The pandemic has meant many couples have taken big steps in their relationship much sooner than they thought they would.
During the first lockdown, partners who lived apart suddenly decided to live together as it meant they could still see each other.
Now with a second lockdown, the choice whether to stick to outdoor dates, two metres apart or to shack up together is back.
This time round, those who live alone do have the option of creating a social bubble, so if one of the people in the couple doesn’t live with someone else, you can do that.
Of course, if you live with flatmates who all have partners, only one of you will be able to create a social bubble. A household can’t bubble up with more than one person.
For those who don’t have the option of creating a bubble, there’s a lot to think about.
Can you move in with your partner?
Lockdown has already started so temporarily changing your household now would be against the rules.
If you already starting living together this week, you can continue to do so until lockdown ends.
The person who has moved out of their own place to move into another person’s can’t go back home during lockdown. Moving in with your partner means you are one household and you can’t mix with another household during this time (unless in a social bubble).
There isn’t a ban on moving house though so if you are willing to make it more permanent, you can live together.
It might work for couples planning to get a place when this is all over, or those with contracts already coming to an end.
How to talk about moving in together
Kate Moyle, sex and relationship expert for LELO, explains that although it might seem like your only option, you still need to consider if it really is something you want to do.
She says: ‘The reality of lockdown is that you will only have a few days to make the decision – and that won’t be long enough to cover all the conversations, negotiations and discussions that would normally come with moving in with a partner.
‘The circumstances of moving together for lockdown are also different, you don’t have the change of context like going to work, or going out and seeing friends that comes with our normal way of living and that can be an important part of still feeling like individuals when you are in a relationship together.
‘You might not necessarily ‘know’ that you are ready to live together for lockdown, but you can make a commitment to trying and working together on it, and also acknowledging that it might not always be smooth sailing.’
Rather than just jumping straight in because of lockdown, Kate adds that you still need to take a little time to consider which scenario works best. Don’t just agree to move – think about if your partner moving in with you is the better option and how you will manage things like work.
She says: ‘It’s ok to be honest from the start about the things that you are likely to find challenging, know what is important for you as individuals, and to try and reduce triggers for arguments. e.g. tea and coffee cups always go in the sink at the end of the day, no wet towels on the floor.
‘These sound like trivial things, but they are often the source of a lot of frustration between couples, because partners don’t feel listened to when they have vocalised their needs to their partner and then they are ignored.’
What to look out for if you moved in together because of lockdown
Moving in together is a big step for any relationship and it might take some work from both of you.
Kate explains that even if your decision is rushed, you can quickly establish a routine and pre-empt some issues.
‘Set some ground rules,’ she says. ‘Have an equal amount, say 2/3 each. Sit down and discuss them and agree to really make an effort to help each other in making sure that they are stuck to.
‘Obviously people slip up, especially when they are used to living their own way as individuals and so expect some clashes.
‘When they happen try not to overly criticise, but speak from your own experience. e.g. “I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the mess, or I find it really stressful/distracting not being able to cook with all the washing up still in the sink.”
‘Talk from your own feelings rather than putting all the blame onto your parter. Mutual respect and care are important features of sharing a living space whether you are partners, family or housemates.’
Kate also adds that even if you are in a tiny flat, you can give each other space and it’s important you both have time to yourselves.
She says: ‘You don’t need to do everything together. So just say to your partner I’m going to watch Netflix on my own next door, or I’m going for a walk. Just because you live together doesn’t mean you need to do everything together.
Shannon Smith, relationship expert at dating app Plenty of Fish, adds that spending too much time together when you start living together is one of the main reasons it might not work.
If you are both working at home, unable to see friends and living together, you will essentially be together 24 hours a day and that can put a lot of pressure on you both.
She tells Metro.co.uk: ‘One of the biggest challenges, where you’re not used to being around each other for this amount of time, can be cabin fever and feeling like you’re constantly in each other’s space.
‘So, if your partner is having a virtual chat with a friend or family member, give them room to speak on their own for a while – they can fill you in on the gossip later.
‘Similarly, try working in different parts of the house so you feel you’ve had time in your own space, this will also spark a nice feeling when you ‘reunite’ together in the evening.
‘As living together is a potentially totally new situation for you both, now more than ever it’s important to support each other.
‘Remind your partner that they can talk to you if they are stressed and check in regularly to make sure they’re okay. Small daily acts of kindness can go a long way – even something as simple as making your partner a cup of tea unasked. The most important thing is for both of you to know you can speak openly whilst the other is really listening.’
Of course, if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t mean your relationship is over. It’s important to remember that it’s a very unusual situation that many couples are only considering because they don’t have another choice.
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