September 9, 2011

IconSleep schedules, chores and colour-coordinated shirts: a guide to living with your girlfriend

Congratulations! You’re moving in together, writes Jade Evans. Either the financial troubles have gotten to you both, and you’re being practical about the benefits of having a roommate, or you are well and truly on your way to love – the forever type.

But moving in together isn’t all flowers and hearts and Roses (the chocolate version, of course). Hopefully you’ve been together at least two years and you’ve gone on a holiday together so you at least have an idea of what it’s like to be all up in each other’s space.

Duplicate everything

First – there are the practicalities – you are moving into her place, or she is moving in with you, or you are moving into a whole new place together – removal companies love you as you tote all your stuff from one place to another. You will probably have at least two of everything. This is where the concessions and the compromise begin.

Whatever space you’re living in, take the time to redecorate it together, using what is best from each of your collections of things. Does her artwork fit better with the size of the space, does your couch work better with the color scheme? (And does she absolutely love her tatty recliner and doesn’t care how it looks with the color scheme?)

And then with the rest of the furniture and nick-knacks, there are a few things you can do. You can beg the parents to let you store it at their place (maybe in your childhood bedroom), you can give it away to friends, you can sell it. But you’re moving in together because you see a future – let that future happen, and don’t hold onto your own stuff… commit fully to what you’re doing.

After you’ve dealt with the superficial issues, there are much bigger things to tackle. You two need to have an honest conversation about personal habits, private space and time away and various other expectations. (Including sex. Yes, at this point, be practical and throw everything on the table).

Talk the talk

You’re a night owl, she’s more of a morning person. She wakes up early to exercise and you can’t fathom why she would torture herself so badly – but you’ve never had to deal with it every day up until this point. Some of the best partners I know try and have the same sleep schedules. You’re probably going to have to compromise your night owl by waking up a bit early, and she will compromise her sun worship by staying up a little later.

Are you anal retentive about the way all your makeup and powders are arranged in the bathroom? Do you have to have all your shirts arranged in rainbow order? Do you absolutely love Skins, and she prefers Top Gear? Tell her so.

Don’t get all passive aggressive and fume when she re-arranges her things with yours in the bathroom or messes up your clothes. If you don’t tell her she won’t know. If you tell her she might laugh and question it, but she will respect it. (If she doesn’t, maybe you shouldn’t be living together).

Divide the chores – you may hate doing dishes or cleaning the tub, but it has to get done. If you do the chores together and do the cleaning that annoys you the least it will make both of you feel better about what you don’t have to do, and as they say, misery loves company. They’ll be done before you know it.

There are a few other things that you need to speak frankly about, like your family, holidays, finances and saving money, as well as things that are custom to you but not necessarily your partner. And also sillier, smaller stuff like snoring, pets, bodily functions, ugly clothes and no makeup, all those personal routines that you never let each other see before this point.

Absence makes the heart grow fonder

But perhaps one of the most important things to have is space. Undoubtedly for the first few months you will probably be in somewhat of a honeymoon phase – loving being around each other 24/7. But it won’t always be like that.

When you first move in together you should define who has what realm (to what extent you can, especially if you’re in a small place). If you can’t do that, allow each other personal time with friends or for that workout class – alone. Build into moving in with each other that you will get sick of you partner at some point or another. It will happen.

If she starts pacing around the small apartment trying her best not to yell at you and she walks out of the apartment to go get coffee with her friend, let her. Don’t cling and chase. Please. And regardless of the fights and the storming out that could happen – build into your lives personal separation anyway. You both need to grow and learn who you are, both together and separately.

One you get past the honeymoon and the crazy, you find balance! But don’t stay at home and order take away every night. Get out, explore things together. Go camping, or skydiving, or karaoke – don’t forget to do something romantic every once and a while, too. It will help you find out more about each other, and just keep falling in love.

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Milly Shaw

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