How to Navigate Life With Your Better Half in a One-Bedroom
Moving in with your significant other is a relationship milestone that understandably comes with some trepidation and anxiety. Will you get on each other’s nerves? Will it put a strain on the relationship? Will it change everything?
By far the question I got asked most often (by both men and women, of all ages) before my boyfriend and I began living together was: “Are you nervous?”
Having “successfully” now lived with my boyfriend for four years and counting—and in some very small spaces— I’ve learned a few key lessons about the ins and outs of life with your better half along the way. Whether you’re about to make the living-together leap, or you’ve been living side by side for years and can relate, keep reading for some best practices for keeping peace in the household.
Find the household tasks that you both actually enjoy doing, and split up the labor. In the best of worlds, these roles will kind of fall into place naturally as two people live together. There are many parts to maintaining a household, including grocery shopping, cooking, doing the laundry, paying the bills, and organizing, and even within those areas there are subtasks.
For instance, we figured out early on that my boyfriend hates both sorting and folding laundry, but doesn’t mind actually doing the laundry. We lived for many years on the 5th floor of a building with machines in the basement, so I would sort it into bags; he would take it down to the machines, put it in the washers, switch the wet clothes to the dryers, and bring all the dry clothes up. Then I would fold and put it all away. I hated going down to the weird, scary basement, and he hated the pressure of sorting (i.e. the fear of accidentally putting a lighter item into a color pile and ruining it).
Running a household can actually be fun if you both get to do what you don't mind/don’t hate doing, and having roles and working together as a team really does help. We’re both equally responsible for laundry, so if it sits in the hamper too long and we run out of clean clothes, there’s no blame or resentment. Instead of, “Why didn’t you do the laundry?,” it’s a team mentality of, “Uh-oh, we need to do laundry.”
The same goes for other tasks. Like your day job, the jobs of the home come down to your strengths, interests, and overall preferences. My boyfriend genuinely loves to cook, so he cooks for us; I genuinely love to organize, so I organize for us. And when you both genuinely hate something, that’s an opportunity to prioritize and delegate (opt for a laundry or a cleaning service, for example). If both parties happen to like and hate all the same things, it’s all the more room for mutual teamwork.
There are going to be days when you're just too rushed to clean up all the clothes you tried on while frantically deciding what to wear that morning, and your partner will get home before you and be forced to deal with the mess.
To attempt to minimize these moments, I've learned to live like I'm staying at a friend's parents’ house and they could come home at any minute. I've learned this trick works better than anything else for taking care of things as they happen and minimizing the amount of times my boyfriend comes home to discover disorder in a place he lives in as equally as I do. I would be mortified if I was a guest at someone-older-than-me’s home and they came home to find milk sitting out with the cap off, or a wet towel on the floor, or a messy bathroom. When in doubt, live like you’re someone’s guest. You could also pretend that you and your partner just started dating, when, you know, you’re on your very best behavior.
Everybody has idiosyncrancies that their significant other only finds out upon living together. Find the humor in it. My boyfriend literally cannot get a sock into the hamper. It's like there is a magnetic force field that prevents his clothing from actually making it into the hamper, and instead draws it to the floor directly adjacent to the hamper.
There’s a comedy to that ridiculousness, and each time I pick up the stray sock, I try to laugh instead of getting mad. I know that he experiences my quirks (or flaws) in the exact same manner, like when I dump my purse out on the living room to find my keys and he trips over its stray contents in absurd places for days afterwards.
There’s also something romantic about knowing these things that no else in the world knows about your significant other. Not even my boyfriend’s old roommates know where he puts the toothpaste when he’s done with it in the morning, so instead of getting annoyed that your partner doesn’t do things how you would, or how you want them to, celebrate the intimacy in knowing those things about one another.
Probably the biggest thing I have realized from living with my boyfriend for four years is that you really have to consider your phone conversations with other people, be they close friends, family members, or coworkers.
It doesn’t always necessarily concern top-secret, private matters, but just because you live with someone who is your be-all and end-all, knows everything about you, and is super trustworthy doesn’t mean the person on the other line wants the conversation openly discussed within earshot of your significant other.
The clearest lines for this are when you share mutual friends with your partner and/or a friend wants to talk about a problem, and needs advice or feedback. Just because you share a roof with someone you love, and your friend loves that person too, doesn’t mean that that friend wants their personal life publicized.
If your significant other is having a conversation with a friend that you sense might be personal (or if they directly tell you so), it’s a nice gesture to offer to take a walk, watch TV in the next room, or do something you need to do, like go to the gym or grocery store.
Sometimes, if a catch-up session with a friend is scheduled, my boyfriend will stay later at his friend's house to give me time to have the conversation, or conversely, if I already know he will be involved with plans like hanging out with friends, that period of time is intentionally when I will schedule a phone conversation with an out-of-state friend. The friend gets the privacy, and who wants to hear their S.O. gab on and on with a bestie anyways?
When living in a small space with your significant other, tensions can be high. You see the best and worst of each other, get in each other’s way, and without question will annoy each other at times.
Tiny, thoughtful gestures go a long way towards making your living situation one you cherish versus begrudge. My boyfriend started getting me my glass of water before bed each night and putting it on my nightstand. It’s a small act, but such a nice surprise to get ready for bed and see that that one little task has been taken care of.
Explore and get to know the area around where you live. At my last apartment building, we had a large and nice lounge area downstairs, as well as an incredible rooftop patio. Sometimes I would go up to the roof to talk to friends on the phone to spare my boyfriend the inevitable squealing, or walk across the street to the neighborhood park. No matter where you live, there is always somewhere to go to get away for a minute, whether it’s a local coffee shop or a nearby common space.
It's more likely than not that you won’t have the exact same life schedule as your partner. My boyfriend wakes up significantly earlier than me, so he has made an effort to put the clothes he'll need for work outside of the bedroom each night to make as little noise as possible in the mornings. That little bit of extra preparation means he doesn't make noise struggling to find his belts or shoes while I’m sleeping. On nights when I know I’ll be up late, I remember to get whatever I'll need for bed out of the bedroom so I don't have to wake him up with drawer-opening just to change into pajamas.
Though there may be logistical and spatial obstacles along the way, ultimately living with your significant other, even in a small space, is really fun. Enjoy the Netflix marathons, cuddling, and a person to laugh with when your neighbors upstairs are screaming and you want to hit the ceiling with a broom to tell them to be quiet. It’s all part of the experience!
How do you manage the ins and outs of living with your significant other? Let us know below!