I have lived with many people under different circumstances. I’m sure you—you mobile, unsatisfied, flighty Millennial—have too. But, until now, I had never lived with the person I have been in a committed relationship with.
I’m a hopeless romantic. I vowed never to live with someone out of ‘convenience’ or because it was cost effective. I’d also subscribed to popular hype that living with your partner is like, a huge step in the relationship. One that could totally destroy it. I feared having to face the banalities of crusty toothpaste in the sink and empty tubs of hummus left in the fridge only to deceive and disappoint.
Horror stories from friends fed these nightmares. I know of shared dogs that have been ripped from fresh exes without a trace. Shared furniture that has been lost in the demise. A general sentiment that an unsuccessful end to a de facto partnership is not worth the happy times spent cohabiting.
Despite all this hearsay, I still clung to this weird fantasy that one boyfriend, one day, would get down on one knee and beg me to live with him, because he couldn’t bare to spend one night without me. I imagined he would say no, it wasn’t about the ridiculous New York rent prices, it was about waking up next to me each morning, even without makeup. That he couldn’t bare the thought of me carrying around spare undies and a fresh shirt in my handbag for sleepovers.
In reality though, as with all things that ‘fall into place,’ my current living-with-the-boyfriend situation just happened. There was no gallant cohabitation proposal. But I feel that none of our loving, exciting relationship has been crushed by the presence of beard hair in the sink.
I’m not going to suggest I’m very experienced at all this adult-jazz of living together and playing at being grown-up. But I’ve gone from being a cynic to a skeptic to a born again believer; it’s pretty nice to live with the person you love.
Here are 5 tips to keep it sweet:
1. Imbue your daily routine with thoughtfulness.
Figure out what you are best at bringing to the relationship, and which of those things your partner appreciates. Do you love cooking? Does your partner love fresh flowers? Can you always remember to buy their favourite food at the supermarket? Scented candles? Handwritten post-its? I love you in lipstick on the mirror? Making dinner reservations? Making the bed? Suggesting they have friends over while you’re out? There is a treasure trove of small thoughtful things that are easy for you to do, that your partner will appreciate ten-fold. Do them.
2. Make sure you still spend time alone, even when you’re together in the house.
I am so great at never shutting up and constantly touching my boyfriend whenever we’re at home. But I think it’s nice to remember, and be sure to designate, time and space to be alone, even when the other person is there. Your home is your sanctuary. Sometimes finding sanctuary will require you to be away from your partner.
3. Ignore things to a point, and cool it on the texts.
This is general housemate etiquette. It shouldn’t change because your partner has kind of committed to take more of your shit than most other people. No notes (how those note-leaving housemates made my blood boil), disgruntled texts, or ‘caught-out’ photographic evidence. Sometimes you will need to have mundane discussions about mess etc with your live in partner. Have them face to face, and be sure to laugh.
4. Share the space.
When you move in you probably have many bags full of things to integrate into your partner’s house, or you will both have an array of goodies to squeeze into a new pad. What a wonderful challenge! And an opportunity to cleanse yourself of excess baggage: you don’t need two of everything. If you don’t love it, donate it. If you do love it, a place needs to be found for it, so everyone feels a sense of ownership over the space.
5. Get a cleaner.
Really. Skip eating out just one time per week and get a cleaner. Never eat out, and get a cleaner. Think of it as an investment in your happiness, sanity and well-being. Think of it as insurance against couples counselling. That fresh sheet feeling is the real key to true love.