I’ve lived with other people. My first year of college I had a roommate and seven suitemates, in my second year of college I shared a closet-sized room with the nicest girl ever, and my final year of college I got an apartment with one of my best friends.
But then I lived alone for a year, and I ended up LOVING it. I got to be very selfish and live exactly the way I wanted with nobody to answer to. Alas, that couldn’t last forever, and I moved in with my boyfriend about six months ago. Nobody tells you that living with your romantic partner is a hell of a lot different than just living with a roommate.
When you live with a roommate you basically just live separate lives within a common space. Of course, you hang out, divide some chores, and lay some ground rules to keep the peace, but you don’t create a life together. So since living with my boyfriend, I’ve learned quite a few things:
- We have different levels of cleanliness. It’s not like one of us is a neat freak and the other is a slob, but we both have our quirks and we had to reconcile those so as not to drive the other up a wall. For example, Michael HATES when the dish soap sits on the counter, it HAS to be put away. And I can’t stand leaving dishes in the sink overnight so everything has to be washed before I go to bed no matter who got it dirty. Once we figured out these differences, we have both made an effort to accommodate the other. They aren’t big things, they are just different habits to make.
- Next set of rules I noticed were boundaries, or in our case, the lack thereof. However, it did dawn on me that other couples might have stronger senses of shame so this is a crucial one to figure out. For example, for us, it’s not an issue for both of us to be in the bathroom getting ready at the same time, or if someone is showering and someone is going to the bathroom it’s fine. On the other hand, we both usually prefer to take phone calls privately so we’ll go to a separate room and close the door. Or if I’m taking a bath, I prefer solitude. Knocking is preferred in cases like those but figuring out when you need some privacy, in general, will be a big deal when cohabitating.
- In the same vein, it was SUPER important for us to figure out how to give each other enough alone time. I, especially, need a lot of alone time and being able to communicate was a struggle at first because I would feel guilty for asking for time by myself when I had just spent the whole week travelling for work or something. We had many a discussion about this and basically, as long as we’re super transparent about what either of us is feeling, we are good to go. And when I say transparent I mean ‘Hey, I need about three hours of alone time today’. It may sound clinical, but it does the trick.
- A smaller, but surprisingly significant part of living together is splitting up chores. With roommates, it’s pretty easy because you basically just look after your own shit and spend a day every two weeks cleaning the whole apartment. With a significant other, you share all of those responsibilities and the problems arise when one person feels like they do more than the other. To avoid this, we found it was helpful to have our own ‘jobs’. For instance, when I’m home, I pretty much always am responsible for the laundry. Michael handles the dishwasher. I clean the bathrooms, and he cleans the floors and kitchen (don’t feel bad for me, I HATE mopping so much more than scrubbing toilets). If I cook, Michael cleans up and vice versa. If we both do our jobs, neither one of us feels like we’re stuck with all the housework.
- Last but not least: you can’t hide your gross parts anymore. If one of you is sick, you both are living with it. On the bright side, this means you always have someone to take care of you or help you out. If you’ve got a cold, the other can pick up some medicine. If you’ve got a horrible kink in your neck, the other can try and massage it out. And if you’ve got a weird bump on your back, the other can check for skin cancer. The point is, my relationship has lost any sense of glamour it may have once had because we’re both comfortable enough to show each other our uncomfortable sides.
To me, living together is one of the potential biggest hurdles in a long-term relationship. I mean, if you can’t cohabitate, good luck making it for the long haul. There have definitely been annoyances, fights, and teary discussions trying to figure all this stuff out. But despite the bad, and the ugly, moving in with my boyfriend was one of the best decisions.