If you're thinking about exchanging house keys with your boyfriend or girlfriend, that probably means you're beginning to think more seriously about your future together. While giving your partner a key to your home can feel like a big gesture, it doesn't necessarily have the same implications that it did years ago. If you aren't sure when to give your boyfriend a key, consider the below signs that you are in fact ready to take this next step in your relationship.
When you're deciding whether or not to swap keys with your significant other, it's also important to ask yourself why you want to take this step right now. Is it because you feel safe and comfortable with your partner and you want them to know, or are you trying to compensate for something unrelated? Keep in mind that exchanging keys shouldn't be used as an attempt to fix problems in your relationship. If you are arguing, giving them a key to your place might temporarily distract from the issue at hand, but it's not an actual solution.
I spoke to dating and relationship coach Lindsay Chrisler about the ins and outs of trading keys with your significant other. Here's what you need to know.
The main signs that you are ready to give your partner a key to your place include both of you feeling positive about discussing your future together, feeling safe in each other's presence, and asking each other for help (and being glad to do so), according to Chrisler.
"Giving a key to your partner is more symbolic than anything these days," she says. "It’s a sign that you both look forward to the future together and are having a good experience of the relationship. It means you will be there for each other and you both feel safe. It’s a fun next step when the relationship feels good." Chrisler emphasizes the fact that the gesture won't actually solve any problems you two are having. "If the relationship is rocky, a key won’t do anything," she adds.
If you live alone, the choice to give your S.O. a key is entirely up to you. But if you have other roommates, that changes things. It's not solely your space, so you can't make an executive decision without consulting your roommate(s). You have to explicitly ask if they are OK with another person having access to the home that you all share. Don't promise a key to your partner before you have a thorough conversation with your roommates. According to Chrisler it can be a big talk, so clear the necessary time for it.
Finally, just because you offer a key to your boyfriend or girlfriend, that doesn't mean they will give you a key to their place in return. Obviously exchanging keys at the same time is ideal, because it confirms that you are on the same page and have equal expectations about your relationship. You'll likely feel better about taking this next step if you do it together. "However, sometimes people have a different relationship pace and you may give a key before you get one," says Chrisler.
You should be OK with giving your S.O. a key and not getting one in return. "As long as you are giving the key without any agenda or expectations, you’ll be fine," says Chrisler. "On the other hand, if you’re giving a key and expecting one in return and when you don’t get one, you have an epic meltdown — this is not about the key. This is about attachment and should be addressed with a professional counselor or coach."
Giving your partner a key to your place doesn't need to have a deeper meaning. Even so, it's still a step forward in your relationship. Make sure that you're doing it for the right reasons and don't offer a key unless you are 100 percent confident in your decision.