Some Things I Have Learned About Cohabitation

Today marks the two year anniversary of Steve and me moving in together and we're proving the naysayers wrong.

When Steve first brought all his belongings around here, there were those who said that a 600 square foot flat was too small for two people. They predicted there'd be screaming fights within a matter of weeks, a break up in less than a year.

But they were wrong.

I mean, sure, we'd like a bigger place, but this is the space available to us; we've figured out how to make it work.
It's YOUR turn to make the tea/But I bought the toilet roll
So, without holding Steve and me up as a prime example of romance (because that's a surefire way to have karma turn around and smear the big, smug smirk off your face), I thought I'd share a few of the things I believe to be true about cohabitation. Please feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments!

You will never feel you’re doing your fair share of the housework

I simultaneously resent doing most of the dishes and feel guilty because Steve does most of the cooking. It’s almost impossible to split the chores exactly down the middle, so before you start screaming that he never puts the bins out, stop and think about it – does he do more than his fair share of the vacuuming? Does he deal with smelly chemicals so you don’t have to? If the housework pretty much balances out over all, it’s not fair to get upset about one small part of it. If it doesn't, it's time for a talk.

It really doesn’t matter how many T-shirts he has

Really. Steve has an enormous collection of tatty old T-shirts which, frankly, belong in the bin. But, to him, they’re a sentimental record of every gig he’s ever been to. This isn’t worth fighting about. He has a wardrobe for his clothes and, as long as the doors on it close and I don't have to look inside, he can cram as many battered old items in there as he likes. Likewise, he doesn’t question how many pairs of shoes I’ve got stuffed in a box under the bed...

You both love your stuff pretty much equally

I love my mug collection. Steve loves his mug collection. We both wanted to stuff the kitchen cupboard full of all of our own mugs. Well, there wasn’t room, and my sentimental attachment to some cups is no more important than his. We spread all of our mugs out on the counter and took it in turns to pick a mug to put into the cupboard until we could fit no more. You’re combining two sets of belongings into one small space, and neither set is more precious or ridiculous than the other – be prepared to give up half the storage space.

His stuff’s ugly

But he probably thinks yours is, too. The decor and decoration of your home should express that you both live there, so you’ll need to find a compromise. Steve keeps his skulls to his desk area and I accept that his Ugly Chair and That Weird Rug have sentimental value for him; likewise, I’ve toned down the girliness and he doesn’t question why we need so many mirrors (for the light!). Remind yourselves that you have years and years and years ahead together in which to find things that you both love; don't get too hung up on the tat that you've gathered so far.

It’s easy to get complacent

When you’re around each other all the time, it’s easy to take one another for granted. Steve and I will often be sat in the same room on separate computers, not saying anything more exciting than, “Tea?” But we both make sure to keep Thursday evenings free so we can sprawl on the sofa together, watch things which don’t take much concentration, and have a lazy catch up. It gives us a chance to connect.

You don't need to know his every movement

You need an overview of each other's lives, not to know every minute detail of them. If I'm meeting a friend for coffee, Steve doesn't need to know which cafe we're going to or whether I had cake; he does need to know if that half hour drink is turning into a full evening of wine and raucous laughter because he needs to know whether or not to go ahead and cook for himself, and whether or not to worry that he hasn't heard my key in the door. Talk about which information does need a text message and which information doesn't; it will save you many a fight.

One of you will have more money than the other

Maybe not right now, but at some point in the future there is likely to be a significant difference between your salaries. And it shouldn't matter, but it does. When you're trying to pick a holiday destination and one of you can afford a visit to the supermarket while the other could fork out for a trip around the world, it really matters that you have a financial plan. Will you each keep on paying exactly 50% of everything? Will the wealthier partner take responsibility for the groceries/holidays/car? Will you bung it all in a joint account and forget about how much came from each of you? Talk about those expectations now.

You will both still have bad days

I've said it before, but it doesn't matter how blissfully in love you are, life can still throw spanners in the works. Don't take it personally - it's not a comment on your relationship; it's just life. The trick to a relationship is not in avoiding irritations, it's in learning how you each need the other to handle them.

20 comments

  1. TOTALLY AGREE with this list! Especially the first one, I am constantly struggling with feelings of inadequacy around housework. Also the money thing. And everything. Great list. :)

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  2. hah! but i DO end up cleaning the apartment more often!@ToMakeLoveStay:disqus
    ! it's so hard not to get caught up in some of these. it's also way to easy to build resentment towards your partner...i've found I need to be clear about what i need from him and he needs to be clear about how i can ask for help when i need it. i used to do all the chores, but now he is solidly the garbage/recycle person and the cleaner of the bathroom!  the money issue is tough, too, because there is so much to take into account including debt payments, car insurance etc. my partner generally makes more, but has higher costs...UGH so much to think about! i think this is why many just don't talk about it.

    Amy :)

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  3. Thank you. Steve and I have battles of will over cleaning the cats' litter tray.

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  4. Yeah, it's so tricky at first - we're constantly told not to "nag" but rarely told how to tackle issues in a more constructive way.

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  5. this is so spot on! i love living with my partner but we have such different work schedules that it's hard to feel balance or like we are both ever doing enough. thanks for sharing this! 

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  6. thislittleinfinity6 September 2012 at 01:30

    This is all so true! Jeff and I have lived together for over 3 years now and these are definitely lessons we've learned. The money thing in particular is new to us though...we'd been spoiled with student loans for awhile and now that we have real grownup bills to pay and only one of us has a real grownup job...let's just say it's been an adjustment! We're still working out the kinks.

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  7. Anke (anchorandsing)6 September 2012 at 08:53

    I loved this post! Very wise words.
    Reading about Steve's shirt collection made me laugh, because my boyfriend's has so many Tshirts too, his wardrobe is huuge!
    We don't live together yet. It's something I'm looking forward to, maybe in a year or two, but I'm also a teeny tiny bit worried, as I l'm not surehow well I'll deal with points 1 and 3... But then, it's a time for change and growth I guess, so I shall keep your words in mind and I'm sure it'll go well.

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  8. I have days when I feel so put upon - and I'm sure Steve does, too - and need to actually list things in my head to prove to myself we're both doing our share.

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  9. It's such a tricky one to talk about! Glad you're working through it. :)

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  10. What is it with men and T-shirts?! And they say it's the girls who love clothes...

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  11. Sarah, you are so brilliant at writing about these things. I think myself and Greg should have a night where we put the computers down etc and just connect with each other. It's easy to forget to do that isn't it! Not that we're suffering as a result, we're content, but you do just sit in your own little world sometimes! This was a very cool blog post lady :) 

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  12. Haha I love this post, especially the part about the mugs - so obviously SMART!  For all that I don't have a lot of collectables/useless stuff (sorry!) I do still seem to have a lot of other stuff...  I suspect going back to living with someone in the future will drive me crazy for a while! :)

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  13. Thank you! Yes, it's good to do your own things sometimes, but I think it's important to have time set aside to just chat.

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  14. Ha ha! We were quite proud when we came up with the mugs idea.

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