To back up first, I talk a little here about our decision to move together (one we made after only about 2 months of dating, though we wouldn't actually live together until 10 months into our relationship). We'll be the first to admit, our relationship moved fast in those ways, but it was the only decision that would have made sense for us (financially, practically, emotionally). I talk about that a little more here. Moving in together is a personal decision that every couple has to make on their own. I cannot say it would be right for everyone, but I truly believe it was and is the best decision we could have made.
We've easily been able to make co-habitation work for us, and it felt like a logical and natural progression in our relationship. And if I had to sum up our lives here in one word? Perfect. Not that every instant is perfect, but us being here, together, everyday, that part feels perfect.
We settled in nicely here. After one month, it finally dawned on me we were really staying. After three months, I had Midland pretty figured out and felt quite at home here and with our situation. And now? After six months, it just feels like one of our many homes. I suppose the word "our" there is key. At some point in all of this, in my mind, I stopped thinking in terms of "me," and started thinking about "us." I should add though, I still have a healthy sense of self, and I make sure to not lose sight of myself (more on that in a minute), but now I just consider Brendan in every decision I make.
So, how did living together change "us"? Honestly, it didn't really feel like there were these huge, significant changes. I think we are just closer in new ways. Moving in cemented us as true partners in everything we go though. This is our home base, the place where we are both safe, comfortable, and happy. We work together more as a team now in order to make decisions about most aspects of our lives (from how we decorated our apartment, to how and when we spend money, to what we're having for dinner). Maybe it was because we lived together with my parents this summer, but actually being with each other all the time didn't feel like an adjustment to me. As for annoyances that come with the territory of sharing space? There really aren't big ones on either side. We both take on an equal share of housework etc. and we both mesh in terms of our philosophies about how home should feel.
To be a little more specific, there are some things we did to make living together work for us. For people considering moving in, I think there is a lot to keep in mind.
Where to live: First of all, the fact that we found a space new to both of us I think was important. It was no one's territory prior to move in day, so we made it our space. Plus, decorating a place together is fun and involves perfecting compromising skills.
Money Matters: We opened a joint account, and for us, that made life 100% easier. Every couple has to come to terms with how they will manage money. For us, we each put in 50% of our income into a joint account. We only use that money to pay for rent, bills, groceries, and occasional entertainment (like going to a museum or dining out). We have the other half of our income for our own needs: clothes, lunches with friends, paying for our own bills, loans, gas, etc. For us, this solution works great (and makes checking out at the grocery store way easier than when we paid with two different cards).
Talk About It: Every decision we make, we discuss first. Will we teach in the summer? Where will we spend spring break? What do our summer plans look like? When will we go see friends? What are we making for dinner? Talking and listening are equally important. I always listen to Brendan's views, and often, I change my mind because I realize he's right about something!
Divide and Conquer (Chores): Brendan and I really are the same when it comes to cleaning. We do little things each day (typically he does dishes, I do laundry and general straightening up, and we both take turns cooking) and go on big cleaning sprees on the weekends. We do all the grocery shopping (and 3 flights of stairs carrying) together. We recently decided to hire someone to clean our place every other week, so we won't have to stress about all the little cleaning details we sometimes don't have time to get to (like dusting the ceiling fans, yeah, that never seems to happen!).
On Pets: I have two amazing cats, Lola and Zoe, that I had prior to the relationship. Brendan shares in helping me care for them (he usually feeds them because he goes to bed last, and night feedings prevent them from waking us up in the middle of the night). Brendan enjoys having them as pets, and loves having them around to play with. I still take on the bulk of the financial responsibility for them though (like buying food and paying for vet visits), though Brendan always offers to help, I just feel better about maintaining that responsibility on my own. We may one day get a pet together, but that day is far off until we have a much bigger space, and Lola and Zoe are happy to be the only pets.
Give Each Other Space: We are lucky because our work schedules are such that we are allowed to have our own time at home alone (for instance, Brendan has Tuesdays off, while I have Thursdays off). When we are here together, Brendan might be working in the office, while I am working in the living room. Often, we are in the same room but both occupied with work. I don't think either of us ever feels crowded.
Maintain Your Sense of Self: I said earlier, I still feel like it is important to maintain my own independent life (even though Brendan is a big part of who I am). I have made making my own circle of friends here a huge priority, and I have activities that I enjoy doing on my own, like book club and yoga classes. Brendan is less social than me by nature, but he still has his own writing life and friends he hangs out with on his own (good for sports watching).
Make Mutual Friends: There are a few couples in town we are friends with, and we also have our friends the Shews, who only live 2 hours away. I think that having other couple friends to do things with is important to any relationship. We also still both actively maintain our mutual friendships from Lake Charles, and we're starting to get to know and become friends with each other's friends from prior to the relationship.
Well, that's a look at how we make it work. Before I could end the post though, I had to ask Brendan "What do you think moving in together changed the most about our relationship?" He sighed, thought about it for a minute and said, "Without getting too much into it, I think we have a greater sense of responsibility to each other." I smiled because those were my thoughts exactly.
We hope this essay helps anyone who is considering making the move. Questions? We'll be happy to answer them. We're still looking for questions for our second edition of He Said/She Said, so just email them to us at LolaAndZoeBlog@gmail.com
<3 S, B, L&Z
P.S.- A friendship is the best foundation you can give any relationship. If you're going to live with someone, make sure you are best friends! That closeness will make everything so much easier. I love to look back at pictures from when we were "just pals," like this one from May 2010. It is so funny to think how much a little time can change things!
And also how much things stay the same...