Alison, 28, and Rory, 28, had known each other for three weeks when they decided to move in together. “We met on Badoo in March,” they tell The Independent. “It was purely out of convenience at first, but it’s actually been great to have the companionship and really get to know one another at a speed that would just not have happened otherwise.” Of course, this was not the plan.
Last month, when Boris Johnson imposed a national lockdown, he forced hundreds of other nascent couples to decide whether to terminate or accelerate their relationship. At least, that’s what they had to do if they wanted to maintain an, ahem, physical relationship. Alison and Rory chose the latter, and so far, it’s been going rather well.
“We play lots of games together and have been eating loads of snacks,” says Alison, “which I love doing with someone as it makes me feel less guilty as opposed to eating a whole pack of biscuits solo. I also can’t deny, it’s nice to have a glass of wine together in the evenings and chat about our days from the comfort of the sofa.”
While it’s hardly the done thing, moving in together at such an early stage in your relationship could actually offer a range of benefits, explains chartered psychologist Daria Kuss. “It allows couples to test the extent to which their partnership may be future-proof, because it teaches you how you will both fare in a situation of daily close contact.,” she tells The Independent.
It can also accelerate decision-making processes as to the viability of the relationship’s future, Kuss adds, meaning you could save yourself some time if you realise that you are not compatible in key areas, such as your lifestyles.
“In addition, increasing time spent together may accelerate the formation of a strong love bond as partners are more likely to experience surges of oxytocin, the love hormone, as they find themselves in close proximity to their partners regularly,” she says. It's essentially a make or break scenario. Although, if it is indeed a break one, you might find yourself in a bit of a pickle when you have to continue living together.
But when everything is moving at a faster pace, couples will inevitably zip past what is known as the “honeymoon stage” of a relationship, where everything between you seems idyllic and your lives look like they’ve been ripped from a Richard Curtis film. This has already started happening to Alison and Rory.
“We attempted some DIY and failed, leaving huge holes in my living room wall in an attempt to mount the TV on the wall,” says Rory. “We’re also always on our phones, which can be frustrating and I have to admit, we sometimes take out our ‘cabin fever’ frustration out on one another.”
Additionally, moving in with your partner doesn’t always mean it’s just going to be the two of you living harmoniously. On an episode of The Independent’s dating and relationship podcast Millennial Love, Lauren, 24, explained how she decided to move in with her boyfriend of two months, but that also meant moving in with his parents and their extended family, who had been visiting when the lockdown struck. “It’s actually been really great so far,” she said. “And everyone is respecting one another’s need for space, which I think is important.”
Giving one another space is key, notes behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings. “Whether that’s for working or relaxing, be respectful of each other and deal with issues as they arise rather than building up resentment,” she suggests. “Coronanxiety makes us all a little short-tempered, so it’s better to say something when you’re feeling a bit tetchy than build up a head of steam.”
It’s not just new couples who have chosen to move in together, either. Liv, 25, had been with her boyfriend Marcus, 26, for 14 months when lockdown hit. They’d previously been living apart but, faced with the prospect of not being able to see one another for an indefinite period of time, decided to move into Marcus’ mother’s home for the time being. “It’s working really well so far,” says Liv. “And it’s been really interesting seeing how one another is in a professional environment.”
It’s working really well so far”
Originally, moving in together would not have happened for at least another few months. “But thanks to lockdown, we’ve been able to test it out. But it will be strange when we both go back to our respective houses afterwards. It will be taking a massive step back again,” Liv adds. Their unprecedented move-in has prompted other issues, too. “Leaving both our rental properties in south London is such a huge loss of money, but it is of course worth the benefit that it has on our social and mental wellbeing of not being apart from each other.”
Josie*, 25, has also chosen to abandon her rented property in London in order to move in with her boyfriend of 19 months. “It definitely wasn’t on my radar at all before, but who knows how long we’d have to go without seeing each other otherwise?” she tells The Independent. “It has been an adjustment, though. I was very used to having my own space and now that we can’t really leave the house for long, it can sometimes feel a bit claustrophobic, which leads to arguments. When I’m annoyed about something, I find myself storming off upstairs and just shutting myself in his bedroom. But that only works for so long – it’s his room!”
“Being faced with the situation to move in or stay apart for an unforeseeable time may put unnecessary pressures on a new relationship,” says Kuss. “This will in most cases mean that one partner moves in with the other one, and as a consequence decides to leave the comfort and familiarity of their own home and environment to live in someone else’s.” When one partner chooses to move into another’s home, it also affects the power balance in a relationship, adds Kuss, because the person moving in will abdicate some of their control for the sake of being with their partner.
Arguments aside, when you are housebound with a partner, other issues may arise simply because of the monotony of your respective daily routines. “We literally do the same thing every day,” says Josie. “We work, I go for a walk, then we cook dinner, watch a film and go to sleep. At the weekends, subtract the work and add a few more films. It can be a bit repetitive.”
“Try to create spaces where each person can be on their own, too”
It may sound like a cliche, but in these circumstances, Kuss suggests introducing a regular weekly “date night” whereby you both make a special effort to do something different, whether it’s watching an online play together, completing a jigsaw puzzle, or simply switching up your loungewear and wearing some actual evening clothes. “Try to create spaces where each person can be on their own, too,” adds dating psychologist Madeleine Mason-Roantree. And make the most of that time by doing something you enjoy as an individual, whether it’s reading a book or catching up with friends on House Party. “This will allow you and your partner to disconnect and can make subsequent reconnection feel especially enjoyable,” adds Kuss.
As for what will happen in your relationship once the lockdown has lifted, Hemmings explains that in most circumstances, it’s best not to discuss it. “Emotions are running high at the moment, which doesn’t make it a great time to discuss life-changing decisions,” she says. “Leave that conversation to when there is actual light at the end of the lockdown tunnel.”
*Names have been changed