Advice for living together with your SO?
February 10, 2005 8:59 PM   Subscribe

RelationshipFilter: The boyfriend is moving in. Anyone have any advice that you would have liked to know when you and your significant other started living together? [MI]

It's the first time I've lived with a boyfriend full-time versus weekends-only. Since he's going to be moving all of his possessions over, should we go with different storage units? Filing folders? How about computer setup? Personal privacy issues? Is there such a thing as spending too much time together?

Any little advice would be helpful, and while I know that everyone's relationships are different, odds are I'll stumble against similar problems.
posted by Meagan to Human Relations (36 answers total) 53 users marked this as a favorite
Watch your purse.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 9:09 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

My girlfriend and I have been living together for a while now and it's been great--no problems at all! It obv. depends on your guy, but I think the most important thing is to be relaxed about it.
posted by josh at 9:12 PM on February 10, 2005

Oh man. Can of worms.

From my experience with failed live-in relationships, I have this to offer: The two of you need to sit down and discuss, honestly, what your being-at-home priorities are.

For instance:

** You HATE hearing the TV in the morning; morning shows turn you into a surly beast, but BF has a crush on Katie Couric.

** Or, BF really likes to clip his toenails at the kitchen table, but you retch at the thought.

Hey, you'll probably get lots of good advice in AskMe, but none of it will be a sufficient substitute for the do/don't list you and your boyfriend come up with. Be honest about the fact that there will be an adjustment and that it will require some effort from both of you. Come up with some ground rules -- even if you're playful about them. At least you'll both know where the other one stands, and you can lovingly go out of your way to respect the other's wishes.

(As for your specific questions -- they all lean towards the two of you forming more of a roommatey relationship than a partnership. You should probably discuss that too. If that's what you both want -- great. If not, one of you may be in for a fall.)
posted by mudpuppie at 9:14 PM on February 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

Let the toilet seat thing slide.
posted by Mean Mr. Bucket at 9:18 PM on February 10, 2005

Be up front about how you will be paying the rent, utilities, etc. Open up a joint checking account to keep track of this. I just had that talk with my boyfriend and it was no big deal.

Also, we each have our own rooms. I have an office/studio, he has a home theater room and we sleep in another bedroom together. We are both home bodies and need our space. He's working overseas right now, but we'll be getting the full test run in a few months.

If your living situation is a bit crowded privacy screens are a life saver.

Good luck!
posted by Alison at 9:22 PM on February 10, 2005 [4 favorites]

If he's moving into your home, I recommend finding a way to help him feel like it's his home too. He should get an equal vote in furnishings and household ground rules, even though you may have already set those up for yourself. When my boyfriend moved in, I went away for a month (for an unrelated reason), so when I came back, he had had plenty of time to feel like the place was his too. That worked well.

Also, household chores are the bane of everyone's existence. Unless you have a housekeeper or you're both supercleaninggeniuses, you'll probably struggle with who's doing what. I recommend coming up with some kind of system (chore wheel or otherwise) that makes it clear in advance who's responsible for what duties.

And enjoy! I loved living with a partner more than any other living arrangement I've ever had.
posted by equipoise at 9:32 PM on February 10, 2005

You will have to get used to not having things your own way. If the relationship is really strong, the more you give in on these issues the more you get what you want in the long run. Of course if neither of you has been on your own and by yourself for very long then this is usually not much of an issue anyway. It crops up more after you get set in your ways.
posted by caddis at 9:34 PM on February 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

I cannot second what equipoise said strongly enough. If he's moving into your place, don't make him feel like a tenant. It can really wreck a relationship.
posted by goatdog at 9:35 PM on February 10, 2005

Pick your battles. Learn to give in gracefully. Learn to get your way even more gracefully.
posted by padraigin at 9:36 PM on February 10, 2005

This would be a good time to get the 'ex libris' bookplates into your collection.
posted by naxosaxur at 9:45 PM on February 10, 2005

I am going through this now, three wks. into it. I've almost moved out twice (I moved in with him). Realize it will takes lots of patience for both of you. I agree with the above, habits are the hardest thing to adjust to. He needs several alarms to wake up, with assorted multiple snoozes. He's cut back a bit, but it's very annoying for me. He also talks to himself, and said the sound I make annoys him (I thought he was talking to me in the other room and would respond). Make sure you get time to yourself. Learn to share. Make sure it is clear upfront about bill paying and who is responsible for what. Best wishes to the two of you!
posted by 6:1 at 10:27 PM on February 10, 2005

Chores. Talk about what each other's expectations of cleanliness are. Sort out who does what when. Make a chart if you have to. Stick to it. This is one of the biggest things you can fight over.

Finances. Are you combining your money? Everything split down the middle? Who handles bills? Will you need a joint budget? Discuss it now. This is another of the biggest things you can fight over.
posted by Melinika at 10:28 PM on February 10, 2005 [1 favorite]

This is very specific to the couple. Some couples need their space, some are clingy, and everyone has their own needs and problems.

My one piece of advice is to somehow set it up so that you will be able to live somewhat independent lives if you get sick of one another. When people move in together, they tend to share too much. But recognize that there will be occasions (maybe long) when you'll be sick of your partner and will want to spend time alone. Don't make this an impossibility. Share things that need to be shared (probably most things!), but find a space and a place you can call your own. If it's not a hassle to separate your things from his, I say do it.
posted by painquale at 10:56 PM on February 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

I wished I'd know how much she liked porn earlier.
posted by scarabic at 11:36 PM on February 10, 2005 [2 favorites]

What equipoise said; and making him feel at home mightn't just be about choosing where the prints are going to hang. When my girlfriend first moved in, I would unintenionally upset her by referring to it as "my flat" rather than "ours". She suffered in silence for a bit, then told me about it after about six weeks. What I found was that the more I referred to it as ours, the more it felt that way, too.
And co-habitation is mint! Enjoy it... and you'll know you're sure about things when you give away your "doubles" of records, CDs and books....
posted by bunglin jones at 11:47 PM on February 10, 2005

I've recommended this book before, but Unmarried to Each Other has lots of great advice about how to set up a joint household (especially regarding finances) that should prove useful to you.

This may sound like overplanning, but next time you're at his place, take quick measurements of his bookcases, desk, and any other major pieces of furniture he's planning to keep. That way, you'll know if you can fit everything in and can figure out now what you want to do: get rid of some of his stuff, your stuff, or sell or scrap some of both your stuff to get new stuff together. You don't have to mingle books and cds and what all, especially if you each have extensive collections and like how you've organized them, but it's nice to have things stored similarly.

Keep the point of view that you're adjusting to each other, and do what's best for you; there's no formula, just guidelines of basic respect. There are couples who are happiest with separate bedrooms and workspaces and lots of alone time, who love each other no less than couples who are with each other constantly. (Oh, and if you can move his stuff in the dead of February and kiss afterwards, you can handle anything, as far as I'm concerned.)
posted by melissa may at 12:37 AM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

What everyone has said about making him feel like it's his space too when he moves in. It's hard to move in to someone elses territory. Get rid of/store some of your stuff to make room for his, consult him on what stuff should go so he feels part of the whole nesting thing. Rearranging livingroom together, perhaps buying new pieces together to make it "our livingroom" not "your livingroom". Bathroom as well, get some new things to make storage of shaving stuff and beautycreams simpler and so that he feels he has his space in there too.
Also, I found that the simple rules "he who cooks is freed from after dinner dishes", and "wash your own coffee cup cup/drinking glass/snackplate" settles most of the cleaning up in the hard to keep clean kitchen area without it becoming a nightmare with schedules and whatnot.
posted by dabitch at 4:28 AM on February 11, 2005 [3 favorites]

oh and by "pieces" I mean perhaps a carpet, maybe some pillows and a frame for a cool poster he has and that you like, not getting new couches and so on. ;) Just fitting your things better together.
posted by dabitch at 4:30 AM on February 11, 2005

"Pick your battles" is the best thing here. From experience, it's sometimes really hard to bite your tongue, especially if you were the one living there in the first place. There'll be a lot that two people could clash over as their daily routine gets thrown out of whack. Sit down and figure out your morning routines (who gets the shower first?) so there'll be a minimum of dawn clashes.

Try to mention the "little things" (toilet paper, over or under?) in a non-naggy way if they start to get to you.

One other area you'll have to consider is food and other shared resources. Is dinner time "make it yourself?" Will you alternate cooking (this can work out in interesting ways. I'm a horrible cook and can't seem to get better, while Banjo has grown leaps and bounds better since we first moved in together)? Whose job is it to replace the last soda?

Consider picking up some new furniture that can be "ours." It doesn't have to be big, just a coffee table or something, but having a few shared items will help you both think of the place as "ours."
posted by robocop is bleeding at 4:55 AM on February 11, 2005

Don't let things build up so that you wind up resentful and passive aggressive. Talk about issues as you go along. Don't complain about him to all your friends - talk to him and work things out.
posted by orange swan at 5:02 AM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

My husband and I lived together for about a year and a half before we got married. Having lived with a rather challenging "heterolifemate" made living with him easy. It's good to always communicate what is important to you. If you can't stand laundry being all over the cosmos, be clear on that from the beginning. Likewise, if he doesn't like dirty dishes in the sink, be sensitive and helpful with that. It's all about compromise and listening. If you make it about him being happy, and he makes it about you being happy, then you will both be working to nurture and support the other one.

Oh, and don't go to bed angry. It's icky. Really, really icky.
posted by Medieval Maven at 5:57 AM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

What everybody else said, and be Kind to each other. Life's a bitch out there, and having somebody who loves you and is good to you makes it so much better.
posted by theora55 at 6:37 AM on February 11, 2005 [2 favorites]

Everyone else has said this, but I'll throw in an anecdote: nyxie moved in with me way early in our relationship -- too early in retrospect, but everything worked out great and we're engaged now, so that's all fine -- and the thing that was eating at me, and maybe eating at both of us, until we recently moved into a new place was that she was in "my apartment" rather than us being in "our apartment". A few people here have talked about how he might feel like a tenant; for me it was the other way around, nyxie felt like a guest and things were off-balance because of it. (Problems with the apartment were mine to deal with, and if something went wrong with it I felt I had to apologize to her, and I always felt bad if she was cleaning up because it felt like she was cleaning my place, and so forth).

We moved into our new place last October and things just felt so much better. It took me a couple weeks to realize what the difference was.

Keep an eye out for all of the permutations of this and think about shopping around together for a new place that both of you can start out anew together in if they're getting in the way. Even if you've got a good place now, if it feels to you or him like it's more yours than his then it's worth sacrificing the good place for the good partner.
posted by mendel at 7:08 AM on February 11, 2005 [2 favorites]

Get all responsibilities (financial and other) in writing, make no assumptions on who is responsible for what.
posted by DBAPaul at 7:14 AM on February 11, 2005

If something is bothering you, LET IT BE KNOWN politely, before it becomes something so maddening that you have to scream, "STOP DOING THAT."

Prevents many fights.
posted by agregoli at 7:18 AM on February 11, 2005 [4 favorites]

The hardest thing for me upon moving in with my fiance (now husband) was an unexpected crisis on my part when it came to chores and gender roles. I happen to be more a neat freak than my husband (dust, dirty dishes, full garbage cans, etc., all bother me), while he can happily go without vaccuuming or sweeping for weeks--or ever. It was really hard for me when I found myself doing his laundry, cleaning up after him, and generally taking on traditional wifely duties (this while we were both in grad school--working and taking courses about the same amount of time outside the home).

It took me a while to figure out how to communicate with him about my concerns. I was very worried that anything I said would be nagging, so I kept suffering in silence and hoping he would figure out on his own that he should pitch in more. He didn't. Finally, after a somewhat difficult period, I learned that discussion isn't nagging, and that he genuinely wanted me to tell him what to do. He told me that while left to his own devices he'd never (for example) make the bed, he understood that straightening up the bedroom every morning is something that I care about--and therefore that he would do it. But the point was that I needed to explain to him what things were important to me and why, and ask him to help--and not just expect him to figure it out on his own.

I also had to learn to be flexible when it came to how things are done. Basically, I learned that if I absolutely want something done only a certain way then I should do it myself. Otherwise, I should shut up and not try to micromanage what he did. This may or may not help you, but it was a really big revelation for me.

Now that we have a house--and exponentially more work to do--work tends to divide along traditional gender lines. But in our case, that's mostly because of personality (I'd rather clean the house than do repairs or work on remodeling projects).
posted by handful of rain at 7:29 AM on February 11, 2005 [5 favorites]

I went through this for the first time about a year ago. I'm going to echo a lot of what's been said here, and add one more- consider moving, if it's feasible/convenient. My g/f moved into my apartment last February, and we both moved to a new (bigger) place last May. Moving together into a new place was a huge psychological improvement for her, as there was no residual "my place" karma.

So, onto other things:

- Don't lay everything out at once. Feel it out as you go, you'll be fine. Trying to "set boundaries" at the outset just creates tension. Your first few encounters will be trying, but you're more malleable than you think.

- The one thing you should settle early on is money. Your solution will depend on your respective financial situations, but you need to manage expectations regarding rent and utilities.

- Get used to the fact that anything bought for the apartment, no matter by whom, belongs to both of you.

- CORRELARY: Buy some things together your first week.

- Be tolerant of his little quirks, and he'll be tolerant of yours. Don't try to "fix" him.

- Don't let the toilet thing slide, and I say that as a guy.
posted by mkultra at 7:45 AM on February 11, 2005

All the above is excellent advice. I can't stress enough the importance of space, for both parties. Physical space is easily invaded, unintentionally. Be sure to set boundaries and provide yourself enough "alone" time. Emotional space has to be respected equally. While, it is important to make him feel welcome (tenant comment) make sure to keep some things that are YOU, independent of your SO. This includes a room, a coffee shop, 6:30 in the morning for meditation, whatever. Too often couples grow "together", while individually, growth is stymied.

Don't be afraid to call him out on things, lovingly and with compassion. Buried resentment over small things can create gigantic problems in the future. Good Luck!
posted by AllesKlar at 7:49 AM on February 11, 2005 [1 favorite]

6:1 and anyone else with a snooze button problem: try a vibrating alarm. They can clip to the snoozer's pillow so you don't wake up every nine minutes.
posted by chickenmagazine at 8:00 AM on February 11, 2005

It will test your communication skills. If they aren't very good, I wouldn't move in with the purpose of fixing them.

If you have any doubts about having him move in, then know that it's extremely difficult to have him move out. Finding another place can be difficult on short notice, etc, which can cause a lot of anger and such.
posted by about_time at 8:37 AM on February 11, 2005

We have a few things that make some of our different tastes easier to manage

- reading light if one person wants to stay up later
- back up sleeping/reading room if one of us is an insomniac
- electric blanket with two settings

We have pretty rigid outlines of who does certain things like dishes, laundry, snow shoveling, getting mail, buying beer, taking out the trash, paying bills, keeping the calendar. We have much less rigid outlines of who does other stuff like food shopping, making food, cleaning up the rooms, checking the answering machine, taking out the recycling, vacuuming, cleaning the bathroom, maintaining the cars. We have certain givens like we don't go to bed mad, we almost always go to bed together, we try to eat dinner together and we take turns doing the driving. At some point we worked all this out and now it just feels normal.

With any live-in situation there will be things you change when another person moves in, maybe combining laundry or money or food, and things you may not change like who drives who's car or who makes the coffee in the morning. Then there's all new stuff like do you shower and do morning getting-ready together before work, is it okay for your partner to come in the bathroom when you're peeing, do you have to lie on the phone for them, do they screen calls or answer the phone, etc. Early on it's probably good to get an idea of how your partner feels those things should work, and have you talk about how you feel without the added "oh and I've always done it this way and it's my house" attitude if you can help it. My boyfriend and I moved in to my house together a few years ago and 18 months ago moved into a smaller place together while he went to law school. It's sort of amazing how much easier it was for us to both live in someone else's house than have one of us live in the other's place. Also, I think what handful of rain says is important

I also had to learn to be flexible when it came to how things are done. Basically, I learned that if I absolutely want something done only a certain way then I should do it myself. Otherwise, I should shut up and not try to micromanage what he did. This may or may not help you, but it was a really big revelation for me.

It's sometimes a big trust step to let someone else do your laundry or make your weekend plans, but it's an important part of relationship-growing and a good thing to learn how to do. This may not be a problem you have but I know it was one for me.
posted by jessamyn at 8:43 AM on February 11, 2005 [2 favorites]

Speaking as someone who lived with my husband for almost three years before we got married, I agree about all of the logistical advice mentioned above (great insights for any people living together, couple or not).

I also wanted to mention what is probably the most important issue for a couple living together: be absolutely certain that your expectations are the same as far as where the relationship is headed.

I'm sure you've already had conversations along these lines, so forgive me if I'm just pointing out stuff you have already done...but I would advise laying it all timelines, even. Don't be afraid to get extremely blunt regarding what your expectations are. I can't stress enough how easily conflicts about this can over-ride any harmony produced by solving the day-to-day living issues.

Does one of you see living together as a "test" for whether you are compatible enough to get married? Or do you see moving in together as a deep committment in and of itself? (these sound similar but are very different)...Do either of you believe that marriage is an important next step? Anyone not believe in marriage? (ok, that's one that certainly would have come up by this point, but still...)

It's easy for the excitement of moving in to get the better of your logical side. Don't be coy about anything...don't act like you are a "let's see where it goes" kind of person when in reality you're jonesing to get married, and don't say you're open to the idea of marriage if you aren't really. If I had to do it over again, I would not have moved in with my husband as soon as I did, because at the time, I saw moving in together as being much further along the road to marriage than he did. This led to a lot of conflict that we ultimately overcame, but probably could have been avoided if I had been able to be more honest with myself, and him, at the beginning.

Just my hard-earned perspective...please disregard if you're all good on these issues! ;)
posted by eileen at 9:43 AM on February 11, 2005 [8 favorites]

First, it's been great. Second, these are the things I've learned:

Two computers. Two desks. Two studies/dens would have been even better.

All of my mail either goes in this box or remains in the mailbox! (Otherwise I might not see a bill for two months.)

If you want it clean, clean. It doesn't matter who left the dish where. If you're doing the cleaning way too often, then talk about it.

An alarm clock with two alarms is helpful.

It's great if the earlier riser gets dressed/ready in a different room.

You need to get good at saying "no" when you need time/space/sleep/food.

You need laundry, do it. You need food, buy/cook it. If one cooks/buys/launders/cleans for the other on occasion that's great.

Being "allowed" to fart and burp is essential. (There was an AskMe thread about this, I believe.)

If you can split the bills in a way so that one pays (e.g.) water and electricity and the other pays gas, phone, and cable, that might be easier than splitting everything. One person should be in charge of all split bills, pay them, and tell the other what he/she owes.

Separate phones for introverts who don't want to make small talk with SO's family&friends. One person can give out a cell phone # only and not answer the houseline, e.g.

Try to work around your partners' pet peeves. If something really bothers you, say so. It's not always obvious.

Set aside romantic time. When you're always together, sometimes you need to consciously shift to "us" time.
posted by callmejay at 10:00 AM on February 11, 2005 [4 favorites]

I'd like to second (third?) the point about micromanagement of cleaning duties. In my previous cohabitation experience, we had Problems because every time I would try to pitch in and clean up, do laundry, etc, the SO would find something wrong with the way I was doing it. Like, "you take too long to do the dishes, and you're doing it all wrong anyway", that sort of thing. So eventually I just stopped doing dishes, etc, because I couldn't stand being told I was shitty at it every time I tried to pitch in. I explained my feelings to him, and it was still a paggro move on my part, but it was the only way I could communicate just how bad it made me feel to be ripped a new one when I was just trying to help.

Also, if you're sharing a computer (which I don't recommend), at least set up two user accounts. I had a friend whose relationship ended over the SO repeatedly using her computer to look at porn (I'm not even sure it was so much a porn issue as a respect issue - don't use my stuff to get off!). When these issues arise, deal with them as soon as you can - things just get uglier when there's time for resentment to build.

Good luck!
posted by pikachulolita at 1:16 PM on February 11, 2005

I like the idea of separate spaces and not going to bed angry. I think lots of the feedback in this thread sounds very helpful. (Just commenting as a way to bookmark it, really.)
posted by onlyconnect at 4:08 PM on February 11, 2005

Response by poster: Very insightful! Thanks to everyone who posted their comments and experiences. They've all helped shed light onto places I hadn't thought about before.
posted by Meagan at 5:28 PM on February 11, 2005

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