So after avoiding all the traps and pitfalls that come with a new relationship, you’ve managed to secure yourself a long-term girlfriend. Well, buckle up because the next major phase of the dating process is deciding whether or not to make the cohabitation leap.

Moving in together is a big decision, one of the biggest you’ll make in a developing relationship. If nothing else, making the cohabitation leap gives your relationship a certain degree of solidity and permanence. Once you’ve moved in together, breaking up is going to be a lot harder to do. Also, recognize that many women consider moving in together a precursor to marriage, so before you make the cohabitation leap, you need to be sure you’re making the right decision.

The following tips from the Guy's Guide to Romance will help you decide whether or not it’s a good move to make the cohabitation leap.

Signs She Wants to Move In

Chances are your girlfriend will be the one who first gets you thinking about living together. She might come right out and ask you if you want to make the cohabitation leap, but it’s just as likely she’ll send subtle signals to suggest she wants to start sharing accommodations. There are several signs you should keep your eyes and ears open for.

Has she started colonizing your space? For example, has she appropriated a drawer of your dresser or started keeping pink, girly smelling products in your medicine cabinet? Have her Friday-night sleepovers turned into weeklong visits? These types of arrangements may emerge out of convenience, but make no mistake about it: they’re definite trial runs to see how your relationship handles greater intimacy and shared accommodations.

Reasons to Move In

Once she signals that she wants to make the cohabitation leap, it’s time to consider for yourself whether or not moving in together is a good idea. There are many factors to consider, and many factors not to consider. For example, don’t move in together just so you have access to regular sex or because she’s a great cook. Those kinds of things will quickly cease to be important once you start bickering about rent or about whose turn it is to do the dishes. Consider compatibility, and her potential as a long-term partner.

Bottom line: You should only move in together because you want to take your relationship to the next level.

Before you decide to make the cohabitation leap, you need to schedule a sit-down with your significant other to talk about finances. Recognize that living together is going to necessitate frank discussions of monetary matters. Are you going to split all the bills 50-50? If you’re renting, will both of your names be on the lease (hint: they should be). Will the two of you have to purchase any furniture or other big-ticket items? What’s going to happen to them if the relationship doesn’t work out? How is grocery shopping going to work? Are you even ready to have these kinds of conversations? You need to be if you’re planning to make the cohabitation leap.

Keep Things Interesting

Once you decide to make the cohabitation leap, the next major challenge is going to be keeping things interesting. Living together provides you with opportunities for romance, which you didn’t have before. But you also run the risk of getting sick of each other. Now that you’re seeing each other every day and every night, you’ll need to develop some strategies for warding off boredom.So use your living situation to your advantage: surprise her with dinner when she gets home from work, draw a bath for her or bring her breakfast in bed. If you keep things interesting enough, you might receive a pleasant surprise of your own, perhaps of the sexy lingerie variety.

More From AskMen.com:

Doc Love: Making Your Next Move

7 Realities Of Shacking Up

Moving In Together

Did Living Together Ruin Your Relationship?

Living With Your Girlfriend

Respect Each Other’s Space

Making the cohabitation leap means spending an awful lot of time in close quarters, and no matter how much you and your significant other dig each other, you’re probably going to get on each other’s nerves every once in a while. So spend some time outside of your shared residence. Make sure to have guy’s nights, and support her girl’s nights out too. Girl’s nights will help her relieve stress and give the two of you an occasional break from each other. Trust us; you’ll appreciate having the place to yourself occasionally. Generally, you should just avoid spending every waking moment together. Be smart about it and don’t overdose on the relationship.

It’s Not a Leap of Faith…Get Informed

The Guy's Guide to Romance gives you lots of food for thought before you decide to make the cohabitation leap, as well as strategies for keeping your relationship fresh and healthy once you’ve decided to share a living space. Check it out before you make a big mistake.