With early September having marked six months since J and I moved in together, I’d been thinking about ways to write about our recent(ish) transition. Mackenzie wrote this post a couple of years ago and I remember thinking it was such a good one…funny, insightful, inspiring, and informative. While I personally wasn’t thinking about my own move at the time, the post itself and some of the advice stuck with me. So, I decided to do something similar by “interviewing” some of my own friends (a few of whom are fellow bloggers + creatives) who live with their boyfriends or husbands. Our stories are similar in many ways but very different in others…so regardless of your relationship status, hopefully you’ll take away something from this post–or at the very least, enjoy reading it and relate to some of our stories!
How long have you been with your significant other and where/when did you guys meet?
Serena: We met in 2008 in school at Wake Forest, so 10 years next year!
Emily: My boyfriend and I met when we both joined the same firm in 2014, and started dating when he took another job in 2016. He was my best friend at work (the old cliche that good guy friends make great boyfriends is actually true!) and we already knew a lot about each other and had a good relationship when we started dating. We’ve been together about a year and a half but it seems longer due to our friendship beforehand.
Alex: G and I are coming up on 4 years together this spring! We met in DC on a cold night in March of 2014. I was good friends with his roommate at the time and was at their house preparing for a night of shenanigans. As if I were dreaming (or maybe it was just the haze I was in from the boozy brunch turned lunch from earlier that day) the wind blew a cute boy through the front door with rosy cheeks and Clark Kent-esque glasses. Embarrassingly, I turned to my friend (his roommate) and whispered “is he single?” Once it was established that indeed he was, I coerced him to join us for a night out on the town. While out, I bought him a Maker’s Mark to seal the deal.
Kim: We have been together for 8 years! We met in November 2009 in Hamilton, New York—at Nichols, a local bar in our college town. [Editor’s note: Kim and her husband are a Colgate couple, too!]
Ashlee: Michael and I have been together for five years this October! We met in Birmingham, Alabama (we were both living there at the time) through mutual friends while watching an LSU/Florida football game.
Meg: We’ve been together for almost 11 years! We met in the library during finals week of our first semester junior year at UConn. Don’t be too impressed –we were in the basement i.e. where everyone goes to talk instead of study ;)
Nicole: We’ve been together 7.5 years and we met in undergrad, though we started dating a few years post grad.
Monica: Around 6.5 years, give or take…we met in college, so we’ll use that as an excuse not to have a set date. We actually met at the end of the first semester of our sophomore year, but our paths certainly crossed before then because we lived one floor apart in the same dorm freshman year. Second semester sophomore year we sat next to each other on the first day of geography class and the rest is history.
When did you know you were ready to move in together?
Serena: I was hesitant to live together not because I didn’t want to live with him, but because I loved my roommate at the time and was more sad we weren’t going to live together anymore! She was my best friend from high school. We had gotten engaged and it was unnecessary to be paying two rents, and he basically lived with my roommate and me anyway. We were also co-parenting a dog and a cat so we had to make the animals live together at some point. I had the dog and Blake had the cat, though we got them as a couple. We did everything backwards!
Emily: I didn’t. I was in the process of relocating to another city for graduate school when his company offered him the opportunity to transfer to the same city. Logistically, it made sense for us to move in together rather then plan two separate moves. We decided to try living together–after a LOT of serious discussion about our relationship–and see how it went. It just felt like the right move for us, and still does. I don’t think relationships operate on a timeline, you both have to be ready when moving to a new step.
Alex: When I first met G, he had already been accepted to law school in his home state of Connecticut and I knew going into the relationship that if it lasted, we’d have to do long distance. For 2.5 years, we commuted back and forth from DC to CT once a month, alternating who would make the trek. Shout out to Jet Blue for making our relationship possible during that time!
During our years of long-distance, we learned to communicate and to be really intentional about our time together. We also had a lot of time to focus on ourselves as individuals and to think about what we wanted long-term. We built a solid foundation during that time and knew that when the time came for us to be together, there’d be no looking back. So, when my job and lease both ended this past January, we pulled the trigger and found a cozy little apartment on a lake near G’s hometown.
Kim: Bryce just told me he wanted to move in as soon as he knew he wanted to marry me. We first moved in together 3.5 years ago.
Ashlee: When we decided to make the move from Birmingham to Washington, DC. It was really a natural progression. Neither of us considered living alone or with roommates.
Meg: After we graduated college, C moved back home to save money and I rented a bedroom in a house that I found on Craigslist with a few strangers (not as sketchy as it sounds). It was a good place for me to get on my feet and get settled into my first job at a local ad agency. I eventually moved into a 1-br apartment by myself for a year and am so glad I had the experience of living on my own. It gave me a sense of independence and taught me a lot about myself. I then moved in with a girlfriend for a few years and really enjoyed being young, poor, and slightly irresponsible with one of my best friends.
Soon after that C was getting ready to move out of his parent’s house–several opportunities for him to live with friends fell through and then I found a super cheap apartment right downtown. I can’t lie–it took a little coercing to get him out of the nest but eventually we decided to take the apartment together. We’d been together for almost 5 years and we agreed that it was time to take the next step.
Nicole: We were doing long distance when we decided to move to DC together. He moved in with me and my roommates while he studied for the Bar and until we could move out on our own. Looking back, we were probably more ready to play house than we were for the responsibility of living together. Living with a significant other is a hard adjustment and neither of us really expected that. The first few months were a big challenge for us.
Monica: We both moved to DC after graduation but lived separately for the first four years–me with at least one roommate the entire time, him by himself or with one roommate. If you’d asked me three years ago, I’d have said I didn’t want to live with a significant other until I was engaged because you have your whole life to live with one person, so what’s the rush, but something changed about a year out from our move and I just felt ready. (Nicole actually told me this would happen, and she was right.) Luckily J felt similarly, too, but we did have serious conversations about our future before ultimately making the decision.
What’s something(s) that surprised you about him when you guys started cohabiting?
Serena: Not too much surprised me about him because we had been together almost 5 years when we moved in together. Blake was surprised about how much closet space I took up!
Emily: How easy it was, 99% of the time. I’m someone who can be viewed as having a difficult personality and had spent the prior 3+ years living in a studio apartment where I had my own space to retreat to at the end of the day without having to deal with other people. I was really nervous about sharing space and having another person around all the time. It turns out that I don’t mind sharing space with him at all and I love having him around all the time. (Side note: I asked my boyfriend what surprised him about living with me and he said how flexible I’d been about setting up an apartment with him!)
Alex: How can someone so clean be so messy?! I find socks in the couch, have to step over gym shorts on the floor, and am constantly putting the salt and pepper shakers back into the cupboard. But then, I’ll turn around and he’s on his hands and knees scrubbing each crack of the bathroom floor…I don’t get it!
Kim: He keeps his pajamas under his pillow and falls asleep on the couch. He especially cannot make it through a movie without dozing off.
Ashlee: This is a tough one…we’ve lived together for over three years now, I can’t remember anything in particular that surprised me!
Meg: WELL. We actually almost broke up! It was a really hard transition. I felt like C wasn’t really ‘committed’ to living together (to be fair he said he’d move in a month after me for no real reason and then when he finally ‘moved in’ some stuff it was a Lenscrafters bag with a bouncy ball and some contacts…) and he felt like I was being really controlling, only willing to co-habitate ‘my way’ in terms of how we decorate, prioritize chores, etc. There was a stark contrast between me who hadn’t lived at home since I was 18 (even summers) and C who hadn’t yet had his own place. Neither of us was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ but it was a really challenging parallel. I will never forget standing in the kitchen only a few weeks after we moved in together and us both saying how sad it was that we’d just made this big choice and now weren’t even sure we’d make it as a couple. Thankfully, that conversation ended up being the ‘breaking point’ for us in a good way –we really opened up communication, set expectations, got all of our emotions out, and have been co-habitating in some way ever since!
Nicole: How frequently he does his laundry! I would say I’m definitely the tidier one of the couple but he is way more on top of laundry than I am. I was also surprised by how often he had Poptarts for breakfast and how insanely jealous that made me.
Monica: That he will leave the lights on any opportunity he gets. I’ll walk into the apartment and practically every single light will be on, even if he’s in the other room. I don’t get it! He’s also a better cook than I realized (he used to order Chinese food about 2x/week so I just assumed he couldn’t make a full dinner on his own.)
Many couples who live together would probably agree that a large challenge is sharing what’s usually storage for one person between two (especially if you’re in an apartment). How’d you guys make this work?
Serena: We both consciously made the decision to live a minimalist lifestyle, which applied to all aspects of our lives. It became a goal we worked towards together so it was a fun challenge.
Emily: I received some simple advice that has really stuck with me–it’s not my apartment, it’s not his apartment, it’s OUR apartment. I’ve tried to frame every decision from splitting closet space to hanging pictures like this. We both live here, and even at times when I have my preferences, I ultimately want him to be happy to call this space home, too. The closet, bathroom cabinets, and any space that isn’t easy to share are split down the middle, 50/50.
Alex: We got REALLY lucky in the fact that we have two closets in our bedroom with a ton of storage. Our bathroom also has a vanity that allows for very clear division of his and hers products.
Kim: I’ll let you know when we figure it out! In all serious though, there are certain things each of us has as “non-negotiables.” Bryce has his guitars, records, and books, while I have my pillows and consistently acquire new furniture. We just make room for each others belongings because we respect that they are important to each of us. Also, it helps to have his and her closets!
Ashlee: We share one tiny closet. To make this work, we store our non-seasonal clothing under the bed, and I donate and sell a lot of my clothes that I no longer wear. If I haven’t worn a piece in a season, it goes. But let’s be real, I still dominate over half of our closet.
Meg: This actually wasn’t a huge deal for us! We were lucky that our first apartment had two bedrooms, so when we first moved in together each got our own closet. If you can afford this is ANY way I highly recommend it. The bigger challenge for us is that I am very neat, and C is pretty messy. On the other hand C is very clean and cares a lot about bathrooms being done, etc. At first we used to fight a lot defending one another’s camps, but as time has gone on I feel like we’ve both taken ownership of what we care about. C cleans the bathrooms exclusively and I keep our (now joint) closet super organized, changed for the seasons, etc. You have to pick your battles, and sometimes, it really is better to do it yourself. Don’t get me wrong I still nag C about his (expensive…) clothes being all over the floor–but now I just go ahead and make the bed every day instead of trying to convince him to do it. It’s important to me and therefore I do it. Same with C and yardwork!
Nicole: Most of the storage I need is for clothing, shoes, accessories, etc. Aaron has less of that but more” stuff” like camping gear, golf clubs, equipment for who knows what. So it just worked out well for me to use most of the bedroom closet and his stuff fits in the living space closets.
Monica: Luckily we have two closets. They aren’t big, but I think just having separate ones makes sharing a small space (we’re in sub-550 square feet!) so much easier. I’m a huge purger and J likes to keep everything, so I’d say compromise and make sure neither person is forced to get rid of something they really want to keep…but as long as that’s the case, donate.sell.donate.sell.donate.sell. Also, golf clubs take up a lot of communal closet space and I’ve resigned myself to living with that.
What’s the best part of living together?
Serena: Sharing a home together.
Emily: He does all the dishes! (My least favorite chore.) … And knowing that, even during a tough day, you still get to go home and see your favorite person.
Alex: It probably sounds cheesy but the BEST part of living together is having something and someone to look forward to everyday. We’d both tell you that the best part of our day is the moment we get home. Not only because of the cozy space we’ve created together, but because we get to hang out with our best friend when we get there. Our favorite thing to do is make a big bowl of popcorn, pour a glass of wine and bourbon and watch the history channel or a baseball together from the couch (despite being a house divided; I’m a Yankees fan, G’s a Red Sox fan–Go Yanks!).
Kim: Making dinner together and enjoying our wine habit. We also appreciate posting up on the weekends and doing fun activities together–just the two of us. For example, going for a jog, trying out a new restaurant, and going to our favorite spot for mussels and beer. We also are equally obsessed with our dog, and talk about her all the time–she is our pride and joy!
Ashlee: Sharing a space with my BFF. I love coming home at the end of the day knowing someone is going to be there to chat about the day, and we love cooking dinners together at home during the week…even in our tiny kitchen!
Meg: I LOVE coming home to C every day! Call me lame but I really enjoy our routine. Lately I’ve been getting up earlier with C (he used to get up about an hour before me because he has to be at work much earlier) and it’s become one of my fave parts of the day. He starts the fire and the coffee, I take out our dog and feed him breakfast, pack C a quick sandwich if I have time, and then we go our separate ways. It’s such a nice way to start the day.
C also chimed in that a huge benefit for him has been cooking! He loves my cooking (that was nice to hear actually ;)) and we’ve recently started making dinner together. We also pre-plan our meals and split the grocery shopping responsibilities, which gives each of us a nice break.
People move in together at all stages of life, but for us it’s been really awesome building our little life together. From that first crummy (but perfect!) apartment to now owning our own home, we’ve been really focused on enjoying every stage together and are so proud of the home we’ve created. It’s actually one of the things we’re most proud of in our relationship–building a safe, happy environment with someone you love is such a satisfying experience.
Nicole: Living with your best friend rules. You always have someone to hang out with and you come home to your favorite person every day. It’s also great to live with someone who knows you so well that knows when you need space or when you need a glass of wine poured as soon as you get in the door.
Monica: Getting to see each other every day. Despite previously only living a couple of miles away, we really only saw each other on the weekends (maybe once every other week M-Tr) and would talk on the phone every night. A lot of nights I was sleepy and grumpy and just wanted to go to bed, so being able to have time together regularly is has been amazing. It’s really fun to do even the most mundane things together…cooking, randomly going out to dinner, running to the grocery store, and being able to workout together.
What’s been the toughest part about living together?
Serena: Not having enough personal space. My husband said conflict resolution.
Emily: Not pushing my perfectionist tendencies on to my boyfriend, and choosing to be grateful for his little acts of kindness instead. For example, my boyfriend makes the bed every single morning, without fail, and I know he makes an effort to do so. It always looks nice and neat. Is it made the exact way I would do it? Probably not, but does it matter? Probably not. So I just say thank you. It’s hard.
Alex: Division of labor and budgeting have definitely been the hardest things for us. We both work full-time and I go to grad school on weeknights. That leaves the bulk of the daily household tasks to G. He is an absolute saint and truly holds our lives together both operationally and emotionally. I can get overwhelmed by my schedule and just generally melodramatic at times; his level head and focus on the end-goal keeps me in check.
Budgeting has also been a big change for me. Now that we live together, we have shared goals, responsibilities, and things that we are saving for. When I was living on my own in DC, my discretionary income went towards manicures, all things Kate Spade, and over-priced brunches with my girlfriends. Now, my discretionary income goes into savings accounts for our various goals. It’s been a big lifestyle change that G has to constantly remind me will pay off in the long run.
Kim: It’s tough understanding the other person’s point of view in what’s important to them. For instance, I may buy a pair of shoes and he asks, “why? you have so many!” On the other hand, he will buy a new record or book and I don’t understand because he has more than I can count.
Ashlee: Living in a small space can be challenging every once in a while, for example, when one of us is trying to work and the other is wanting to watch TV, but overall, nothing too tough!
Meg: Bickering! We still battle with this. The good thing about living with a significant other vs. a roommate is that I think communication is much easier–there are no “awkward” convos because you really know and trust each other. On the other hand I find that you don’t “hold back” as much and tend to call out every little thing, because you can. We have to work really hard at not nagging on another and trying to restrain from having “big” conversations about every little thing.
C also mentioned that you have to work harder to maintain the ‘spark,’ which is totally true. All of the sudden you are around one another ALL the time (in C’s words “you start to see your partner in men’s pajama shorts and cutting their toenails” HAHA – who? me?!) and it’s easy stop making as much of an effort. C is actually really great at prioritizing date nights, weekend trips, etc. to keep us focused on each other as a couple and not just roommates.
Nicole: The poptarts temptation. I make him put them on a shelf I can’t reach!
Monica: Remembering that just because I’m an OCD control freak all the time doesn’t mean he has to be one, too. [I need to learn from Emily because we’re similar in this way but she seems to be a little more realistic about it :)] You’ll bicker over small things more simply because you’re seeing each other all the time…which makes sense, but isn’t something I thought of until we moved in. Also, there are two sides to every disagreement and being willing to try and understand why the other person feels how they do can be tough when you feel strongly about something yourself.
Any advice for a couple who was about to move in together?
Serena: It’s a wonderful next step in a relationship, but it’s also a big commitment and will really test the relationship. It’s important to know you truly want to be with your significant other rather than use it as a test to see if you want to be with your significant other. You have to mentally commit first in order to tough out the rough patches, which is certain to happen.
Emily: Don’t be afraid to work on your communication skills–the sooner you can address any issues that come up (and there will be something!), the happier you’ll both be. Living together isn’t going to be perfect, but in the right relationship you’ll be grateful for the extra time and shared home you get to create together.
– Communicate, communicate, communicate
– Set a budget & stick to it. This can definitely be an adjustment if you’re a spender like me, but I’m told “it’ll be worth it” *eye-roll*
– Don’t keep score. I made this mistake early on. “I loaded the dishwashers so you should take out the trash.” It’s not sustainable and it puts stress on your relationship. G’s carrying the bulk of the load at home, so if we were keeping score, I’d be losing…and I DON’T like to lose.
– Keep your expectations in check! I decided recently that I shouldn’t ask or expect G to do something that I’m not willing to do myself. This has really helped taper my “nagging” and made me more appreciative of the things he does to help out.
– Know when to stick to your guns and when to compromise. This is a daily challenge for us as we’re both very strong willed and opinionated individuals. We haven’t quite mastered this, but #goals for the future, right?
– Make new traditions. G and his entire family are very into traditions so it’s important to us to also make our own. The bowl of popcorn on the couch scenario I mentioned earlier may seem mundane, but it’s become a nightly ritual that we really look forward to. We also have goals to visit the capitol building and a baseball stadium in every state we visit-so far we’ve seen 3 in 3 years!
Kim: Don’t move in together until you’re certain you want to spend the rest of your life with that person. If you both aren’t certain about your futures prior to living together, you certainly will not figure it out once you’re under one roof.
Ashlee: So long as you go into the process knowing you’re going to have to make a few compromises along the way, you’ll be golden.
Meg: Patience. It takes time to learn how to live with anyone, but when it’s someone you love and see a future with, it’s even more important take the time to understand one another. Remember why you moved in together in the first place! C and I have a little saying that we use when we feel like we need to get on the same page–we will say “same team?” and it reminds us that we’re both rooting for a common goal. Also, be thoughtful but also honest and firm about what your non-negotiables are, and then be flexible about the rest.
Nicole: Make sure you’re really ready to cohabitate and to be partners rather than just play house. Sharing your home is sharing a whole new level of intimacy with someone (which is totally awesome) but requires a lot of self-awareness, strong communication skills, and a lot of compromise. Also, hire movers. And Ikea has delivery and assembly services. So shop online and skip the Ikea fight.
Monica: Show each other you love each other every day. Address annoyances as they come up and don’t let things fester. Also, be transparent in your expectations…J hates when I leave things on the hook behind the bathroom door, and I had no idea that would bother him because he doesn’t mind leaving three pairs of shoes in the living room :) I’m normally a huge over-communicator so have had to learn that not everything has to be discussed to death, and he’s been good about sharing frustrations (like said door pet peeve) as they come up. Also, don’t be wedded to a “timeline”–we were a couple for over 5 years before living together.
Hopefully you enjoyed reading those as much as I loved putting the post together! If you have any advice or funny stories of your own, feel free to leave it in a comment below so we can all trade tips (and likely empathize with each other!)