“What are you not telling me?”
“Nothing, really, it just happened really, so...”
“Well, (long story involving ferrets, landlords and Billy Ray Cyrus) so we’re moving in together.”
“YOU’RE FUCKING WHAT?!”
The above exchange is my best friend telling me she is moving in with her boyfriend, and me being a supportive and helpful friend. Obviously.
Before you fire up your commenting fingers to tell me how I should be nicer to my friend (for the record, I once took video of said friend drunkenly picking her nose in her sleep and DIDN’T post it to Facebook), know that my strong reaction comes from a place of almost maternal concern and folksy, “Been there, done that” wisdom.
You see, in my adult life, I’ve lived with boyfriends much more than I’ve lived alone. Since leaving my parent’s house, I can count on one hand how many years I’ve lived sans boyfriend. And though I fully admit that most of those years of living with my significant others were good and probably shaped me into the well-adjusted human-cyborg you see before you, part of me wonders if I missed out on a few years of living alone and being totally disgusting in solely my own filth for a while.
Television raised me on images of the empowered single lady-lawyer/doctor/Jerri Blank coming home after a long day at the office, pouring an adult beverage, ordering some Chinese food and sitting in front of the TV. Maybe she’ll have a short but meaningful, “Smile through the hard times” conversation with her girlfriend/boyfriend, but in the end she is fabulously alone with her thoughts. Until there is an emergency at the station and the captain/D.A./Principal Blackman calls her in.
Did I miss out?
I’m pretty much, mostly, sure that I did not. Living so consistently with boyfriends over the years has made a certain survival instinct has kick in, making me obstinately determined to retain my individuality while at the same time sharing my life with someone.
I am OK with losing some of my feminine mystique (“Honey! Have you seen my Diva Cup?”) around my live-in boyfriends -- and now husband. It took a little time, but I no longer censor any of my own Louis-isms and habits simply because there’s a significant other in my space. And that freedom extends to him, too.
To the casual observer, we may look like a pair of cave people -- burping, farting, trudging around in our underwear, eating leftovers straight out of the box, etc. -- but I think that for cohabitation to work, that level of “okayness” with your partner’s self-cultivated grossness has to exist. Remember: The Filth Came First.
I’m no expert. Just imagine me as a friendly traveler who has walked this path before you and wishes not only to warn you of obstacles, but regale you with tales of the riches to be had. I’m like a Hobbit.
Both of you are going to be set in your ways. Choose your battles wisely.
The way he eats mac ‘n’ cheese, the way you leaving half-drunk cups of coffee everywhere, the way you never sleep and how he ALWAYS needs sleep. Ah, domestic bliss!
If you’ve lived alone for a long time now, like most of your 30-something years, you’re going to be used to the way YOU do things. He’s going to be used to the way HE does things. Decide what’s worth “discussing.”
When the Guy I Married and I first moved in together, we fought about EVERYTHING, and in front of EVERYBODY. I can still see the glazed expressions on our friends’ faces now.
In retrospect, most of our fighting was a war of wills. I DO IT THIS WAY, so it must be best -- how I do the dishes, when I clean the toilet, how walking across the floor and having cat litter stick to the bottom of his feet just doesn’t seem to bother him. But going to bed angry over cat litter and toilets just isn’t worth it.
I guess what I’m saying is, keep the rituals, the quirks and the comforts -- the stuff that is fundamentally you -- and let the rest go. At the end of the day, you gain a second pair of hands to clean out the cat box.
Even Bears only hibernate for part of the year.
Now that you have a little love nest in which to snuggle with your cuddle bunny 24/7, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. The temptation, over time, will be to “just stay in.” You have food, company, entertainment -- why go out?
Because it makes you weird and frustrating when your friends ask you to do something and your broken record response is always, “Next time, I think Melvin and I are just going to stay in tonight.”
Yes, do that, nobody’s going to deny you that wonderful perk of having a live-in significant other, but trust me, it’s the worst feeling in the world when you realize your friends have stopped calling and when you ask them what’s going on, they say, “We just figured you were hanging out with Melvin and wouldn’t want to come out anyway, so we stopped asking.” NOOOOOOOO!
Also, I’ve found that the quickest route to getting grumpy and assholey with my husband is when I’ve been around him, and only him, for days on end. This brings me to:
THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I WILL EVER TELL YOU, FRIEND, ABOUT LIVING WITH YOUR BOYFRIEND
It’s OK to tell him that you need to be alone. Either he goes somewhere, or you do. It doesn’t mean you’re fighting, it doesn’t mean you’re a bad girlfriend, it just means you need some alone time.
If you’re anything like me, and I know you are, having anybody’s ass glued to your side -- even if it is a sexy manly ass -- for too long will drive you insane. Until now, you’ve had your own apartment to retreat to -- not anymore.
If you feel the anxiety or crankiness or introversion bubbling up, just excuse yourself. Drive in your car, go to a store, sit in a coffee shop, take a bath, make him go do something -- just give yourself permission NOW, before you move in, to be alone sometimes.
This is the one that took me years to figure out. I could have saved so many pointless screaming matches and slammed doors (definitely broke one of those once) if I’d only taken this advice.
Lack of personal space, in my opinion, is the root of all evil.
So there are my notes from the road. At the heart of it all, just be fair -- to yourself and to him. You’re going to argue, you’re going to be agog at his strangeness, and you at his, but in the end, isn’t that why we engage in relationships with anybody? To marvel that their weirdness can in some ways, usurp ours?