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Your first apartment together: 5 questions for couples

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When should you move in together? What do you have to bear in mind? Read on for tips on your first apartment together and living as a couple.

It all starts with a gut feeling: "Why don't we move in together?" Forget long-distance relationships and always having to go back to your own empty, lonely apartment – you want to be with your partner all the time. How romantic! That said, it's a big step that you need to think about carefully. Living together has far-reaching consequences, and that's why lots of couples have doubts in spite of all the excitement.

1. When should we move in together?

Whether motivated by convenience, feelings or both, every couple needs to pick the right moment for their first apartment together. It works out great for some couples even though they haven't been together very long, whereas others only move in together after ten years and still get it wrong – despite the wait, or perhaps because of it? If only we knew! It's definitely advisable to leave it until you know each other fairly well, including with regard to day-to-day things. Failing that, a frank discussion about personal habits and foibles can at least help to avoid the odd nasty surprise.

Tip: You should never move in with someone for purely practical reasons. Unless both of you are convinced that it's the right thing to do, the time isn't right.

2. How can we make living together work?

Sharing a home with others requires certain social skills, but it doesn't have to be perfect and harmonious all the time. It's much better (but also harder work) to learn and grow together.

  • Independence and empathy: A healthy relationship needs distance as well as closeness. You have to take time for yourself as well as for your partner, and one is normally easier than the other.
  • Respect and consideration: No one is exactly the same as their partner, and it's a sad fact that differences often cause people to fall out with each other. Tolerance is the answer. To put it another way, live and let live.
  • Communication and compromise: Living together as a couple is more than just a means to an end, which is why you need clear, open dialog and a readiness to deal with conflicts and reach compromises.
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3. What do we need to bear in mind when it comes to size, location, etc.?

You might consider moving into your partner's place so you don't have to go to the trouble of finding a new apartment. That way, only one of you has to move. As tempting as that sounds, it isn't necessarily a great idea. Is your partner's apartment really big enough? Will you both have space to yourselves, even a room of your own if you want one? Do you both like it? Is your partner prepared to rearrange it to accommodate you? If moving in requires too many compromises, you'd be better off looking for something more suitable. Who knows? You could find your dream home.

Location

City or countryside, quiet or right where the action is – what people need out of a home can differ massively. You should think about public transportation links, your journey time to work, ease of access to important places (for hobbies, family, and friends), shops, etc.

Must-haves and no-gos

A balcony, a bathtub, an elevator or a nice view – what things are essential to you? On the other hand, what do you want to avoid at all costs – noisy nightlife, electromagnetic fields, the odors of farming?

Rental agreement and deposit

If you both sign the rental agreement, you share liability and legal duties. By law, you also have to terminate the agreement jointly. This can cause problems when couples separate. Alternatively, one of you could sign as the main tenant, and the other could sign a subletting agreement, which could also include paying a share of the deposit.

Tip: Take out rental guarantee insurance and share the premium.

Fixtures, fittings, and furniture

There's no accounting for taste, so try to be tolerant and make concessions here and there. Your shared home should reflect both of your personalities. To avoid any clashes, you could agree that one of you decorates the office and the other the kitchen, for example. All of us have our favorite spots in the home, and you should take that into consideration wherever possible.

Furnishing your home is always a financial issue too. If you want to play it safe in case you split up, you could each buy specific pieces of furniture rather than buying everything together. Make an inventory that you both sign. That way, it will always be clear who owns what.

Tip: If one partner has debts and faces a debt collection order, this protects the other partner's property.

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4. How do we organize our finances?

Financially speaking, living together makes good sense. You share the rent and other bills like heating, electricity, TV license, Internet/TV, streaming subscriptions, and of course premiums for household insurance (personal liability and household contents). You'll probably buy essentials like cleaning products, detergent, toilet paper and the like together too, but preferences can differ wildly when it comes to groceries, and this will affect your budget.

Money can become a bone of contention for many couples as a result. It can be a good idea to sit down and work out a system that you can both agree to, whether it involves keeping your finances strictly separate, opening a joint account or something in between:

  • You each have an account for your salaries but keep a joint account for your housing costs.
  • You each have an account for your salaries and also use the joint account for other expenses (e.g. food, car, and insurance).
  • You have a joint account for both of your salaries and pay all your living costs from it – perhaps even paying yourselves an allowance.

If you both want to stay financially independent, you could discuss whether payments to the joint account should be split 50/50 or based on how much each of you earns. You can also think about joint savings targets, for example for a round-the-world trip.

Tip: Draw up a household budget and use aids to keep your spending under control if necessary, including free apps like BudgetCH, (in german) Flatastic, and Splid.

5. How do we share the housework?

It may be that you and your partner do all the housework together without any need for discussion. If so, count yourself part of a fortunate minority. It's more likely that you divide chores up, with each person taking care of whatever he or she is good at or enjoys doing. You might decide that you should both do all the chores according to a strict rota. Each of these options has advantages and disadvantages and will suit you to a different extent, depending on what type of person you are.

Tip: Why not simply try whatever you feel most comfortable with and accept that it will take time to work out what's best for you. That's normal when you change your living arrangements.

What to do when things get boring

Moving in together can be wonderful. It brings a unique intimacy to everyday life, finally sharing everything, feeling connected and safe, and having a sense of belonging. But the magic doesn't always last. Sooner or later, you'll get settled into a routine that, depending on what kind of person you are, you might find either positive and relaxing or just plain dull. These tips will help you to put the spark back into your relationship: 

  1. Gratitude and appreciation will help you to bring out the best in each other.
  2. Little surprises like hiding notes all over the apartment keep mundanity at bay and let your partner know you care.
  3. A change of scenery (an evening out, day trip, vacation, etc.) works wonders and allows you to discover new experiences together. 
  4. Giving each other space for "me time," hobbies, and friends livens up your relationship and gives you something to talk about.
  5. Taking on projects or challenges as a couple can bring you closer together. You could learn something new, help others or maybe take up a sport.
  6. Consciously investing in your relationship pays dividends, and there are endless ways to do it: games, books, courses – all you have to do is Google them!
  7. Open communication is key. Be honest about your needs, wishes, and fears. Ask questions and listen to your partner.

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