Living with anyone can be difficult (flashback to screaming matches with my Mom all through high school…eek), but living with a significant other presents a separate set of challenges you may not encounter with a roommate, friend or family member. A few weeks back I read a post by Mckenzie Horan, the blogger at Design Darling. She interviewed 10 women on their experience moving in with a significant other and I found the post incredibly delightful. Her post inspired me to think about my own experiences living with a significant other and the lessons I have learned.
Before I begin I want to share a little bit of background information on my past living situations as they pertain to significant others. The summer after my sophomore year of college I decided to stay with my new boyfriend while I searched for a place. Even though we had only been dating for roughly five minutes I moved my stuff in and (surprise! surprise!) never found a place of my own, though we did actually move to two separate apartments together. This living situation was as insane as it sounds! We hardly knew each other to begin with and living together in a cramped studio only led to intense arguing, irritation and overall a very (very) bad relationship. I would not recommend this living situation to anyone.
However, flash forward three years and I am living in a small dingy townhouse with two girls I found on Craigslist. I have managed to transform a teeny-tiny light filled room into my own version of a Fairy Princess castle and am overjoyed (despite the horribly stained carpet) to have my own walk-in closet and space to hang a canopy. Soon after moving into this apartment I met and began dating my current boyfriend, Jordan (yes, Jordyn & Jordan). Just a few months later the landlord at my dingy townhouse informed my roommates and I the place was going into foreclosure (go-figure) and we had exactly 13 days to evacuate (cue the panic). Due to the extreme circumstance I once again moved in with my boyfriend and after a month of living with his roommates at his place, we found a new apartment together.
For many reasons Jordan and I are a much better suited than my ex boyfriend and I were, but these reasons are neither here nor there. Despite both positive and negative experiences I would not recommend living together after only a few short months of dating to anyone. Living together intricately weaves your life into someone else’s. Even if you are both financially independent it becomes much more difficult to separate should your relationship head south.
I have been fortunate that living with my boyfriend (the second time around) has been a completely pleasant experience. Every single night I get to fall asleep next to my best friend and that is the best feeling in the world (even if my best friend doesn’t know how to do laundry). From both of these living experiences I want to share what I have learned.
Don’t Rush Moving in Together!
I might be beating a dead horse with this one (given the previous story) but I want to make sure I really hit the nail on the head here. Living with a significant other is a big deal and a major commitment. You are not only committing financially but you are committing emotionally. Living with a significant other should be a commitment to work out financial obligations fairly and maturely should any issue come up in your relationship. It is a commitment to work through fights, bad emotions and piles of dirty laundry (together). It’s committing to shared expenses beyond the expenses you would share with a roommate (are you and your boyfriend really going to buy separate gallons of milk and loaves of bread?). Cohabiting is not the same as living with a roommate because there is a much higher expectation that time in your home will be time spent together. Your needs for cleanliness, or silence (or constant music), or a cool bedroom, for a shoulder to cry on, or a pet in the house, or the bigger closet should all be discussed before moving in together. Though it’s awkward the more you can talk about prior to signing a lease the better! Will your significant other be cool with your girlfriend’s coming over to watch the Bachelor every Monday? Will he mind when you invite your cousin to spend the weekend? Will you be irritated by his inability to clean up every last bit of hair he leaves on the bathroom floor after shaving? Though you can’t discuss every last detail, the more you discuss the easier the transition will be.
Maintain an Individual sense of Identity.
It is very easy to fall into the habit of doing everything as a couple just because you live together but it is important to give yourself space. Each couple’s need for space will be different. Space in your relationship might mean one night a week doing separate activities or it might mean maintaining totally separate schedules-find the happy place for you! I know for me it is very tempting to invite Jordan to everything. I have to remind myself to enjoy a run with just my friend, or even head to the gym alone! That’s not to say I never invite my boyfriend along (I definitely do) but I’ve found that maintaining activities that are MY activities and friends that are MY friends I maintain a sense of individuality. No one wants to be the couple that can’t do anything without each other.
Live in a Home with Enough Space for two People!
This seems like an obvious point but from my experience it isn’t. When you’re moving in with a significant other for the first time it is very easy to get whisked away by the romantic idea of sharing a home together and forget that 350 sq. ft. isn’t enough room for two adult humans and a dog. Though there are many couples that make small spaces work it is important to think realistically about your relationship, your belongings and your individual personalities. Are you willing to sacrifice your enormous shoe collection and share a closet? Is your significant other okay with storing his bike outside or does he want it in the living room? Living in a cramped space isn’t necessarily bad if you’re constantly typing at coffee shops, running through a nearby park and eating out at cool restaurants but it can become VERY tiresome if you’re both home all the time. Be realistic about your living situation from the get-go, though you’re in love living on top of each other is bound to cause a few fights. Be as honest as possible about the space you both need.
Don’t forget to Live Respectfully.
Do you remember the first time you ever lived with a roommate? You were probably hyper aware (at least at first) of taking out the garbage, keeping the common areas tidy and never being too loud! When you live with a significant other a lot of those common roommate courtesies are forgotten. Though I don’t suggest tip-toeing around your significant other the same way you would living with a stranger I do think it’s helpful to maintain a sense of courtesy. Clean up your dishes in a timely manner even though it’s just your boyfriend staring at them, don’t allow your laundry to cover your bedroom floor for weeks and do things like take out the garbage once in awhile (even if it isn’t “your chore”).
Venture outside of your Home (often).
When you’ve cultivated the perfect little love nest dream home you might find yourself becoming a bit of a homebody (at least for a little while). It’s okay to stay in and enjoy your new place but don’t forget to live outside of your home too. Don’t coop yourself inside your new house and forget there is a whole big world out there to explore! You and your significant other should continue to go on dates together and explore new places. It’s easy to let your relationship grow mundane and stale by forgetting to keep “dating”. Do more than live together! Do more than brush your teeth at the same time and alternate emptying the dishwasher. Keep the magic alive by having fun together (inside and outside of your home). Not every day will be a magical whirlwind romance but that doesn’t mean you can’t do your best to keep the spark alive.
Whatever way you look at it living with a significant other is a big step. There is no way to perfectly prepare and there will always be unexpected elements however I can promise you falling asleep next to your bestie every night is a pretty surreal feeling!
Do you have any tips for living with a significant other? I’d love to hear them!