diary relationships

Can’t Live With Them or Without Them: Lessons Learned After Living with a Boyfriend for 5 Years

Kevin and I definitely took the accelerated course when it comes dating. We also broke every “rule”. We slept together on the first date. We starting seeing each other seriously shortly after we both left long term relationships. We took our first trip together after dating for two weeks. That same weekend I met his Dad. He met my entire family after only three. We moved in together within 2 months and at that point had already talked about getting married.

 

Our first photo together, when we had barely dated a week

 

That’s what happens when two Aries Risings get together, it’s all fire. We had a blissful first year of firsts, but since then our relationship has settled into a routine, we’ve extended our little family by two cats, we’ve moved cities, had lots of fights, had lots of love. Through all of it, we’ve shared a small one-bedroom apartment which became the stage where our relationship played out. Living with someone else, someone you love, comes with every challenge of co-living, in addition to the difficulty of expressing yourself with supreme delicacy. Here’s what I’ve learned since moving in with Kev in June of 2014:

 

 

True communication requires comprehension

Expressing yourself is powerful, it’s something we should all do. You should communicate what you need and feel throughout the adjustment phase and beyond, but remember that communication without comprehension will get you nowhere. In the beginning, this may mean you both are ending every sentence with “Did that make sense?” but it will create a space where the other person can repeat things back to you. I can’t tell you how many times it would take me finishing my explanation (thinking I was incredibly clear), asking Kevin if it made sense, and listening to him say what he heard to realize that I wasn’t being clear. Ensuring that your partner is not just hearing you, but actually hearing you can help you avoid future, festering issues.

 

Universal Definitions Don’t Exist

Each of you is made of threads of experience, different family backgrounds, previous relationship dynamics, and expectations. The intersections of your previous experiences coat the lens through which you see the world and interpret situations, meaning that when two people look at the same thing it will always cause a different response. Even if that response appears similar, you are both reaching it from two different starting points and each response is inherently unique to you.

This plays out in so many different ways throughout a relationship, but when living together it means that there are no universal definitions. Your definitions of tidiness, teamwork, acceptable routines, etc will all differ, slightly or greatly, from your partner. Instead of communicating in snippy remarks, remember that they are learning to live with you too. While whatever they are doing may seem like disregard to you, it’s not personal, it’s a misunderstanding. Come together, find common ground, and move forward. Which leads me to…

 

Don’t assume anything

When I was sailing I heard one of my favorite quotes “Someone means no one”. Meaning that asking or assuming that “someone” will do it means that “no one” will do it. Who’s grocery shopping? Who’s cleaning the apartment? Who’s feeding the cats? Be clear about the roles you each are playing in your shared space. Share responsibilities in a way that works for your relationship, for example, one person cooks and the other does the dishes. One feeds the cats, the other is responsible for the litter boxes. The fewer conversations that start with “Wait, I thought you did that?” the better.

It will feel like overkill in the beginning, like you both are over-communicating for each little thing, but what it does it build a foundation of trust and understanding. I don’t ever think about whether or not the dishes will be done, trash cans emptied, or recycling taken out. I can trust that Kevin will fill those roles in support of our home and relationship. He doesn’t need to worried about cleaning the apartment, grocery shopping, or laundry. He knows that I’ll cover those bases.

 

Stop the constant texting

The beauty of living together is that you get to see each other every morning and every night. At times you’ll spend more time together than you actually want to.😅 If you’re a couple that typically texts throughout the day you may want to cut back on your day-long communication in order to find your “personal space” within the relationship. There’s a massive difference between “personal space” within a relationship and getting “space” away from a relationship. When you enter a relationship you don’t lose your autonomy or yourself, you become part of this third entity: the relationship. Having your personal space away from this third piece is how you grow as an individual, which feeds into the relationship’s long-term growth. In the short-term, you’ll have more things to talk about in person. 🙂

 

Make sure time together is actually spent together

Put down your phones. Turn off the PlayStation. Realize that “TV” time is not always “we” time. We’ve found a nice balance between time around each other and time actually being together. Kevin’s preferred way to relax and decompress after work is video games. So much of blogging keeps me on my phone near 24/7. Look up and check in once and a while to see if the other person needs “couple time”.

When you’re out to dinner it’s easy to recognize that it’s “couple time” and put away distractions, but when you live together it’s less black and white. Making a habit of determining days of the week to not watch TV or going on walks where we just talk for two hours as we roam our city are the little things that ensure that we don’t take our time together for granted. We focus on each other, ask questions, discuss issues or stress within our relationship. We’ve found these walks to be therapeutic and crucial to both of us feeling heard within the relationship.

 

somewhere around our three month anniversary, somewhere in Acadia National Park

 

My problems are your’s. Your problems are mine.

Living together isn’t just sharing space, it’s sharing a piece of your life as you both have given a little of yourself to create the “relationship”. Think of yourself as a ship. Entering a relationship is putting two ships together (the makings of your very own fleet – name that movie!) and creating the “relationship” . Before living together you’re just floating near each other. When something happened to one of you it would cause ripples that the other feels, but it doesn’t rock their boat. Living together is lashing your boats together, knowing that if one boat is rocked, both are.

When everything feels like it’s going wrong, that’s the time when you’ll see the true strength of your relationship. Keep your eyes open and look at all these problems as opportunities to bind together and work as a team. Financial stress, family baggage, career questions, all the little fights that every couple has (co-living or not), are all magnified when living together. Binding together instead of blaming each other is how these “problems” develop into betterment for you both, individually and within the relationship.

 

Lastly: Be Gentle with Each Other. Be Gentle with yourself.

At all times, be gentle with each other. I have to repeat this to myself all the time.  Apologize when you’re wrong and be generous with forgiveness. Forgiveness for them and forgiveness for yourself. We all have a temper, we all have things that push our buttons, and sometimes we cut the person we care about deeper than we thought we could. Apologize, accept apologies, and move forward. Don’t let something like “it’s your turn to do X” turn into a festering fight. Address it, accept it, and move on.

 

 

Living with your significant other is a special step. Don’t rush it and don’t put it off because of an arbitrary relationship “rule”. Your relationship is your own and you’re allowed to jump in however fast or slow you’d like.

 

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