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.