Living in Sin: A Young Couple’s Guide

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I’m going to put it out there. I live with my boyfriend, as my mother puts it, “In sin.”  Of course she is joking and isn’t upset by it at all, but it got me thinking.  Young couples moving in together before marriage is pretty new.  My mom’s generation didn’t do it nearly as much as we do, and then it wasn’t quite so accepted.  Between my mother’s jokes and the bevy of other couples who have asked me my opinion on them moving in together, I thought maybe I have some wisdom to share about this particular experience. Let me explain how this all happened first, and we’ll get to the wisdom after.

Alex, for many reasons, needed a place to live.  This was not some run-of-the-mill, “I’m sick of living with my parents,” needed a place to live.  This was a for reals “my house is not safe” needed a place to live. Of course I wanted to help him and my mother knew all the details so she offered to let him crash on our couch in December 2010.  He came into our home with only one basket of clothes and a few dvds and there he stayed for the next sixish months.  In May or June 2011, he and a few friends moved into a house together that his dad owned. It wasn’t an option before because it had been occupied by a tenant.  When July came and the lease on my house was up, I clandestinely moved a lot of my stuff to his house.  My mom said our new house was open and that I could start bringing my things there.  I think I answered with something like, “I’m going to keep my stuff at Alex’s.”  She got what I meant and in the hustle and bustle of moving didn’t really have time to freak out. We are quickly approaching our 3rd year of living together and I’d like to share a few things.

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My answer 90% of the time when I’m asked by a couple if they should move in together is NO. It’s not because I think it’s something no one should do or I don’t love Alex or that I hate living with him.  It’s because living together is a major adjustment that many people my age are not familiar with. It’s kind of the same concept as not living in a dorm with your friends in college.  It can really mess with a relationship sometimes and ain’t nobody got time for that.  These are a few real life situations that have been brought to me along with the “Do you think we should move in together” question.

1.  Your on-again off-again boyfriend finally wants to commit!

Run, girl, run!  If you can’t make it a month without a faux break-up, things aren’t going to change now. You used to have your space to cool off and remember how “in love” you are. Now there is no escape.  What will you do when one of you has a hissy fit and wants to break up again?  Now all your things are in the house mixed together. You’ve spent money on the place that you can’t get back.  I personally don’t understand the idea of breaking up and getting back together, but to each his own.  However, the whole concept of living together is permanence.  Having a tumultuous Soap Opera Romance just doesn’t work.

2.  But..but…we NEVER fight!

You will now.  Are you prepared?  A huge part of living together is compromise.  It’s a lot bigger than disagreeing on which comforter to buy.  One of you will want to hang with friends and the other one will get pissed off.  You’ll ask the other to do the dishes…8 days in a row and they still won’t be done.  Every little thing can become a big problem.  Conflict resolution is a big lesson in living together.  If you’ve never had to fix an issue before, make sure your communication is Olympic level good.

3.  We’re 19, that makes us adults.

Yeah, ok. Sure it does.  Because you can rent cars and drink and run for office.  Oh wait, no you can’t.  Call your ride and go home to your parents.  You don’t have the income or maturity to handle managing a home and a life with another person.  That’s the long and short of it.  I’m not trying to be mean, but it’s the truth.  Alex moved in when I was 21 and we had separate living spaces and we lived with my parents.  They handled all the hard stuff so it made the transition less insane.

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It’s ok to want to make a home with the person you love.  I did it and it makes me incredibly happy.  That doesn’t mean it’s been easy from the start, though.  Up until he moved in, we really did never fight.  Ever.  It was a shock to me when our first fight happened.  Adjusting to the idea that it won’t be all sunshine and rainbows is tough.  You love this person and you don’t want to think that they are anything short of perfect, but that’s not going to help either of you in the long run.  Here are few things I’ve learned over the course of the last two years.

Understand That You Might Be the Bad Guy Sometimes.

It is imperative that you learn to apologize.  There is going to come a time when you do something that really hurts your significant other.  Big strong men have feelings too, and guys, your “bad bitch” girlfriend isn’t made of stone.   I have always had this, “I’m always right” complex and swallowing my pride isn’t something that comes easily to me.  So when I occasionally say something a little too brash and I hurt Alex I have to apologize.

Cliche, but True: Communication is Key

What I sometimes assume is common sense can be hard for Alex to understand, and vice versa.  I have had to explain that RedZone is not as important as our life.  He tries to explain that RedZone is the meaning of life.  All jokes aside, you have to talk about your feelings.  If it feels awkward, you aren’t doing it enough.  No one is a mind reader and he isn’t going to guess exactly what you want from him every second of the day.  I can’t tell you how many disagreements we could have avoided if we had just been honest about how we felt upfront.

Basically, communication saves you from a lot of drama and strife.

Conflict Resolution and Problem Solving

Figuring out a way to fix the disagreement you are having and keeping it from happening again is a pretty difficult thing to do.  However, it is imperative to making your everyday life happier. Here is a real life example that I’m sure Alex doesn’t care that I’m telling you.   I would ask him to help with the housework a lot. He would say something along the lines of, “I’ll try.”  Then nothing would get done.  I would come home from a long day at work (he would have left for work just before) and I would see that not only did he not do any housework, but he left his lunch dishes in the living room. So I would lose my mind over a sink of dishes. This is not healthy or fair. I thought about the 4 areas of having a home and a life with someone and decided we should each be the captain of two of the areas. I handle Money and Cooking and he captains Cleaning and Handiness. I’ve created a written budget for each of us and he tackles various cleaning chores while he is home. I make dinner and he does the dishes.

So look into what reoccurring disputes you have with your partner, sit down and figure out a compromise. Neither of you should feel like you are getting the short end of the stick. Neither of you should feel the need to get angry. Communicate.

You are a Team

Consider yourselves the Two Amigos.   The major life decisions you make now affect the other person too.  Even some minor ones.  You can’t just repaint the whole house red on a whim without discussing it with them first.  You can’t just come home with a puppy.  No more lone-wolfing.  Eventually the line between things you should check in about and things you can make the call on will make itself clear.  I can make any decorating call I want, but I still enjoy when he has some input.  He knows he can have as big a TV as he wants or look for whatever jobs he wants.  I still talked it over with him when I found out I could adopt Frank, my dream dog.  The old adage, “It’s better to ask forgiveness than to ask permission,” does not apply here.  You’ll figure out your team dynamic eventually, but until then talk it out.

Have Fun

Nothing is worse for a relationship than forgetting to have fun.  You love this person!  Go on dates.  Do the things that each of you love, together.   Laugh, eat, drink, see friends, or do whatever it is the two of you like to do together.  Nothing renews my love for Alex more than when he makes me laugh.  The various tasks and responsibilities of having a home can bog people down sometimes so make sure to make room in your life for fun.

Living with a significant other is wonderful for so many reasons, but it’s also hard work.  It’s a big decision and definitely not one to rush into.  We are lucky that everything worked out for us this way and I can’t say that it would work for everyone.   Look before you leap, understand that no one is a mind reader, discuss problems like adults, work together and keep it light.  You will learn so much about each other and learn even more about your relationship. I don’t want this post to read like I’m saying no one should move in together.  Nothing is perfect, but living together is so rewarding.  Hopefully these few tidbits of my experience put you ahead of the game.

Do you agree? Disagree?  Any other tips you would tell those who are considering moving in together?

P.S. If you made it to the end of this post, congratulations!  What doozy. Go reward yourself with a latte or something.