Let's hang out ... but only at my place
February 23, 2012 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Looking for advice about how to deal with spending a disproportionate amount of time at one person's house when in a relationship ... while my situation may be unique, I'm hoping others have done the dating-while-living-with-folks thing, or the dating-with-a-horrible-roommate thing, or dating-someone-who-doesn't-drive thing. I can feel myself getting resentful, and that's not fair - it's no one's fault.

The details: been together over a year. Not ready to cohabitate, yet. I own, he rents. I bought my house years ago with a previous partner which ended long ago. To help pay the mortgage, I have an (awesome) roommate ... who has cats. Whereas my guy is really, REALLY allergic to cats (roommate has been with me longer than my guy). Last time he came over for a 2 hour meal with my folks, he ended up using his inhaler 3 times. Not good. BUT ... if I ask roomie to ditch the cats, roomie will leave. And my guy and I aren't ready to move in together (I'm gonna guess another 3-6 months). Roomie is awesome and I don't want to risk finding another renter who could be awful (I've had some experiences), plus I'm not sure how the timeline with me and my guy will go - it seems rude to find someone to move in, only to ask them to move out 3 months later.

So: I accept that this situation WILL NOT CHANGE anytime soon. I spend about half my time at my guy's place and half at my own (without him). So how can I start feeling BETTER about this, and nip these resentful feelings in the bud?

As an example: when we hang out, he'll often do "house things" at the same time ... pay bills while waiting for the lasagna to bake. Do laundry while watching a movie. Deep-clean the stove while we're washing dishes. And all I can think is: Man, I wish I could do MY laundry! I wish we were cleaning MY stove! I'VE got bills to pay!

I'm thinking that I either need to reframe this in my head and stop this negative way of thinking, or I need to start "encroaching" some of my stuff into his space. How does one go about doing that? I have a drawer that I keep a spare outfit or two in, and that's about it. My computer (a desktop) can't go to his house with me, bringing my laundry seems like more of a pain in the butt than doing it at home ... I bring the occasional book but ... any ideas? Either with bringing over my "stuff" or getting over this mental hurdle?
posted by athena2255 to Human Relations (20 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You are somehow both me and my fiancee. We won't live together until after the wedding, but spend most of our time at her place because her house is nicer than my apartment and because she has cats who like company. She does chores when I'm over there quite a bit. If anything, I see this as a sign that the house will always be well kept, and I pitch in and help, too, since I'm there so often. It sometimes bugs me that I can't clean my own place on the weekends, but mostly I don't care. This is probably because I know that I wouldn't actually be cleaning if we were at my place. (I prefer to do housework during the week and have my weekends free for relaxation.)

Maybe consider the fact that he is doing "house stuff" frequently as a good sign of how he'll be when you eventually move in together. If it really is just a matter of months, viewing it through that lens will help make you feel more comfortable about having him move in.
posted by asnider at 10:08 PM on February 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if you're missing out on doing chores like laundry, you probably just need to cut back on time at his place. I mean, if you're just sitting around with him while he cleans the stove . . . what's the point?
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:18 PM on February 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

Can you afford to offer the roomie a break on rent in exchange for keeping the cats out of one (or 2 depending on house size) designated cat-free rooms?
posted by cairdeas at 10:29 PM on February 23, 2012

Actually, it seems like there's an imbalance, here - if you're each spending about half your time at each other's places, yet he's doing household stuff when you're over at his place and you don't seem to be doing it when you're both at your place, then he's using "together time" to do individual stuff.

And maybe that's ultimately cool. But it means you either need to start doing your household stuff when he's over OR spend less time at his place so you can get your stuff done.

Anything else is just dodging the central issue and making it more complex rather than treating the cause.

I hope you can find a happy medium soon.
posted by batmonkey at 11:17 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I mean, if you're just sitting around with him while he cleans the stove . . . what's the point?

Sometimes when you're in love, even that can be pretty fun.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 11:22 PM on February 23, 2012 [9 favorites]

oh, wait - I meant start doing your household stuff when he's not over there. If you're already doing that, then you've got an obsessive loop going that might be best served with a different compromise with him. Which gives me the opportunity to say that I would ask him if he could save the stuff that's not completely urgent or necessary for the part of the week you're not around, since it is so limited.

If he won't do that, maybe consider his reasoning and apply that to how you're envisioning life as housemates going. It seems like good information to have for future decision-making.
posted by batmonkey at 11:23 PM on February 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Right now the relationship is imbalanced because more of his needs are being met than yours. Can the two of you think of some other needs you have that he could help you meet?

For instance, you could:

Bring your laundry over to his place so that you can get some done too (assuming that's the sort of relationship the two of you have).

Do grocery shopping together so that the time required for that chore is minimized.

Spend more of your quality time together away from both of your homes, and going to his place to sleep. You could try coffee shops, the library, museums, art galleries, hiking, parks...whatever works for you.

Also, it is worth considering the source of your resentment. Is it any of these?

You, as an individual, are over-scheduled, causing you to envy his ability to multitask. In this case, you might want to rethink your schedule and consider ways to lighten your load.

You worry that you are more into him than he is into you. You wish he would make more of an effort to show that he cares. Specifically, you wish he would focus on your time together or go out of his way to spend time with you. If this is a worry, you could think of some ways that would make you feel more valued and have a talk with him about them.

You are having a hard time with being in a state of limbo with respect to the seriousness of the relationship. You might have to take the risk of upsetting and losing a good roommate in order to live with him, and you want him to show that he understands that it's stressful. In this case, it would be good to just be honest and vulnerable with him about it.
posted by millions of peaches at 12:02 AM on February 24, 2012 [8 favorites]

sometimes i feel resentful of my SO because he spends most of his time here for similar reasons and then my place is always the one getting dirtied and needing cleaning. are you using that stove to cook meals and enjoy them together? if so, of course it needs cleaning. maybe you should have a conversation about how spending most of your time there affects your relationship generally, and let him talk too. you might find a few surprises.
posted by saraindc at 12:36 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

dating-someone-who-doesn't-drive thing

You don't really elaborate on this much. But if his not driving/having a car is a problem, you need to talk about this. He may be perfectly fine using public transportation to get to your place but maybe you just assumed that is too much trouble for him or too much to ask of him? It really isn't.

This is coming from someone who spent almost a decade without a car in a not-public-transport-friendly US city; of course some cities are worse than others. People who don't drive/own cars don't always view things as being as desperate and limiting as those who do. There is a reason he doesn't drive and he must have figured the downsides of it and how to deal with them- including dating. If he hasn't, he better do that now rather than be a pain in the butt for you. Do not become an enabler but do respect his choice and your needs.

People who do drive cars are often too hard on themselves and feel guilty for not somehow making the other party's life easier (some more than others). But at the end of the day, its a choice. Whether it is indeed financial is something you know in this situation but its not always financial.

Don't feel guilty about asking him if he could meet you half way and come over to your place half the time you get together. Maybe weekends suit him better? Maybe weeknights? If not, don't feel guilty about cutting short the time you spend together if you are becoming resentful. If he expects you to fit his lifestyle without making any changes, he is being unreasonable.
posted by xm at 3:40 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You don't have a relationship problem, you have a cat / allergic boyfriend / desktop computer problem. The relationship isn't broken, but pre-existing patterns in your life aren't working so well in the context of the relationship.

How can you tweak your habits and patterns so they will work better in the context of the relationship? millions of peaches had great suggestions. Bring your laundry over to the boyfriend's place, and pitch in a few bucks for soap and electricity there. Go shopping together. Get a laptop. Teach the boyfriend to drive, if that's somehow useful.

If your boyfriend won't work with you to find solutions to these logistical issues you're facing, THAT would be a relationship problem.
posted by jon1270 at 3:47 AM on February 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

Would it be possible to hang out sometimes at fun places that are not either person's house, so you don't feel resentful that he is getting work done and you're not? Or, as has been suggested up-thread, would it be possible for you to bring a little bit of laundry or some bills to your boyfriend's place to do together, if you know that he is going to need to do household tasks? My boyfriend and I live in different cities, and do this occasionally.

I have some similar logistics in my relationship and want to emphasize that allergies are a big deal and not something that the other person can change by being accommodating. I don't have cats at my own place but my parents do and I have to be really careful about when my boyfriend comes over there. One thing that does help is if he comes by after the house has been really carefully cleaned (I think his allergies are due more to the hair in the air than the cat); is it possible for you and your roommate to do a really thorough cleaning job once/week or hire someone together to vacuum the whole place sometimes?

I agree it doesn't make sense to get another roommate for 3 months. If everything else is going well, perhaps you can see if your boyfriend actually does want to move in 3 months from now, and just ride this out 'til then?
posted by mlle valentine at 5:00 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You say you think you're 3-6 months away from cohabitating, at which point the problem will be solved. In the grand scheme of things, this is practically no time at all, certainly not a time period that would necessarily justify some major life upheaval like requesting your roommate give up his cats or move out, or having a come-to-Jesus talk with the boyfriend.

Keeping in mind that this is not a forever situation should make it easier to let go of the resentment. Meanwhile, try a combination of the following:

Cut back a little bit on the time you spend with boyfriend, and use the time to get some of your own stuff done.

Spend some of the time with boyfriend away from both your places and enjoy some quality time rather than quantity time.

When you do go to his place, bring something portable to work on while you are there. Ideas:

Work on a knitting or crochet project
Bring along some mending (sounds so old fashioned, but buttons come loose and hems unravel even in this modern age!)
Balance your checkbook
Pay your bills (bring bills, checkbook, stamps, notebook )
Bring your mail along to open & sort
Create a mini-file out of an accordian folder and use it to organize your paperwork so it will be easier to file it for real when you get home
If you have email access on your phone, go through and delete old emails
Bring a basket of clean laundry to fold
Clean out your purse or tote
Update your To Do list
Make out your grocery list
Clip coupons, or sort through your coupon file
Organize loose recipes into a box or binder
Go through your unread magazines and clip any articles you want to save
Do your nails

Basically go through your apartment and group your supplies for various small chores into various portable containers (small tote, organizer/binder, shoebox, little basket) so you can grab a couple on your way out to go to his place.

Look into getting a laptop... I don't know your budget situation but I got mine for like $350 from Newegg so if that is doable for you it might be very worthwhile.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 8:02 AM on February 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd try to enlist him in the solution. Have you brought this up with him at all? I think you could bring it up in a non-accusatory way that emphasizes that you understand it's a situational difficulty rather than a difficulty caused by either of you doing something "wrong".

Something along the lines of you're frustrated by these factors of the situation, and you really want any resentment to build by not bringing it up or trying to find a solution. Can he help you brainstorm ideas that will ease the situation?

When I feel resentment building when I know that it's not the fault of the other person, it really helps me to let them know I'm frustrated and why, and to tell them that it's totally the situation and not them. Saying those words out loud to someone, "it's the situation I'm frustrated with and not you" helps me keep that line drawn in my own head, and prevents the resentment from building. Even if it's not a situation that either of us can do anything about, it's very helpful for me to acknowledge the feeling and vent about it a little bit together. And it gives the other person an opportunity to express their care and concern for me, and that makes me feel better. Just hearing them say "yeah, this situation is hard on you, how can I help you feel better?" does wonders for me.
posted by f_panda at 8:16 AM on February 24, 2012

Response by poster: Sorry, I guess my question wasn't clear. He DOES drive, neither of us have awful roommates, and neither of us live with our folks; I was just using those as possible examples for others to relate to my situation.

Anyways, for PhoBWanKenobi: when I first read your response, I had an angry reaction. I don't just "sit around" while he does chores; he is either multi-tasking, or I'm helping him (we cleaned the oven together AFTER cooking a meal, for example). But upon reflection: you're right. I get BORED there, sometimes. But I also get bored at my house, too. I guess the difference is that at MY house, I can throw on my running shoes and sweats, and go out for a spontaneous walk if I want. Or I can search MeFi for an hour. Or I can paint my nails, trim my split ends, shave my legs, do a facial mask ... he gets to do BOTH (spend time in my company, while doing personal things). See, there? That was the resentment.

You're also right where, after more than a year together, it's not all unicorns and moonbeams anymore. I DO like spending time with him, and I wish I saw him more often (we both have two jobs and, other than actual REM stage sleeping of 3x a week, we spend "active awake time" of approx 12-15 hours a week together). But I LIKE this new, more mature phase of our relationship, too! It's not as passionate or bing-bang-boom anymore, but it's nice, and subtle, and calm, and ... sometimes, boring. The kind of comfortable boring where we want to see each other AND do our laundry at the same time.

Reading though these responses, I really liked what asnider had to say. I hadn't thought of his actions as indications that he'll be a good mate (by paying bills on time, cleaning, etc). That's an excellent thought for me to keep in mind.

And perhaps I should spend less time at his place ... I guess I'm also realizing that I feel like I "know" him better than he knows me, because I've seen how he operates in private, when no one (other than me) is watching, but he's never seen ME do those same things.

Also: knitting is a GREAT idea, as is a laptop (which I had been considering, and since it's tax time, maybe that would be a good investment).

Thanks and please, keep 'em coming if you've got any advice!
posted by athena2255 at 8:42 AM on February 24, 2012

It sounds like you would at least be able to take a walk (get him to come along or go alone), surf metafilter (on his computer), bring some toiletries so you can paint your nails etc. right now. All the things you listed are doable in both places easily, so I would start by bringing those activities over to his house.
posted by Vaike at 8:50 AM on February 24, 2012

Best answer: I encroached. I spend Friday-Monday at my boyfriend's place, and he's come to mine about 5 times in our 10 months together. Granted, neither of us own, and even if he wasn't in a different city, his roommates would be more welcoming than mine.

If you're advancing as a couple to the point where you spend time around each other without being in the "relationship zone" (and frankly, it's a very good idea to get used to that BEFORE cohabitating) then give yourself a budget to create a 'home kit' at his place. A basket or so of your things that stay at his place. A netbook or knitting project would be great for this, since they are good for 5 or 10 minutes at a time, or longer as the case may be. If all that fits in your budget is a couple magazines and your brand of tea, fine, but agree with yourself that the 'comfort kit' will stay at his place so you always have something there to amuse yourself with.

A lot of other people are saying to focus on quality and reduce quantity, but I say use this as a training ground for becoming comfortable with being with him without him constantly focused on you.

If there is an issue with feeling like you're neglecting your life maintenance, consider giving yourself permission to relax your standards a bit (temporarily). When you're feeling resentful, take a minute to ask yourself what your priority is at that moment: hanging out with your boyfriend or chores. trust your answer and act on it.
posted by itesser at 8:51 AM on February 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

dating-someone-who-doesn't-drive thing

I don't have a car and dated someone for over a year who lived in the suburbs. We spent 95% of our time at my place because it made sense. So I understand the inequality issues you have. I think you need to bring it up and see how he feels about it, because although I felt guilty he claimed it was fine. If my boyfriend had asked me to I would have made more of an effort to take the train to his place, even though it was much more boring staying there for me.

Bring your own projects, stay at home more and explain why (you have stuff to get done), make plans to do things outside of both your homes and, lastly, talk to him so he understands that his is an issue for you.
posted by Bunglegirl at 8:54 AM on February 24, 2012

I don't drive and my SO spent more time at my place because it was so much easier for him to get here than it was for me to get there. Also, he didn't really have any furniture and I had a table, chairs etc. so it made more sense.

I guess I always was aware that he was helping me out this way so I tried to balance the relationship so that I was contributing in other ways to make up for my lack of contributing in this one. For instance:

- He really likes massages, so when he came over and spent the night, I always offered
- His favourite video game store was near my place, so I would look out for things he wanted
- He liked a certain product you could only get at a grocery store near me, so I kept him stocked
- Dust really bothers him so I made extra efforts to keep things clean

And so on. It felt less for both of us like 'I am making this big sacrifice because of them' when we were both doing it. So, you spend more time at his place. What is he doing for YOU?
posted by JoannaC at 7:37 AM on February 25, 2012

If you are at his place, and you are bored and want to go for a walk, get up and go for one. If he wants to come with, great. if not then go anyway.

This is just an example really.

In a way I mean get comfortable getting up and doing things without him while youre with him. I love the stage of a relationship when you can be in the same space without talking or necessarily interacting and being comfortable.
The cat allergy is extremely inhibiting, and generally sucks, i've been there. Cat free zones can work depending on how allergic someone is but it sounds like his allergies are pretty bad. And like you will be doing alot of cleaning ,without him, before he moves in to your place. (im assuming) As he would feel terrible and resentful if you had him clean in a place that was toxic to him.
If you talk to him, its probably just as frustrating to him, and that alone with probably make you feel better.

If he has a computer and you want to browse the internet, ask him to setup a username for you. A lot of people even in relationship together for long amounts of time view their computers as one of their most private spaces. Most operating systems can have multiple log ins. Then he can keep his stuff private and you can still browse the internet, check things, pay bills etc.
posted by misformiche at 8:48 AM on March 4, 2012

You may feel less resentful if you realize you're allowed to make choices.

Do you feel obligated to spend so much time at his house? If you're meeting for dinner and he's going to do laundry while the dinner bakes, why not just arrange to leave for his place a half an hour later, or something. Spend less time with each other - you don't HAVE to be attached at the hip.

....if, on the other hand, you WANT to be attached at the hip, then do the same thing. He pays bills and does laundry? Why can't you? Bring your laundry with you occasionally (check with him first of course - "oh man, I want to come over tonight....but I have a ton of laundry - mind if I bring over a load and let it run while we watch the movie?")? Pay your bills - bring your laptop or borrow his (maybe ask him for a separate user logon) or if they're paper, just bring a folder.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 4:43 PM on June 25, 2012

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