent in 1975, to 77 per cent in 2013.
Meanwhile, the number of couples living together has increased between the years 1996 to 2011 across all age groups.
With more and more couples cohabitating, how do you know if you’re ready to be one of them?
Firstly, ensure you’re considering the move for the right reasons, says clinical psychologist Kirstin Bouse.
Don’t do it because it’s the next “expected” step in the relationship, or because others are pressuring you.
If you feel ready, there are three key questions you should ask yourself beforehand, says relationship coach Cathryn Mora.
Do you have common views on the future?
People often think of living together as less of a commitment than getting married, says Mora. Instead, she urges couples to view it as the “serious” commitment it is.
That means discussing in detail what you want your future to look like – before moving in together.
Big topics, such as having children or plans to move overseas, should be nutted out now. If you gloss over such issues (hoping they’ll somehow sort themselves out later) Mora says you risk “major conflict” down the track.
Do your financial values match?
When discussing the future, delve into finances. If your partner hopes to take a break from paid work to pursue an entrepreneurial dream, are you happy to foot the bills for both of you?
Are your spending styles compatible, or will it drive you bonkers if he’s a spender and you’re a saver?
How do you plan to split your money, anyway – 50/50, separate bank accounts, or some other way?
You don’t need to align perfectly (spenders and savers can live together), but Bouse says you need to discuss, and come to an agreement on, how to manage your money before shifting in together.
Does your partner offer you the type of support you need?
Before co-signing a lease, it’s a good idea to have tested the relationship in some way, says Mora.
The best way to do that is to see how your partner responds when you’ve been through a major life change, such as getting fired or losing your job.
Did your partner make you feel supported and loved, offering you the type of comfort you need?
That’s not to say you have to have go through one of these events before moving in together.
Taking trips together or celebrating major holidays (such as Christmas) can also be a good barometer of how you’ll cope as a couple when you encounter challenge together, says Mora.
“Sometimes people sail through these quite well, others find areas they can negotiate on, but others find they can’t get past certain things.”
If you answered “yes” to these three key questions, Mora says you’ll have a “good idea” of how the relationship will manage when you live together.
Mind you, plenty of couples don’t sit down with a checklist before making that decision.
Sometimes, a single event can quell your concerns.That’s what happened to Jamal.
The 31 year-old had been in a string of unsuccessful relationships when he met Noemie, 28.
After two months of dating, the couple from NSW went on a four-day road trip, where they faced all the usual headaches on the road.
When Jamal saw how calmly Noemie took these matters in her stride, he instantly knew he could live with her.
Two months later they moved in together and have now been living together for over five years.
For others, circumstances affect their decision.
Carly, 28, wasn’t ready to move in with her partner, Russell.
They’d only been dating for a couple of months when she was offered a dream job interstate.
Neither was ready to end the relationship (nor face the prospect of a long-distance relationship), so when Carly packed her bags, Russell did too.
They moved in together but decided not to put both their names on the lease, in case things didn’t work out.
There was an initial period of adjustment (Carly’s a self-confessed slob, while Russell’s a bit of a neat freak). But six years (and two rescue dogs) later, they’re still going strong.
“If it wasn’t for circumstantial reasons we would’ve taken a long time to move in together,” says Carly. “But it’s worked out for the best.”