The Vine: March 2, 2016
My main squeeze and I got engaged last year — fun! I will be moving into his house — and selling mine — this spring, and we are getting married in the fall.
I have a lot of friends who married in their 30s/40s, but almost all of them lived together first. As I look around, I realize that we are one of the few couples who will be cohabiting for the first time after many years of each of us living on our own. So my usual advisees can't speak to this.
Ideally we would have moved into somewhere new to both of us, but circumstances are such that we can't do that for a year or two. Any tips/recommendations/pitfalls to avoid as we transition from two households to one? We are both looking forward to it and are well aware of how important it is to communicate, but you don't know what you don't know. You know?
When Dirk and I got married, we functionally lived together, and had starting about six weeks into dating — but Dirk kept his one-bedroom, which we called The Vacation Manse, for another year after the wedding. We had a few ouchy moments when it came to downsizing our stuff and trying to carve out a little office for him and whatnot, but it was like, we were already married, so at least in my mind, I just assumed we'd work it out, because we always do. And we did.
So, maybe get married first? …Hee. You have two separate issues here: moving in together; and living together. On the first thing, I will tell you that things are just things, but understand: I LOVE THINGS. I have many many things. I acquire things I don't need because I think that particular thing, that book or skirt, will solve my life. I also anthropomorphize things; I name my cars, I name the cats' toys for them, I even scolded Dirk for speaking rudely about a refrigerator once. I got teased about it just yesterday, rightly, and it's just a security neurosis, but that kind of thing gets amped up during major life changes big-time, and when said major life change is going to require me to say goodbye to…whatever, Bob O'Thesaurus and Chairy Grant? Shit got weird.
You're probably not like that, but if you are, or all of a sudden now you are because you feel like your fiancé is "winning" the sofa? Just name it. Say it out loud. "Things are just things. Having to give up my couch is making me feel invisible. What if we get a divorce and we have to chop the couch in half? EVERYTHING IS TERRIFYING!" And then usually you feel much better and you can get on with it, so just keep it in mind: there will be feelings about stuff, and those feelings are totally okay, but it's still just stuff, and if you wouldn't save it if the building was burning down, consider giving in on it.
Living together is kind of the same, in that you shouldn't keep score, because even if you're "winning," you aren't — and as everyone else on earth has probably already told you, don't make roommate shit a referendum on relationship shit. If he never empties the dishwasher, it doesn't mean he doesn't respect/care about you/your feelings. It means that he forgot, or hates doing it and knows he can wait for you to take care of it, or doesn't realize that he's supposed to because it's Thursday or whatever your chore wheel says. Sometimes the red sock of Why Do You Always Leave Cabinet Doors Open For Me To Hit My Head On strays into the white load of the marriage. It happens. A long day takes you through a bunch of puddles, and then you come home and "SOMEBODY" drank the last diet Coke. You'll get upset. Then you'll get over it.
The readers will have plenty to add, but…you know. The only relationship you're an expert in is your own, but hey, you're an expert! You know how to do this, even if you think you don't. A phrase we repeated a lot before our wedding was "this is how WE do things," which started out as a slightly politer "…because, that's why" for people who just didn't understand why there weren't bridesmaids' dresses (or bridesmaids) or what was "wrong with" giving up Dan's apartment, or whichever "but if you don't do it like I did, my choices lack legitimacy" thing it was that day. But it became much more about the "we," that our "we" was greater than the sum of the "I"s — stronger. Smarter. Able to have a mature, productive conversation about whether "someone" should bother doing the vacuuming if s/he is just going to scream swears the whole time.
You, yourself, can do this. The you that's the two of you can totally do this.
Tags: boys (and girls) roommates