I’ve lived with two men in my life – different men, different reasons, different outcomes. In thinking about what to say about this topic (and there’s a lot, just google it) I decided to focus on my first live-in relationship as that was the one where most lessons were learned, traumas experienced and values shaped. And chances are, if you are reading this, you’re getting ready for your first move-in too. So, I thought it best to present that experience so that you too may have a sense of you’re getting into (dun dun duuuuun)!
It’s not all doom and gloom, but it’s not all rainbows and puppies either. I also thought it wouldn’t be fair to present just my side of it so I decided to get the perspective of my first live-in boyfriend as well (don’t worry, we’re friends *now*). I reached out to *Mac who is married now and asked if he could share with me his side of our living situation and how it’s shaped the one he’s in now. We had a long conversation, out of which came a lot of revelations – it was two parts investigative journalism and one part therapy.
There are five general areas that I think affect live-in relationships: fitness, food, finances, filth and future (God, I love alliteration) – and we went over each one. When we lived together, some things worked out really naturally, some required concerted effort, and some we just straight up ignored until it was too late. For brevity’s sake, I’m including some specific scenarios below knowing that each relationship is individual to the couple in it and that these are not universal truths. But maybe these will spark some questions in your own mind and help you and partner navigate the magic and mystery that is LOVE.
You definitely don’t have to be on the same fitness level as your partner, but it should be priority to at least respect and support each other’s goals/habits and be on the same page about general activity. Mac and I had decided that we would go on walk/jog/runs in the evenings when we moved in together and we never did (and we lived in San Diego, by the beach – insanity). We were expecting each other to hold the other one accountable, but we got comfortable and lazy and just didn’t do it. Over time, resentment started to set in. We were both people who needed pushers, you can’t push someone else if you also need pushing. Think about two people sitting side by side on a swing set – how are they ever going to move? Are you a pusher, or are you on the swing?
Same as above – you don’t have to like or eat the same things but what if you are vegan, gluten free, only eat carbs and meat? Who’s doing the cooking? Personally, I am constantly trying to find healthy, fresh, exciting things to cook. I love cooking, and one of my great joys is seeing other people savor my food. But that also means that groceries are more expensive and dinner prep takes longer. Mac wanted to eat right when he came from work, something quick and easy – he was perfectly content to eat boiled pasta, jarred sauce and cheese from a green shaker, which as an Italian was my worst nightmare. Eventually, we came up with a routine – I would grill up a bunch of chicken on Sunday so that I could just throw it into whatever I made that week and he started cooking a few nights a week dishes he did well (he made a killer fried rice) so that I didn’t feel like the burden was completely on me and he wasn’t waiting for two hours every night to eat.
When Mac and I moved in together, I didn’t have a job. I had just relocated to San Diego and was on the hunt. He had a decent job, but wasn’t rolling in it. Since I didn’t have a job, we picked an apartment that he could afford on his own, because we weren’t sure when I’d be able to feasibly contribute to our household. We also respected each other’s financial decisions – I couldn’t understand why we needed giant speakers for our TV, and he was mystified by my need for fancy coffee or French cookware – but we understood that those things were important to each other and as long as we could afford rent and utilities, who cares? Finances is the one area I think we actually got right. We had a super hard, super honest conversation about what kind of debt we were in, what our personal bills would be, and what our expenses would look like once we lived together. This conversation absolutely HAS TO HAPPEN. No excuses. I’m not saying your partner needs to know when you buy a pack of gum, but if you have collection agencies calling you at all hours of the day they should know – and may even be able to help you figure out your strategy to deal with it.
Ahhhhh, filth – who’s the neat freak? Who’s the slob? Can one live with the other? For Mac and I, this was quite the learning curve. I also consider things like personal hygiene and habits part of “filth”. Neither one of us had ever lived with a partner before, so we didn’t know how much to share or not share. Mac’s approach was “well this is me, here’s all of it” so I got to enjoy his poops every morning because they, without fail, always happened while I was in the shower (we had one bathroom). Thankfully (for his wife), he doesn’t do that anymore. I am much more persnickety about how the laundry is done, how the dishes are stacked, the sinks are scrubbed, etc. I vocalized my frustrations and Mac was good about learning how these were done, the RIGHT way, and proceeding accordingly. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to avoid resentment. So, if you feel like you’ll end up doing all the work, say something. If you HATE the way they squeeze toothpaste out of the tube, say something.
Mac and I moved in with the intent of one day getting married. He was my best friend and I wanted to be with him all the time. Financially it would be much cheaper to split living expenses. That’s the trifecta right there, if you only have one of these reasons, it may not be worth it to move in together. It’s a big commitment, and it’s not to say that even if you have all 3 of the “big reasons” it will all work out. My relationship with Mac went down in blazing flames of tears and infidelity. And all of sudden I found myself needing to find my own place with just my income (I moved into a 1 bedroom, in the worst part of town where the floors sloped and there were sex workers who hung out on my porch – but that’s a different story for a different day). Which brings me to my final point…
Whether it works out or not, and regardless of all the topics listed above – it all comes down to mutual respect and truly, thoroughly knowing YOURSELF. As Mac told me during our recent conversation “Moving in together isn’t as much about planning, as it is being aware of the baggage that YOU are bringing to it”. Similarly, I came across a quote from Gwyneth Paltrow in Goop magazine (I drink the Goop Kool-Aid and I drink it hard) – “An intimate relationship is a study in everything that is wrong with you. Think about it.” Which is ultimately the lesson here; know your hang-ups, know your weaknesses, know when and where you need pushing and know when you push. Eventually, I learned how to push myself in the swing, and it seems Mac has too – and we are all the better for it.
(Bonus Fs – F**king and Fun, please please please don’t forget to do either! Without them, you might as well be roommates.)
*Names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent