Moving in with your significant other can be an incredibly rewarding “next step” in any relationship. You get to wake up side-by-side with the (hopefully) love of your life and share more of your most important moments together. Living together is total bliss, from walking hand-in-hand down the grocery aisle to cuddling up on the couch in the evenings. At least, it can be if you’ve figured out how to manage your busy schedules and keep your stress levels down.

On the other hand, without the right tools and preparation, the reality of cohabitation is an entirely different beast. If you’re not prepared for the challenges ahead, you could wind up making an enemy — or a passionless roommate — out of your great love. To make living together work, both partners must understand how to make the most of their own and each other’s time. Here’s how to share a space while creating space for a longer, happier life together.

1. Choose a Calendar-Sharing Strategy

Chances are, at least one of you already uses a scheduling tool like Calendar, Microsoft Calendar, or Google Calendar. If you both do, syncing or sharing your calendars can save you a lot of time and confusion with your social life, childcare, and more. After discussing plans, you can add them to both of your calendars (with extra reminders for the more forgetful partner). This way, there’s less chance of double-booking or losing track of important events.

Some couples also get a kick from using their shared scheduling tools to send cute date night or alone-time invites. For example, you can make a dinner or surprise hotel reservation and then have the system send your partner a notification. Other partners hate this, preferring to discuss it before verbally considering or committing to any plans. Make sure you know which type of significant other your significant other is to avoid any accidental pressure or being overwhelmed.

2. Divvy Up Household Tasks

When couples move in together, the division of household labor can often get a little unbalanced. In heterosexual marriages, even when both partners earn the same amount of money, women still tend to do more housework. The result is that husbands are often freed up to do more leisure activities or work harder to advance their careers. Meanwhile, wives get saddled with several hours’ worth of extra household and childcare tasks per week.

Over time, these types of discrepancies can breed resentment and, eventually, major relationship problems. They can also make it harder for one partner to prioritize their passions, social life, self-care, etc. To give both partners a fair chance at a full life, cohabiting partners should work together to divide unpaid labor equitably. If you both work and have the budget, consider outsourcing some tasks, like using drop-off laundry or grocery delivery services.

3. Share the Mental Load

Taking care of a household isn’t just about actually doing the physical (or logistical) tasks. Many shared tasks also require a degree of cognitive and emotional work, also known as “mental load.” For example, cooking dinner takes a lot of time and effort beyond just making the food. Someone needs to decide what to make, compile a grocery list, go shopping, and remember when to prep ingredients ahead. They also need to factor in their partner’s likes and dislikes.

Many partners overlook all the mental work that goes into these tasks, relying on their significant other to play household Project Manager. However, this type of administrative labor can be especially exhausting and draining. It can leave one partner much more stressed while the other shrugs their shoulders and asks, “What’s for dinner?” To maintain harmony, ensure you’re pulling your weight, and use organizational tools to factor these tacks into your scheduling.

4. Plan Some Together Time…

As much as your partner might wish it were true, not every minute you spend together counts as quality time. That goes double if said time is spent on household chores or watching a movie only one of you is excited about. To maintain long-term romance, you must keep dating, romancing, and surprising each other indefinitely. The problem is, if you have different scheduling styles, it’s easy to let date night slide or turn it into a source of conflict.

Often, one partner has a busy schedule and wants a dinner reservation on the calendar, while the other wants to “wing it.” Partner two might not realize this “chill, easy-going” attitude can create a lot of stress for their significant other. If your partner is a “planner” or seems uptight about scheduling, try giving them more advance notice. You might be surprised by how much more “relaxed” and “spontaneous” your partner’s attitude is when you give them time to clear their calendar.

5. And Some Alone Time…

Date night is important, but equally important is taking time to do things on your own. In the early stages of a relationship, it can be tempting to do absolutely everything together, but eventually, that closeness can kill the spark. You chose your partner because of the qualities, passions, and other unique attributes you saw in them. If you stop giving them time to be themselves, you could lose the person you fell in love with.

Knowing this, one of the best things you can do for your relationship is to respect your partner’s needs, boundaries, and individual routines. If they like to spend a few hours each week tinkering in the garden or the toolshed, don’t insist they stop. Yes, you may have to rearrange the exact days or hours a bit to make time together or for other responsibilities. Just make sure you both always find (and, if necessary, schedule) the time to do the things that make you uniquely you.

6. And Some Time for Rest

Sleep schedules are challenging to manage in a relationship, especially when one partner is an early bird, and one is a night owl. Often, couples argue over when to go to bed, and the early-to-bed, early-to-rise partner thinks their way is right. They might try to “readjust” their partner’s sleep habits to get them on a “healthier” schedule. It’s not that simple, though: some people are genetically predisposed to going to sleep at later times.

Instead of trying to change your partner, figure out a routine that lets you both get enough rest. For example, if you’re a night owl, you might make some time to cuddle with your partner as they drift off to sleep. If you’re a morning person, try getting a vibrating watch instead of a loud alarm clock. Rest should also include scheduling a decent amount of downtime during daylight hours. You’ll both be happier if you aren’t always exhausted from running around all day.

Don’t Put Off the Big Things

For many people, simply getting a better handle on daily routines and weekly schedules isn’t enough. They need to make room for something bigger to make life feel meaningful. While living in the present moment isn’t a bad thing, some couples get a little too stuck in the day-in, day-out loop. They say, “Maybe next year,” to that round-the-world trip or master’s degree, procrastinating on their own dreams or discouraging their partner’s.

Designing the best possible schedule for you and your significant other is a delicate balancing act. You must stay clear on what’s important to you while stepping in when they need extra help. You must remember who you chose and how to support them without losing sight of who you are. Remember that managing schedules isn’t just how you spend your hours; it’s how you spend your life.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Ketut Subiyanto; Pexels