On the first of December, I moved into my then boyfriend’s one bedroom apartment. I never thought he would ask me to move in so it felt like Christmas was 25 days early. Eight months, an engagement ring and a big move later, we found ourselves sitting on our porch discussing what made our cohabitation such a success. We shared our realizations and surprises with each other while laughing at the memories and disagreements we shared. Whether you’re thinking about cohabitating or you’re right in the middle of it, here are seven ways to help make your cohabitation a success.
1. Enough Physical Space
Many couples decide to share a space in order to share the cost of living. While it isn’t possible for all couples to have a two bedroom apartment, it is possible to make sure you have enough physical space to live together. By physical space, I am referring to areas of the house or apartment that you can escape to without hearing your partner breathe. This spot can be a simple corner desk in the living room or a spacious chair to lounge on and read. The key is to be able to be alone in your own home. You can live in a one bedroom, one living room, cramped kitchen apartment as long as you have your sacred space. Also, don’t forget closet space. Too many clothes? Look into building a clothing rack that can double as a space divider.
An element of any successful relationship is communication amongst both parties. When it comes to living together, communication is key and it helps to drive the relationship to a healthy place and helps to keep resentments from forming. When living together, it is common to get on each other’s nerves and to bicker; these things even happen when couples don’t live together. Communicate about what bothers you and communicate about what makes you happy. You might see each other every day but a simple, ‘You look good today’ could be the thing that picks your partner up and allows to still feel special. Remember to communicate your wants and needs and be open to the needs of your partner.
3. Time Apart
When the honeymoon aspect of living together wears off, couples find themselves wanting and needing time apart. This doesn’t mean that you don’t live well together, this means that you are human and you have your own individual needs. Learn to respect your partner’s needs and learn how to cultivate and feed your own needs. Grant yourself permission to go out alone on a Saturday night and respect your partner when they need a night alone. Relationships don’t end with separate nights and social gatherings, they grow and strengthen from them. Time apart also gives you more things to talk about and more ‘You won’t believe what I saw’ stories to share.
4. Realistic Expectations
Successful couples don’t expect the world from each other. They realize that their relationship is an addition to their life rather than their whole life. When you move in with a roommate, you don’t expect to be best buds til the day you die. If we feel that way about roommates, why is it that we expect our cohabitation to be so blissful and happy? People fight, people disagree, and sometimes people just don’t like each other. With a solid enough foundation, any couple can dislike each other for a day while remaining in love and together for the long run. Manage your expectations and remember that just like a roommate, your partner has the power and ability to irritate you to no end.
5. Natural Progression
In many ways, signing a lease or moving in with your significant other is a major step in any relationship. Living together is a little different than making a copy of a key and therefore should be viewed differently. There are couples who move in after being together for a few months and couples that move in together after being together for years. The trick with successful cohabitation is making sure that shacking up is the next step in the natural progression of the relationship. You don’t jump out of a plane until your parachute is strapped on and the plane is gliding along at 15,000 feet. The same must be applied to a relationship. Don’t jump into a lease because your apartment is too expensive or even because your lease is over. Move in when both parties feel like it is the next best step and remember that spending the night five nights a week is much more different and complicated than paying the same bills.
6. Outside Relationships
When you move in together, it is easy to isolate from your other social obligations and friends. At first, you don’t realize that you are getting all of your social needs from your partner. That is, until your partner goes out on a Saturday and you’re home alone scrubbing the floor boards. While your relationship is fulfilling, don’t let it be the only thing that fulfills you. Stay in touch with your bros and your girls, schedule coffee dates, and don’t be afraid to leave your partner at home. After all, friends are the ones who are willing to listen to all of our crazy cohabitation problems.
7. Shared Household Duties
Figure out what you both like to do when it comes to household chores. Most of the time, couples luck out and realize that the chef in the relationship hates to do dishes while the eater doesn’t mind them at all. Learn to compromise and share tasks if your likes and dislikes don’t align. Oh, and be aware that your first fight will be directly related to the way you do or don’t clean something. Congratulations, you’ve made to cohabitation.