My partner and I have lived together for 8 out of the 13 years we’ve been together. We waited a long time to move into a place because we decided years before that we wanted to buy and not rent. Obviously moving in with each other is a massive step — moving in with each other and sharing a mortgage is even bigger. But it worked from day one because we were 100% on the same page. Everything was discussed and agreed upon and double checked and then discussed some more. We got a few strong reactions when we announced we had found a place — shock, apprehension, the unwarranted warnings of “what if you break up?” (because we’re not married, and obviously married people never break up. Insert eye roll here) — but we were certain that five years of building a solid foundation was sufficient for this huge step. And it was.
Below are pieces of “advice” or concepts that tend to come up for couples who live together. They’re also pieces of “advice” or concepts that we dodge.
1. Always kiss me goodnight/Never go to bed angry
Two familiar platitudes that fall under the same category — the idea of making everything fine and dandy (when it’s not) before the next day. Why does the issue or argument need to be resolved before falling asleep?
The pressure of making everything okay by the end of the night puts an immense amount of pressure on the relationship by stifling real conversation and emotional exploration.
Instead of stuffing the problem between the coils of the mattress, take time to not kiss and make-up and allow the argument to settle, allow clear-headed thoughts to filter through and pick up where you left off the next day, and the day after that, and the day after that (if it’s really necessary) to sort it out properly. Don’t base the resolution of your issues on the setting of the sun.
2. Assigning chores, projects and daily expectations based on gender
No, it’s not a piece of advice, but it seems to be a thing. In a time when gender stereotypes are becoming less common and are being called out for the nonsense that they are, I still come across a lot of couples who use these statements for describing household chores. Most of the time they’re put in cutesy ways, like it’s a blue job for boys and a pink job for girls, but the mentality behind it is still the same — that some chores are made for women and some are made for men.
This concept bothers me more in the sense of it influencing children (and less in the sense of one person being lazy/not wanting to do a particular job and so they title it as the other gender’s responsibility).
I don’t want our daughter to think that she can’t (or shouldn’t have to) take out the garbage or wash the car, nor do I want our son to think he can’t (or shouldn’t have to) cook dinner or plant flowers.
Every household project and chore has involved both of us. It’s not always an equal assignment of who does what, but at the end of the day we’ve equally put in time and effort. We’ve renovated and remodeled an entire apartment — and no, I didn’t just pick out the design and he didn’t just install it. We did it all together, we agreed on the design and we both got our hands dirty. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
3. Joking around will make the relationship feel more like a friendship
This isn’t explicitly spoken about, but there’s a weird underlying rule that jokes should be exclusive to friendships/joking around too much will turn you into roommates instead of lovers. This perception stems back to some highly sexist ideas that women aren’t funny and, even more insulting, that women shouldn’t be funny — at least not funnier than the man in a heterosexual relationship.
But my goal in life is to make my partner, Shane, laugh.
And I hope his goal is to make me laugh too.
The belief that joking around kills romance was said by someone who couldn’t tell nor take a joke. Humor is extremely attractive. In my opinion, there is nothing better than having inside jokes with the person you love; a moment when you share a look indicating the same comical thought in mind is priceless and intimate.
4. Checking each other’s phones, emails and knowing passwords
I’ve never looked through Shane’s phone, email or social media accounts. Ever. And as far as I know, Shane has never looked through mine. I could’ve if I wanted to, and he could’ve if he wanted to, but we haven’t. I’m not saying that in thirteen years I’ve never been tempted, especially in the beginning of our relationship, but if I feel the need to spy on him, to invade his electronic space, to know exactly who is commenting on his pictures or texting him, that means I don’t trust him. And if I don’t trust him, that’s a huge issue.
Having access to all of his accounts, and vice versa, isn’t going to make our relationship better or stronger.
If I sit down to do something on the computer and his email is left open, I close it without a second thought. If Shane needs something from my purse, he’ll bring it to me so I can rifle through it. If we need to use each other’s phones for whatever reason, we always ask first.
None of these habits were ever enforced or demanded, they were simply performed out of respect. When we moved in together, it didn’t change. If anything, we respect each other’s privacy even more now that we share all other space.
Out of the anti-advice I’ve listed here, I want to stress the importance of communication.
If my partner and I hadn’t spent a large portion of our time living apart discussing our future living together, I doubt it would’ve gone so smoothly. And just to be extra clear, talking about it doesn’t mean romanticizing it, because even though moving in together is intimate and lovely, it’s also a shock to the system. You’ll have to learn to share all over again, and you’ll have to tweak your routine. Change can be great, if you want it.