Living Together

“I was wondering if you have any advice on moving in with your boyfriend/partner. It seems like a massive step and I’m a bit unsure, we have only been dating for 1 and a half years.”

Yes, moving in with your partner is a big deal, & definitely one that requires some serious thought. You may think the sun shines from your boyfriend’s posterior at the moment, but when you live with someone, you really get to know them. Their real self, not just the parts they feel like showing you. (Ooh err!)

You will learn whether your lover is a “morning person” or not. You will discover their unpleasant habit of leaving half-eaten bowls of cereal around the house. You will become accustomed to tuning out that clicking sound their jaw makes when they eat. You will find out exactly how often they change their underwear, that they have never used an iron in their life & that often, they would rather read a book/surf the internet/sleep than talk to you. You will see them floss, learn more about their ex than your ever cared to know & begin to accept that they never bring a jacket, even when it’s raining.

You will also share everything, whether you like it or not. Bed space, closet space, food, chores, stomach flu & much much more! Believe me when I say it will completely change your relationship.

As well as learning about your lover, you will also learn about yourself. All those little habits you have that you thought were normal (like taking 100 photos of yourself in a strange hat) are now on display, up for appraisal & discussion. Putting the toilet seat down (or leaving it up) & the subtleties of laundry basket aim become serious, debatable topics. You may think I am exaggerating. I am not. People are weird, especially when it comes to changing domestic patterns they have had since childhood.

Here are some realities of living together.

If your partner is an alcoholic or has a substance abuse problem, moving in with them is not clever. It will become your problem too, & an ugly one. Don’t do it. Save yourself.

If your lover suffers from extreme depression or other mental illness, or is one of those people who can’t hold down a job or manage their money, think carefully before committing to sharing your life with them. If they are unable to pay their half of the rent & your name is on the lease, then it is something you need to resolve. This can be unfun & place a huge strain on your relationship. Don’t torture yourself, Gomez!

Discuss finances & chores before you move in together. These are the two major things couples argue about. Who pays the rent? Who pays the bills? Who buys the food? Who loads the dishwasher & who cooks? Who scrubs the toilet? You need to work this stuff out as soon as possible. It’s really easy for people to feel like they are being taken advantage of in these areas, which can build resentment, so make it clear & fair.

Make sure your house has somewhere you can go & just be alone. The first time I lived with a boyfriend, we had a bedroom & a living room, & that was all. When he had his drunk friends over & I was sick of it, the only place I had to go was the bedroom — which was dingy & cramped & depressing. It did not make for a happy Gala. I didn’t really learn my lesson though, as evidenced by the fact that a few years later, another boyfriend moved into my studio apartment with me. We almost killed one another. Don’t make my mistake — rent a place with a spare room so you can be by yourself whenever you want. It will be a total blessing.

The house is only as clean as the dirtiest person! My boyfriend suggested I mention this one. I am not the world’s tidiest girl. I do my best, but it’s something I have to think about. If you are a neat freak, think about how your lover lives & consider yourself warned!

Liking their friends is to your advantage. If you don’t like them, & your lover has a raging social life which includes drinking with their buddies four days a week, you don’t need me to tell you how sad this will make you. You also need to think about whether your partner likes YOUR friends. If they don’t, either you will never see them, or your partner will be irritated. It kind of sucks both ways.

Learn to compromise. What’s more important — you being right or the relationship working? Often, that’s what it comes down to.

It sounds obvious, but you need to like the person you live with! To be clear: there is a difference between liking someone & liking the things they do for you. Think about your feelings & examine them carefully. A man who spends lots of money on you or a woman who gives you the best orgasms of your life might make you happy in the short term, but if your boyfriend goes bankrupt or your girlfriend stops trying to please you so much, you’re going to be left with very little. Being in a relationship with someone who can make you laugh & will support you when the chips are down is priceless.

Communicate with one another & be patient. Everyone is at a different stage in their life — we don’t all grow at the same rate. You might be obsessed with asserting your independence from your parents while your girlfriend isn’t so much. Patience & understanding go a long way.

Think about your lover’s lifestyle. If they are a smoker & you are not, should they smoke inside or outside? Are you going to be annoyed if your clothes & bedding & furniture smell like cigarettes? Work out what you can & cannot deal with. Likewise, if they like to party every night & come home blitzed at 2am, or have religious singalongs in the living room every Sunday, are you going to flip your wig over it?

Living together may seem totally romantic but it also requires you to be an adult, be responsible & cover your ass. If you can’t do that, financial trouble & a broken heart are only two of a million possible hideous outcomes. If you’re not ready for that, stay at home with your parents!

I don’t really think the length of time before you move in together matters. The longer the better, obviously, but it’s not imperative that you wait x months. The first boyfriend I lived with, we had only been together a couple of months (& long distance at that) before I moved to Auckland & into his apartment — & it lasted five years. The second boyfriend I lived with — who I am still with now — moved into my studio apartment after about two months of dating, though there was a lot of back & forth before that. The less you know a person, the harder it is, but it doesn’t mean you’re destined for the scrap heap.

Having said all of this, living together can be really wonderful, especially if the person you’re living with also happens to be your best friend. You can go on midnight adventures, bake hilarious cakes, kiss all the time, lie around in bed all day, take photographs of one another, & really share your life in a way that is impossible if you live apart. It’s great fun & definitely an adventure.

I am a huge advocate of living together (in “sin”!) before marriage. The thought of marrying someone you’ve never lived with makes me feel kind of nervous. I know that in the olden days, living together was a major no-no & if you got married & turned out to be sexually (or otherwise) incompatible, you just had to grin & bear it, because divorce was a sin too, so you might as well just be miserable & get on with it. These days, we are (mostly) free to make our own choices, & in the same way that you would get a car checked out before you bought it, you should also check out your potential husband or wife. Some people are monsters to live with, & not in the good, cute, crazy-hair-in-the-morning kind of way. It’s always advisable to know what you’re getting yourself into before you commit to anything!

If you’re unsure about moving in with your lover, cool your heels & allow yourself some time to think about it. What’s wrong with the situation you have at the moment? If living apart is working for you, why change it? Don’t just move in together because it’s the “done thing” — think about what will be best for your relationship, & act accordingly.