When the Boston Globe reported on a couple in Cambridge told to move in together to avoid further parking tickets, it made me want to get a closer look at how couples make this decision and why. Today we debrief with Samuel, a 28-year-old researcher who recently moved in with his partner, Rachel, in Central Square.

created at: 2014-03-24Rachel and I haven’t had any parking troubles—we’ve both lived in Cambridge the whole time we’ve been dating, and we mostly biked or walked to each other’s places when we were living separately.

We started seeing each other at the beginning of 2013, and things gradually got more serious. In August, I got a new place only half a mile from Rachel. We saw each other a lot throughout that fall, and soon we were spending most nights together. On my way home from work I’d often have to swing by Rachel’s place to pick up a backpack or a jacket I’d left there and needed for something else that evening. It was a hassle having our stuff at both places.

Then I was notified that my position would be cut to half time, and thus half pay, which made things tough financially.

Rachel brought up the idea of having me move into her place, and we could split the rent.

To be clear, she had been thinking about it before then. If my pay hadn’t been cut, she would have brought up the idea during our upcoming vacation in January.

I didn’t say yes right away—it felt like a big step and I wanted to think about it.

I also didn’t say no.

My two big emotional considerations were, first of all, that it would be a big step in our relationship, another step toward being together permanently (or at least semi-permanently?). If things didn’t work out, it would be a lot tougher to break up. In other words, we would be making a commitment.

My second concern was about moving into the apartment where Rachel already lived. How would that be different from us getting a new place together? Would I lose some autonomy about how to set the place up? How much of the process would have to be on her terms, if it was already her place?

Of course I was also considering rent money and just the logistics involved in spending time together.

As I tried to decide, I reflected that our relationship had really been developing well. We’d been spending so much time together that moving in together made so much logistical sense. Deciding not to move in with her might have felt like a rejection of her and been a step back for our relationship. I made the decision in early December, and I had time to gradually begin the moving process before leaving my apartment at the end of January.

I think moving gradually worked well for us emotionally, too. I felt relatively settled in even before I officially moved, and it took some of the pressure off our disagreements about the logistical stuff because we could talk about something, put it aside for a little while, and then revisit it, which helped keep differences of opinion from turning into fights.

One thing that really helped is that Rachel rearranged the living room so that one wall was open for my desk and other stuff, and she put my pictures up on the walls with hers. Not only did that give me a physical place for my computer and such, it also showed me that there is a metaphorical place for me in the apartment—that it’s our place as much as it is hers.

For other people planning to move in together, think about how you can set things up so that both people have a place (physically and metaphorically). I was a little worried about whether I’d lose autonomy or she’d make all the decisions—that I’d be living in her place, as opposed to us living in our place. Having my own space helped me feel like that wasn’t the case. I have a space that really belongs to me, within the place we are setting up together as ours.

Thanks to Samuel for chatting! As for the rest of you, email me with your own stories or questions about moving in, moving out, or other relationship transitions. Let’s debrief!