Q: My question isn’t really about sex, though, but about cohabitation, so I’d understand if you don’t think this question is a good fit for your column. In a couple of months, I’m moving across the country for grad school and we decided last night that my boyfriend is coming with me. Yay!
However, neither of us has ever lived with a partner before, so we don’t totally know what to expect. I’ve started making a list of details we need to discuss before the move (division of housework, bills, blah blah blah). Basically, I’m wondering if you have any “I-wish-I-knew-this-before-I-cohabited!” advice. Also, I’m curious how much you discussed stuff before moving in together, or if you mostly just winged it. Thanks!
A: Hey, we’re flexible. And even though we write about sex, we often end up talking about communication and relationships, so we’re quite willing to take a stab at your question!
Future Mr. paperispatient moved in with me about nine months after we started seeing each other – we were living in the same city and going to the same university and he slept over 90% of the time anyway, so when he got an internship in that same city and couldn’t live in the dorm any longer, he got added to the lease and moved in. We’d been planning on living together in the not-too-distant future anyway, so that just gave us a reason to make it a little sooner rather than later.
Based on your e-mail, you sound like a girl after my own heart, with the list-making – while it may not work for everyone, that’s how I approach big changes and decisions too, and it helps me feel like I haven’t forgotten anything important. How you’ll handle paying bills is definitely a good item to have on the list, and different approaches work for different people. Will one of you pay all the bills and the other reimburse them? Will you take turns from month to month? Do you want to set up a joint checking account that you each contribute money to and pay bills from? There’s no right answer, it’s just a matter of what you both think will work best.
Housework is another great thing to discuss; something that I’ve learned that now seems obvious but that I hadn’t really thought about before (neither future Mr. nor I had lived with a partner before either) is that you’re sort of adding a dimension to your relationship – the roommate dimension. We approached housework sort of like I approached it when I roomed with friends in college, setting a general cleaning schedule that we immediately forgot about once grad school got stressful and divvying up the chores. Being flexible is also good, though; our general rule is that you wash whatever pots and pans you used, but if he cooks a great meal for me, I’m perfectly happy to do the clean-up in return.
This may be something worth discussing, or this could be something you figure out as you go, but making sure you each have some alone time once you live together is important too. Different people need different amounts of time by themselves, and future Mr. and I both require a decent amount of it. We didn’t plan when and how we’d each get it, but we agreed that we could tell the other if we felt like we needed more time alone and the other wouldn’t get huffy or offended. Given our various and changing schedules, we end up getting just the right amount and haven’t had to deliberately give each other more space, but it’s good to know that we can talk about it and have it if we need to.
Looking back on it, we didn’t really discuss a whole lot before we started living together – we talked about bills, but we mostly figured everything else out as we went. (Which is surprising, given the way I usually plan things down to the minute detail.) Some things you won’t be able to anticipate; once future Mr. was done with school and had more free time, we figured out that our sleeping patterns/schedules are really different and learned what things we could sleep through and what we couldn’t and how to respect each other’s sleep-related needs. Personally, I would say that one of the most important things to establish before you start living with someone (and this goes for friends as well as romantic partners) is a kind of “open door” policy: that you both want the new arrangement to work and that you can come to each other to talk honestly about concerns and problems and figure out how to handle them.
Persephoneers who have experience living with partners, is there anything else you’d add? As the question-asker put it, do you have any “I-wish-I-knew-this-before-I-cohabited!” advice?
Keep the great questions coming! (Hee.) Got a question to ask, subject you’d like us to discuss, or myth you’d like us to bust? You can e-mail us at FriskyFeminist@persephonemagazine.com, and we’ve also set up a Tumblr for the sole purpose of receiving completely anonymous questions here.
7 replies on “Our First Time – Living Together!”
Yay! Thanks for answering my question.
One of the biggest things to keep in mind (in every relationship, but once you move in with someone especially) is to learn to ask for what you need. The Mister and I are both introverts, but he spends all day in front of a computer while I spend all day interacting with people. When we come home, he’s ready to hang out with me, while I sometimes need some time to decompress. At first, I’d just come home and quietly sit on the front steps before going inside, but I realized that it wasn’t a sustainable thing, certainly not in the winter. I had to be able to say, “Yo, I love you, but I can’t handle you right now. I’m going to go upstairs and hide for an hour before dinner.”
Of course, I realized that I need to be able to say this after an explosion of “WHY ARE YOU TALKING TO ME WHY ARE YOU TOUCHING ME LEAVE ME ALONE AAAAHHHHH!” He had no idea that I was pushing myself so hard to interact with him right away. Whether it’s alone time that’s important to you or something else, you need to be able to mention it before it gets to a point where you’re freaking out about it. When you spend so much time with someone because you live together, you sometimes feel like your issue is so obvious that of course they should know it. But you know… words are much more helpful.
My boyfriend and I are moving in together in a couple months, so this article was very timely for me! We decided early on to get a two bedroom so we could each have our own space if necessary since I’m going to be in grad school and may have an oddly houred clinical schedule whereas he’ll be working a 9 to 5. We’ve also talked about how we’ll split the bills and are getting a joint checking account we’ll each contribute a set amount to each month. As for chore division, I’m doing the laundry since I have a lot of clothes you can’t just throw in the wash and I used to work as a CNA in a nursing home, so I can fold laundry quickly and get a bathroom clean in 5-10 minutes if I need to :)
One thing I learned from living with my boyfriend is that although equality is very important, and something to work towards, things aren’t always going to be fair. What we each do around the house really depends on our schedules week to week or even month to month. We’re both pretty easy going so that system definitely suits our personalities. However, I think regardless of your personality, a willingness to be a little flexible in your division of labour makes living together easier. Good luck!
I only have lived with roommates, but one thing that helps with housework stuff is a helpful, not begrudging attitude about cleaning things. I think, “well, I’d better empty the dishwasher because Roommate will be tired when she gets home from her evening class and she’d appreciate having it done already,” rather than thinking like, “ugh, emptying the dishwasher!” I think that same helping each other (and yourself) attitude is beneficial to morale.
I think another issue is food. When you live with a roommate it’s pretty easy to just say, “we share milk and eggs but everything else is separate” and then grocery bills aren’t too complicated, but with a partner you’re more likely to share everything, so it might matter more if one person prefers to spend lots of money on nicer, fancier food items or if one person eats a lot more or if one person cooks more or prefers to eat out etc.
Some of those can be played by ear as you adjust, I imagine, but they’re probably good to discuss as you prepare. It seems to me.
Food is a good point! I’m friends with couples who split the grocery bill evenly, while future Mr. and I pay for our own stuff that we know we don’t share and split up ingredients for recipes we plan on making for the two of us – another one of those things where different approaches work for different people, but it could definitely be helpful to talk about how you’ll want to handle it ahead of time.
A potentially big issue is if there is an income disparity. Luckily for me and my boyfriend, this hasn’t been a big issue, but friends of ours have had problems in the past when one would make “real-people” money as we call it, and the other one was still in school. Usually if you’re that committed/get along well enough already, working out issues that come up aren’t too big of a problem as long as you address problems as they come up, instead of waiting and letting it simmer and then exploding.
Best of luck! I have never been happier living with anyone than my partner, although it helps he doesn’t sleep with crucifixes and try on my clothes.