Cohabitation is a surefire sign that this relationship is the real deal. In many modern societies it’s become the organic precursor to marriage, or an otherwise long-term or lifelong commitment.

Moving in together can feel so natural, so right. As your lives entwine and your day-to-day becomes their day-to-day, you have way more intimacy, you’re always there for one another both emotionally and practically, you save on living expenses, you can get a pet, think about having kids, divide up domestic duties, create a home befitting your joint vision… The possibilities are endless. It can be truly wonderful.

But before you get ahead of yourself, it’s worth taking the time to ensure this is the right decision. And not only for you personally, but also for the two of you as a couple. It may well be a no-brainer because, you’ve been together for years, you want to get married—and you simply can’t imagine life without each other. However, even if the relationship is going swimmingly but your primary motivation for moving in together is external—like the lease on your apartment is up, or your family are pressuring you to “commit”—then you might want to take a step back and check this is definitely what you want. Cohabiting is a big decision, not only emotionally but also practically and financially—and you deserve to get it right.

Let’s explore a scenario. You spend all your time at one another’s apartments. You’ve only been seeing each other for a few months, sure—but things are seriously great. You love waking up beside them, making breakfast together, and falling into their arms when they come over after work. Your friends keep hurrying you: ‘Why not just make it official? You’re pretty much living together anyway.’

Why not indeed?

Well—it absolutely could make sense in your specific circumstances. But equally, are you certain this isn’t just a whim? Are you really spending “all” your time together—or is it only the good bits? Have you definitely spent enough time in their company to move beyond the honeymoon period and get used to each other’s quirks, habits, daily routines?

More fundamentally, think on this: Cohabiting alters the dynamics of your relationship. Like your spending habits: Right now, you buy groceries according to your income. But what if your incomes differ dramatically, and you have wildly divergent standards when it comes to coffee? Do you find a “halfway” brand? Each have your own beans? And what if you get into a fight because you refuse to fork out an extra 10 bucks on those Ethiopian beans your partner’s obsessed with (what ever happened to good old instant?). You can storm out, slam the door, and head back to your place. No such luck if you move in together, though. You can still storm out and slam the door, sure—but you’ll be back soon enough. And there might be an “atmosphere” waiting for you.

The point is, even if you spend loads of time at each other’s apartments, it’s still not the same as living together. So consider sitting down with your partner and making sure you’re on the same page: why do you guys actually want to move in together? And while you’re at it, set up some ground rules, just like you would with a new roommate. Would one cook and the other do the dishes? Who would take out the trash? Organize the bills? Do the vacuuming?

Even more importantly, you should never cohabit simply to “prove a point,” whether to show commitment to your partner or persuade your family that you’re serious. Couples who do this experience greater attachment insecurity down the line, and exhibit more pronounced signs of anxiety and depression. To reiterate the earlier point: Cohabiting is a decision that should be made exclusively because you love each other and want your lives to become one. Forget everybody else. Speaking of which…

Have your friends and families been brought into the mix yet? And if so, does it feel right—does it just work? The reason this matters is simple: Your loved ones know you better than anyone. They have your best interests at heart. And know this: Among married couples, disapproval of a spouse’s friends significantly increases the rate of divorce. So if your friends and family approve and every social occasion is a joy, well hey—you might just have met The One. And you might want to get apartment hunting…

Let’s take another scenario. You’ve had The Conversation—and while you’re both excited for the future, it still feels too early to cohabit. Fair enough—and well done for communicating honestly. That’s a skill in itself! In the meantime, you know what a highly effective next step can be? Travel together. Why? Because by removing any familiar context—by taking yourselves away from your creature comforts—you gauge the compatibility of what really matters: your values and personalities.

Traveling together means getting outside your comfort zones, making plans together, being stuck with one another for extended periods—sometimes in hot, boring, or uncomfortable conditions as you trundle from A to B. And these are the times that truly illuminate the nuances of your characters. It’s in the downtime—in the grimy and apparently uneventful “in-between” moments—that you might experience the most formative hours of your relationship so far. Everything’s going swimmingly—and then they’re rude to a flight attendant, and you see the person you thought was your “forever” partner in a whole new light. Or you turn to say hey—and you’re utterly caught off-guard—mesmerized, speechless—by how beautiful they look, gazing out at the clouds. A small smile, their hand in yours. Serene. Perfectly content simply being with you.

Often it’s in the smallest of moments that couples “know” for the very first time.

Maclynn is a boutique, multi-award-winning introductions agency with offices in New York, New Jersey, California, and London. We’re world-renowned for bringing together highly compatible singles within our vast network of attractive, intelligent professionals, and our matchmakers are relationship experts in their own right. Get in touch today, and prepare for genuinely meaningful dating—just like you deserve.