In TMRW’s “My First” series, we highlight true stories from readers who open up about the pivotal moments in their lives — from their first jobs to their first breakups and more — and what they learned from these personal milestones.
There are three big questions that get asked in long-term relationships:
- I love you. Do you love me, too?
- Are you ready to meet my family?
- Are we going to move in together?
Each question is a little more anxiety-inducing than the one that came before. After dating for five years, my boyfriend and I had already answered the first two questions when we started to contemplate the third.
When we realized that our leases were simultaneously coming to an end, it felt like a no-brainer to me that we'd transition into the next phase of our relationship. Still, I remember being taken aback by a comment my boyfriend made one day while we were lying in bed watching a movie at my apartment. The comment included the assumption that we would be living together the following fall and I was shocked that he thought I would be along for the ride without any discussion.
This felt like the natural time to start a conversation about moving in together, but our chat felt clunky and a little uncomfortable. Honestly, we seemed to disagree more than I expected. Expectations, budget, household responsibilities and my dog all came into play. At first I was concerned, but after taking time to really talk through what our nonnegotiables were, we realized that the “big” things were very much in alignment. Sometimes these conversations don't go as romantically as you may have dreamed but hey, life isn’t a movie!
As we continued to explore the idea, I received a boatload of advice from friends, family and anyone else who couldn't help but stick in their two cents. “It’s about time,” was a recurring theme from my closest friends. “Wow! That’s a big commitment,” was another comment that seemed to continually pop up. (Thanks, Captain Obvious.) Another irritating reaction went something like, “Well, I guess this will really show if he’s the one or not.”
All of this buzz was less than reassuring, to say the least. It seemed like everyone had an opinion or a horror story to share, but I had to stay true to what felt right to me, my boyfriend, Chris, and the relationship that we had grown.
I can’t lie: The idea of actually cohabiting after dating for five years had me reeling with a combination of euphoria and terror. I've never lived with a boyfriend before and most of my roommate experiences in college were less than comfortable. As an only child I never really had to share a living space with someone for an extended period of time. Still, we had spent so much time together in each other’s separate apartments — how different could it be?
Well, the thing is, there is a difference between spending time together and living together. The video games and open beer cans from his apartment are now in my apartment and my makeup and candles are now in his. No matter what the circumstances, you are in it together.
The big merger took place in October 2019. I emphasize the word merge because taking two small New York City apartments chock-full of stuff and attempting to strategically place it in a smaller apartment can be taxing. The Marie Kondo method became my new way of life. Aside from the stresses of navigating a moving company and a first-floor walk-up, we survived, and if I'm being completely honest, it was exciting. Pretending that we were Chip and Joanna Gaines in our tiny one-bedroom was just a dream in itself.
The big move was complete and we had a plan to set up the apartment. Then, reality set in. I was living with a man. Suddenly, grocery shopping, laundry and using the bathroom felt different. There was no escaping each other or hiding things that are less than perfect. Our priorities went from romantic date nights to cleaning the bathroom together and waiting for the super to fix a lightbulb. We started to learn quickly how we react to each other during the good, the bad and the ugly.
The good: We planned dinners and prepared them together. We sent “family” Christmas cards with matching outfits. We became instant co-parents of my fur child, Cannoli, a miniature schnauzer rescue.
The bad and sometimes ugly: my side of the closet that overflows and gives my boyfriend “anxiety.” His tendency to keep "SportsCenter" on 24/7 as background noise. Plus, the stereotype that women are tidier than men was busted about two weeks into living together.
How did we navigate these “bumps in the road"? By talking and laughing our way through it. If something bugged him, he told me, and I did the same. We soon learned what our new boundaries were and how to keep some mystery alive.
What did I learn after a few months? There is always going to be something to learn and talk through. There is always going to be something to laugh about. Together we develop as we go because there is no foolproof way to “win” at living together for the first time.
Moving in was a sign of commitment that required an open mind and an open heart. It may not always be sunshine and roses but surviving life with a partner who completes me is worth every twist and turn.
As for relationship question No. 3 — mission accomplished.