Should You Live Together?

So, you’ve reached the point where you can’t stand to be apart. Congratulations! Just one thing: Figure out the fine print before you break out the bubble wrap.

By C. Brian Smith

ommy and I dated for eight years before moving in together.

Four months later, we moved out.

How could two people be together for eight years and then suddenly break up mere months after sharing the same address? It may sound obvious, but living
With no second apartment to escape to, the sticking points became magnified.
under the same roof is a lot different from sleeping over at each others’ houses. Sure, Tommy and I had “issues” before we had the same set of keys. But with no second apartment to escape to, the sticking points became magnified. Suddenly, Tommy thought I had poor organizational skills (he called it “being a slob”). I thought he woke up way too early (he called it “having a job”). Remote controls became weapons and unpaid phone bills became ransom notes. It quickly got ugly.

So no matter how well your relationship seems to be going, here are some points to consider before you call the moving company.

Beware of the hidden costs of shared living.
True, you will most likely save hundreds of dollars by splitting the rent or mortgage payments. That type of financial satisfaction might add a wonderful glow to your already beaming relationship. But remember: This is a slightly bigger deal than carpooling. Be sure to consider the non-monetary “hidden” costs of living together. For instance, one of my favorite things to do on weekend mornings is play the harmonica for a couple hours. Guess what Tommy’s least favorite thing to do on weekend mornings became? Listening to me practice the harmonica. How important is it to come home to an empty apartment, just the way you left it? If one of the reasons for shacking up is to save a few bucks, I’d suggest skipping that second beer and considering a second job, because if you move in to save money, you’ll pay for it later—one way or another.

Did you both learn how to share in nursery school?
Remember when you were five and you screamed at your best friend, “That’s my Big Wheel!”? Well, replace “my” with “ours” and replace “big wheel” with “everything you own.” And replace that exclamation point with a smile. You are going to have to learn (or re-learn) how to share, and you’ll have to do so immediately. So make room on “our” leather couch so “we” can tune into “our” plasma TV and share that bottle of wine “we’ve” been saving for five years.

You know how hot your boyfriend looks when you go out? He doesn’t look that way all the time. (And neither do you.)
There are times when I don’t even want my dog to look at me. There isn’t much that’s sexy about acne cream, and
There are few things as devastatingly frustrating as an empty roll of toilet paper.
you’re about to see it all over that beautiful man you fell in love with. In order to see past the physical revelations that come with “familiar living” (like when he realizes your natural smell isn’t apricot and shea butter), you’ll have to remember to love each other from the inside out. But if either of you suffers from even the slightest form of vanity (or, on the other hand, self-consciousness), you may find it very exposed, so beware of that before you move in together. Or else get separate bathrooms.

Opposites may attract, but they don’t do the dishes. It may be cute that you like comedies and he likes action films, but if he likes cleanliness and you like to toss your dirty socks on the floor, it might not be so cute. Don’t wait until you’ve moved in and the clothes hamper is overflowing. If you’re like me and simply can’t wash the bathroom mirror once a week, then you might consider arranging for a cleaning service to come in. It’s expensive, sure, but not as expensive as couples therapy, which is where you’ll end up if you can’t find a way to make both of you happy in your shared home.

Communicate, or the empty roll of toilet paper might leave you with an empty home.
There are few things as devastatingly frustrating as an empty roll of toilet paper. The day before Tommy and I broke up, I had promised to buy more. He came home from a particularly stressful day at work and, well, required the use of some toilet paper. I proposed several possible alternatives — paper towels, Kleenex, printer paper — but he was not interested in alternatives. In fact, he said that the way I lived my life was simply too different from the way he wanted to live his. The toilet paper, while seemingly insignificant to me, symbolized all that made us incompatible to him.

If communication is key to a healthy relationship, it’s essential to cohabitation. I was often jealous when I saw the way Tommy interacted with guys when we went out. But rather than confront him with my concerns, I decided not to make our bed for a week straight. The result? It made him all the more eager to find a new guy—especially one who makes the bed in the morning. Don’t let your home become a battleground upon which you and your partner act out festering issues. Talk things out immediately, and give each other space when you sense it is needed.

The good news is, at least we gentlemen don’t have that whole toilet-seat issue to deal with. So put all that saved energy into making the rest of your living situation a healthy one. If you both go into a “let’s live together” situation with flexibility and good communication, it can be the best thing that ever happened to either of you.

C. Brian Smith is a comedy writer and an actor living in Los Angeles.
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