Monday, October 25, 2010

An Ode to Living Together

It's my two-year wedding anniversary! So in celebration, I thought I would share our living together story. I was reminded of this weighty issue/debate when I saw this article on Shine.

For various reasons, when I met Scott I was adamant that I would never move in with a guy until we’d been together for 6 months. It was arbitrary in some ways, but also based on experience. I was comfortable with the decision right up until I got a notice from my apartment that they were raising my rent. This notice coincided with my third complaint to the management about my neighbors who were European college students obsessed with playing techno and smoking pot at 3 a.m. And about month 4 of our relationship.

It took a lot of convincing and negotiation on Scott’s part to get me to move in with him. And even when I did, I did so on a trial basis. So a month before my apartment lease was up, I moved about half of my stuff into his 700 square food condo.

The trial rules went something like this: if this doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean we break up, it means we don’t live together. That’s it. There’d be no hard feelings on either side, and neither of us felt pressure. I always thought I was kind of weird, putting so many parameters on our relationship and living situation, until I read the Shine article.

I can’t say for sure these things are what led to us getting married, but it’s nice to know that we handled the living together situation in the “right” way according to the experts at Yahoo.

The rules go like this, according to the article.

  1. Bite the bullet and define the situation. We didn’t put any expectations on our living together. It wasn’t contingent on “you ask me to marry you in x amount of months” or any long-term arrangement. We both knew that there was nothing keeping us in this arrangement. Maybe there’s some element of fantasy to that. Scott has occasionally joked that the trial period was our “best behavior period,” but we both agreed on what worked for us. 
  2. Have the money talk. There were inklings in my relationship early with Scott that he could be THE ONE. But when he sat me down and asked me to list all my expenses and talk about our credit scores, I knew then and there I was going to marry that man. I had been in a previous relationship for YEARS only to find out when we went to buy a house that he had a credit score of 400. I assumed since he always paid in cash that he had a good money flow, I had no idea he paid in cash because he had no credit.
  3. Consider a cohab agreement. We didn’t do this, it wasn’t necessary for our arrangement because all my stuff was in a storage locker and we didn’t purchase any big items together. But it does make sense.
  4. Assign jobs. This is a continuous work in progress, I will admit. Especially when you have a baby and work at home. When we were in the small condo, we both tried to do a decent job of cleaning up after ourselves. There was an incident where I turned the toaster oven on with bread on top of it and forgot to clean up the mess. And I about crawled out of the window the first time I spilled red wine on the carpet. But he loved me enough to overlook that, and I chose to overlook a few of his shortcomings. Now things are more difficult. There are certain unfair expectations of people who work at home, I think. The bulk of the domestic chores go to me because of timing and accessibility. It seems like it should be easy for me to throw a load of laundry in or plan dinners because I’m home to do so. But I’m also at home for a purpose, and my clients don’t care that the baby is sleeping in jammies a size too small for her because I didn’t get a chance to throw her laundry in the dryer. They want their work done. Now try to explain that to someone who goes out and works with his hands and has a physically demanding job and you’re met with that Bridget Jones discussion of “fannying about with the press releases.” But the important thing is to keep talking about it, and keep setting expectations because there is nothing worse than a big blowup fight that’s ultimately about washing dishes.
  5. Practice the C word. That’s compromise, you dirty rascals. This one was difficult for me in earlier relationships because I am a strong personality and I know what I want. And often times, I know I’m right, too. So to have to sit back and consider someone else’s view is so difficult. But the first argument Scott and I had where we did compromise, I felt this amazing calm and peace. Like “oh that was it? Really?” I expected the world to come tumbling down around me, crushing me under the weight of his sheer wrong-ness, when in fact through give and take, I still got to be right and so did he! Magic.
  6. Keep your space. There’s some weird phenomena with couples, sometimes, where all of a sudden the “we” carries over to every part of their lives. It becomes worse when you have kids. Scott and I decided early on this would not happen. Do we occasionally cancel or say no to plans because we’re doing something for Wee ‘Burb, or because doing something for Wee ‘Burb has exhausted us and made us unfit for public viewing? Yup, sure do. But since we moved in together, neither of us has EVER said no when the other asks for a night out. I love the man, but I totally need my space. And so does he! My parents have been married over 40 years and once I asked my mom the secret and she said “dart night.” Twice a week my dad goes out and plays darts with friends and my mother sits home and reads the paper. The nights that Scott goes out, I usually put Wee ‘Burb down, open a bottle of wine, and watch what I want on Tivo. It’s domestic bliss at it’s best. And yes, I am turning into my mother. Hi, Mom!
  7. Plan for attack. You have to accept there’s going to be fights. This was hard for me because when I moved in with Scott, we hadn’t had THE FIGHT yet. You know what I mean, right? The fight where you all of a sudden figure out who this person is that you think you love? Sometimes what you find out ruins the relationship, and for me more often than not I would hold on 3 months longer so we could keep having that fight. So by the time I was moving in, I was bracing for it. And it came. And it went with a high five. Seriously, I married a man who high-fived me after a fight. But honestly we were both so relieved to have it over and to realize we could agree to disagree without name-calling or pouting or running away. It made me feel solid and cared for in a really weird way.
  8. Don't forget to flirt. Here’s the quote from the article: “After sharing colds and bedbugs, domestic life has a way of luring you back into the friendly old sweats you shuffled around when you were single.” Oh, dear. I am so guilty of this now! When I moved in with Scott and worked in an office, I would redo my makeup in the garage before walking in the door. I would NEVER leave feminine products in his sight or allow him to see my stash of worn-out sports bras. I had cutesy pajamas. Now? Well let’s just say there’s little mystery left, especially after having a baby. I wear my college Red Sox shirt that’s filled with holes to bed. But we still do big things like date night, and little things like setting the coffee pot for him, or getting up with the baby so I can sleep in a little longer. Hey, that’s flirting when you’re married with kids…those of you single young’uns out there enjoy the hell out of what you have now, promise me!

 Have you ever lived with someone before you got hitched? Did you have rules like this, or follow any of these?


Kristen said...

I lived with my hubs before getting married, we did for a little over 3 years before finally tying the knot. And we moved in really quickly, like maybe 2 months? Not proud of that but hey it turned out okay! Your posts crack me up, you remind me a lot of myself! I too find it hard to compromise, especially when I'm always right!!!! lol And my favorite clothes around the house, either my flannel pants (xmas ones I might add) or the husband's old high school football shorts, and a big baggy t-shirt!

Anonymous said...

Followed you back from my blog.

I have to say, I enjoyed this post. I think that the same rules apply; regardless of if you live together before marriage, or after it. When AMP and I got married and moved in together, learning to compromise was a huge thing – and something we always work at. :)

Glad I hopped over.. I’ll be back!

kathryn said...

You're a very smart lady, you know. Usually, I think couples aren't as practical about their living arrangement and that's where they run into problems. And you had the money talk! You know that you had a keeper with this man!
And hey, turning into your mom can be a GREAT thing! My mom was THE BEST.
I think once you're married and with kids, "flirting" takes on a different meaning. It's about being good to each other...and not taking the marriage for granted, as if you don't have to make any effort 'cause you're bound together by this child.
Does that make any sense?

Stephanie in Suburbia said...

Glad people found this truthful and interesting. And that you all don't think I'm a total mental freak for doing all the planning/preparing.

Kathryn: makes total sense to me. I like the practicality of relationships :)

Kristy said...

We lived together first. We did have a sit-down conversation about who was going to do what in the house, and I really do think that it helped to do that.