Living together hints?
September 22, 2005 2:43 AM   Subscribe

Tips for a couple moving in together? What do you wish you had known when taking this step?

I've been with my boyfriend for about two years, and for the whole time we've been 100 miles apart (this is Britain; that's a long way). I work from home and am therefore mobile; we want to be together; therefore I am moving into his flat. I'm quite excited about this. It's not a tiny flat, but he's lived in it for a few years and has filled it - so we will both have to throw some stuff out.

So I want your tips - how to share space? How to sort out who does what? And for those who have one partner working from home, how to prevent the whole burden of domestic chores falling on that partner (particularly as I'm a procrastinator and will end up doing all the cleaning if it puts off a job)? Neither of us have lived with a partner before. I don't mind if the toilet seat is left up.

Also practical tips for how to get rid of accumulated stuff would be most welcome! Thanks.
posted by altolinguistic to Human Relations (27 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

Sometimes it might be difficult to make a place feel like your own unless there are some of your personal touches. I take it, you would be sharing the bedroom, maybe you could start by buying some new linen together.

Don't make drastic changes initially, or throw things out, if you have storage space such as a garage, consider storing things until you both settle in together, then decide what you would both liked to keep.

I think exclusive space for certain things such as personal items is a necessity, general household items - might be more practical to have in shared spaces.

Getting rid of stuff, depends on what it is, try ebay, secondhand bookstores & furniture stores, ask family and friends it they have a use for it, consider charity drives.

Sharing chores, talk about it before you move in...don't stress, good luck and have fun.
posted by Chimp at 3:52 AM on September 22, 2005

I don't know if this is an option for you, but I'd suggest you think about finding a new (different) apartment together, rather than moving into *his* place. That way, your stuff isn't displacing his stuff and you can establish a sense of place, and routines, based on neutral territory. This goes beyond just stuff - it's about you having some standing.

(Both of you having to move may also help you confront the stuff/clutter issue - it's the perfect opportunity to prune. I've always wanted to do what they do on "Clean Sweep" [I think you have "Life Laundry" in Britain]: take all your stuff and put it outside on the lawn; look at it and decide if it's keep or toss, then put the keep pile back in a way that's logical.)

Re housework, it might be worth having an informal conversation over breakfast one day, to figure out what chores you each like/don't mind doing and what you really hate. My husband doesn't "see"/mind clutter or mess, so it falls on me to point it out. I'm not crazy about taking the mom role, but he responds well to choices: "Do you want to load or unload the dishwasher" or "Would you rather sweep the kitchen or put away the laundry."

But a lot of living together is just living: getting used to each other's routines and disgusting habits; learning what bugs you and what you can work around. Lots of compromise, a fair amount of biting your tongue. When people ask my husband how we've managed to stay married so long, he says, "Pick your battles."

Good luck!
posted by SashaPT at 3:58 AM on September 22, 2005

I wish I had known how to search the archives.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 4:37 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: [thanks, TPSH - my search was too cursory - good stuff there]
posted by altolinguistic at 4:52 AM on September 22, 2005

I had more trouble with roommates than I ever did with my husband - living with him is certainly much easier than when we lived in different countries and I was living without him.

Certainly we just naturally get along well, but there's also just a lot of compromise and trial and error involved.

My only tip would be not to ever sleep on the couch out of anger : always resolve the problem rather than running away. Although, sleeping on the couch because the other party has a nasty stomach virus... now that's perfectly acceptable.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:07 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Don't have a TV in the bedroom.
posted by skylar at 5:50 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Make sure you get yourself some space - a life outside of the relationship.

When moving in with someone, it's all very tempting and easy to just forget about life outside of your apartment - especially if you'll be working from home.

You need to make sure you have a social life outside of the relationship and that you are not totally reliant on your other half.

I just moved from one end of England to the other (about 300miles) to be with my partner. I chose the option of a separate flat - but maybe that's because I'm so used to my independence. It HAS stopped me relying totally on my partner though, which is a blessing, as that kind of reliance can put an awful strain on a relationship.

Good luck!
posted by lemonpillows at 6:20 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Don't have a TV in the bedroom.

Good advice, same deal with the computer, put it outside the bedroom. Tapping keys are annoying when someone is trying to sleep.
posted by splatta at 6:24 AM on September 22, 2005

Until you both move to a different place together you may always feel like it's his place and you're just a guest. I had that problem when I moved into my wife's place when we got married. Even if most of the stuff is his, try to establish some space that is yours. Your own personal touch, things you like, etc. Even if it's something as simple as you getting to decorate the bathroom or the kitchen however you want.

Don't sweat the small stuff. It's not worth it. And there WILL be a lot of small stuff. Someone probably doesn't hang up their towels when they're done, things like that. Have some humor about it, discuss it rationally, and give each other time to "fix" certain annoying behaviors.

As someone else said, never go to bed angry. Try to resolve any arguments before bed. Nothing is worse than trying to sleep next to someone when you have more to say.

Don't feel like sleeping on the couch is the worse thing in the world. If someone is snoring and the other needs to get to sleep, one of you should leave the bed. There's nothing wrong with it. It took us a year to get used to the idea and now sometimes I prefer to sleep there if it means sleeping better.

Divide up the chores and alternate weeks. It's easier than getting into arguments about who always ends up cleaning the bathroom. Also, try to find some chores you can do together.

As tempting as it may be, don't ever snoop.

Most importantly, and I tell this to all my friends before they get married, when living together starts causing stress, go take a walk or find a quiet place and remember why you decided to live together in the first place. Put things in perspective. You dig each other, realize that's a million times more significant than the cap on the toothpaste or the socks on the floor.
posted by bondcliff at 6:25 AM on September 22, 2005 [3 favorites]

Don't overlook the financial implications of the move. You need to establish clearly your mutual understanding of how the bill are going to be paid, whether or not you will share resources or if each is responsible for paying certain bills, if you will set up joint bank accounts, etc. You should do this prior to the merger to avoid any problems that are going to creep in anyways.
posted by archimago at 7:03 AM on September 22, 2005

For dividing up household tasks, including laundry and dishes and cleaning, you might want to make a simple game of chance. If he likes to gamble, maybe it will give him a little thrill to try to beat the house(cleaning) and you. Also -- and this is important -- it won't ever be you asking (reminding, telling, nagging) him to clean up, it will be his own good or bad luck that decides what he has to do that day. Make sure that it's seen as very dishonorable to go back on a household gambling debt.

So: try making up something with dice and cards, and try to figure out the odds of the game so that rooms will be cleaned frequently enough and will be cleaned, on average, by both of you equally.

You could make a card for each cleaning task, or maybe a card per room, and use these cards to decide what will get cleaned that day. Every day, draw a card or two or three, depending on how you divide up all the tasks. Some tasks will be easy and some will be hard -- that's part of the fun, seeing whether it's going to be washing the dishes or cleaning the cat box or picking up in room X or whatever. After the tasks for the day are chosen, roll dice to see who has to do them. If you divide the tasks up properly, everything will be done frequently enough.

Make a rule for delaying a task so you can always postpone a delayable task one day but at a cost, such as having to pull an extra task card from the deck. On a day he wants to avoid doing the dishes, he can postpone them until the next day, but he might end up also cleaning the cat box (in addition to the normal day's tasks).

Also, it might help to make sure the task cards list everything that has to be done. "Kitchen (general): clear away and wipe all surfaces, including stove, then sweep and mop the floor." "Bathroom: sweep and mop floor; clean shower, toilet, and sink." "Laundry: wash one load, remove from machine, hang up to draw." "Dishes: wash all dirty dishes, cutlery, and pots in the house, then clean the stove top and counter." "Cooking: make dinner tonight." "Shopping: make list (with partner), then go get everything." "Cat box: change cat box, then sweep and mop cat box area."

And maybe put some prize cards into the deck, such as a "Get out of one task" card you could keep and use if you drew a task you can't face. A "You get a back rub" card would of course obligate the other one to give a back rub.
posted by pracowity at 7:07 AM on September 22, 2005 [3 favorites]

Alternatively: get household help if you can afford it :) You'll save a lot of stupid arguments.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:20 AM on September 22, 2005

This same topic has been one that I've struggled with also. My SO of several years owns a home, as do I. We're both fully stocked, and then some.
The problem comes in that he doesn't want to leave his place and I don't want to live in the same home he shared with his wife. I'd much rather, as someone suggested, start out with OUR place, rather than his place that I somehow figure out how to fit in to.
If one person is not willing to budge, is there any viable solution?
My advice to the OP would be whereas you want things to be comfortable for you, keep in mind that someone else lives there also. Don't discount his likes and style. Compromise is the key. Ask which chores he likes and which ones he doesn't and work together on the ones you both don't like but need to be done just the same.
Relax and have fun! This is a huge step for both of you!
Good Luck!!
posted by SoftSummerBreeze at 7:22 AM on September 22, 2005

Sharing a bed is not easy.
posted by waldo at 7:22 AM on September 22, 2005

Alternatively: get household help if you can afford it :) You'll save a lot of stupid arguments.

This is completely true.
posted by I Love Tacos at 7:31 AM on September 22, 2005

Invest in a precious cache of ex libris labels for your books, and go crazy...
posted by naxosaxur at 7:57 AM on September 22, 2005

Alternatively: get household help if you can afford it :) You'll save a lot of stupid arguments.

Even if you can't afford it -- this is money well spent, relationship-wise.
posted by spilon at 8:03 AM on September 22, 2005

I wish I had known that my husband really doesn't feel the need to do anything but go to work and come home. That is, when we were just seeing each other, we would meet for dinner, movie, go out to a bar, whatever.... but once we moved in and were around each other all the time, I discovered he rarely suggests going out or finds interesting things to do. I still do, and he doesn't "mind" per se, but it's hard not to think I'm just being placated.
posted by scratch at 8:08 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

Set aside a space that is only yours, and have him set aside a space that is only his. Even if it's just half a room each, I've found this to be the single most important thing.
posted by trevyn at 9:13 AM on September 22, 2005

Don't play with your lives. Get married. When both of you commit to the relationship, everything else will fall into place.
posted by Faze at 9:20 AM on September 22, 2005

If, at any time, you realize that you're making a big mistake by moving in together, move out. Don't think you have to stay together just because you've planned to (or have already) moved in together. I'm not talking about cold feet -- I'm talking about where you've realized you're making a major mistake. Of course, if you realize this, you do owe your SO an explanation.
posted by acoutu at 9:48 AM on September 22, 2005

Let each other continue to grow.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:18 AM on September 22, 2005

And make a commitment to communicate honestly and openly.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:19 AM on September 22, 2005

There's so much to say, so I'll say this:
Make sure that some of the utilities are in his name, some in yours, for when you need to show off a phone bill to prove local residency for some idiot thing or another.
posted by Aknaton at 11:48 AM on September 22, 2005 [1 favorite]

If he owns the flat, or if the tenancy agreement is in just his name, be aware that you have absolutely no legal entitlement to be there and he can ask you to leave at any time if it doesn't work out between you.

There is no such thing in the UK as a 'common law marriage' and you acquire no legal status merely by living together.

I agree with the suggestions that getting a place together (if living in his place seems to work) is a good idea; make a home together, love each other and enjoy your life with him :-)
posted by essexjan at 3:14 PM on September 22, 2005

Decide that you want to be together more than you want to be apart.

Remember this decision when you are so mad that you want to say hurtful things.
posted by Sheppagus at 3:17 PM on September 22, 2005 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: thanks everyone - no plans to get married just at the moment, though we certainly are committed to one another (thanks for the suggestion though Faze). Essexjan, I know about the 'common law marriage' myth - it is his flat, and I know I have no rights to it, but at present I don't own any property so if it does all go wrong I'll be in no worse position than I am now. The plan is, if all goes well, to look for somewhere bigger together.

naxosaxur - you have no idea how pertinent your comment is...
posted by altolinguistic at 4:02 PM on September 22, 2005

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