Tips on Moving In Together - Relationship Advice
Would you please take a moment to teach a couple of old dogs some new tricks?
My partner and I have been together for 5 years now. I'm a 57 year old man, and my partner is a 52 year old man. This is the first time either of us has lived with a lover or partner. I haven't even had a roommate since the late 70's. My partner has had several people rent rooms from him in the past but he's never lived with a lover either.
When we first began we were in different cities. Then I moved to Fort Myers to be closer to him. We decided that this would be the summer we would stop paying two mortgages and move in together so we have been planning for this. We each did some considerable downsizing in preparation by having yardsales and giving some furniture to charity or friends. We have done some flipping together and we both really took to this last flip we did together. We decided the timing was just perfect and we should keep this adorable house for ourselves. So we put our respective homes on the market and moved in together into this lovely little house.
Needless to say it's been harder than either of us anticipated. We are both set in our ways and partial to our own tastes and furnishings. It's been a big adjustment getting used to having someone else in the house all the time. While we do fight and get quite testy with each other, we do really want this to work. Do you have some advice for a couple of old fuddy duddies like us?
Hugs and Kisses to you Veronica,
Congratulations to you and your partner on 5 years.
The decision to live together is a big one whether you're in your 20's or 50's. But as you point out, it is all the more difficult when you've become so very used to being king of your own castle without having to take an equal partner's taste, privacy or finances into consideration. A simple thing like keeping the air conditioning set to 70 degrees can become an issue. Leaving a dirty dish in the sink, inviting over guests, paying the utility bills timely, who's turn is it to take out the trash... these are all things that were everyday nothings, and have now become every day somethings.
I've put together a list of 8 Tips for you while making this adjustment. I hope at least some of them will help you guys while you enter into this wonderful part of your lives together.
1 - Choose the Third Option
In the classic style of "Yours, mine and ours" there is always that third option. That place of compromise. If you want the thermostat at 70 and your partner wants it at 68, the answer is an easy 69. If you want to paint the kitchen white and your partner wants to paint it a dark blue, the answer is in the compromise: 2 white walls, 2 dark blue walls. Or dark blue on the bottom with a chair rail and white on top. Or pick a nice medium shade of dusky blue somewhere in the middle of your two choices.
Or, go with something completely different like yellow. Or, decide he can pick the kitchen colors, and you will be picking the master bedroom colors.
If you like to have the TV on as white noise in the background all day long, and your partner doesn't, try having the radio on instead. Or agree that Mon, Wed and Fri you can play the white noise at will, but the rest of the time you'll give silence a shot.
It's really not that hard to find the compromise in most things. You just have to be willing to give a little.
2 - Pick Your Battles
Sometimes compromise is just not an option. Sometimes, some thing is so important to you that you just can't give on it.
That should be OK. You should be able to tell your partner that you appreciate their point on something but that you just can't compromise on this. As long as you pick your battles, and don't pull this with every disagreement, you should be able to allow each other to just get their way once in a while on things that matter to them. You should not have to keep score and remember how many times you got your way and he got his. It should be something that feels right and comes naturally. If your partner just can't part with his grandmother's old rocking chair even though it completely clashes with your decor, that should be something you can just accept, and handle. If you are super sensitive to the stench of cigarettes but your partner smokes or has a friend that smokes, your partner should give you that one and make sure all smoking is done at a minimum and outside.
3 - Don't Tease
So he doesn't always pick up his dirty laundry from the bathroom floor and you wind up doing it. Or you've hung some Broadway posters you love that he hates. These are personal things between the two of you. Calling him a slob in front of company is uncalled for. His making fun of your Annie poster to your friends is just mean. Trying to demonstrate that you were right or that your taste is better, by teasing your partner in front of guests is a serious infraction. It's not funny.
Keep your disagreements between yourselves unless you're really sure you can both laugh about it, or you're soliciting some input. Teasing is for bullies in the 4th grade. It's not for life partners.
A friend of mine called me up years ago. She had spilt red wine on their white carpet and stained in. Her husband was constantly on her about how clumsy she was. Plus, he put up a good argument when it came to picking the rugs and she insisted on white. This was only a few hours before they were to have a Christmas party. She cried to me, she felt so embarrassed and so stupid. She felt clumsy and she felt dumb for picking white rugs. At the party, I will never forget, someone noticed the stain and said to her husband, "What happened there?" And he said, "Oh the dog rolled in something and then rubbed his back off there. No big deal, I'll rent a steamer tomorrow." The look on her face was priceless. Instead of being right, he decided to be a gentlemen. He had the chance to tease her, but he decided not to make her feel any worse than she already felt. He had her back.
That's tip number 3. United front, have each other's backs, whatever you want to call it. Keep these arguments between the two of you.
4 - Appoint a Switzerland
It's the same concept as having base when you played tag as a kid, or having a safeword when you play hard at... other things. There needs to be a safe and neutral place where you can go to avoid a fight. Maybe there's a room in the house that you've completed together and you're both proud of. Agree to retreat to that room when a real fight is brewing. There you can look around and remember how good teamwork looks in the finished result.
No place in the house feels that safe? That's OK. Sit on the porch. Or get in the car. You would be very surprised at how quickly the energy changes when you walk away from the tangible thing causing the friction. Try it.
Additionally, you need to respect each other's headspace. It's not a fair fight if you're both not up for it. If one of you says, I can't do this right now, you need to agree to step away from it. The worst fights come when one is forced into defending themselves. If you need an actual safeword, that's fine. But devise some kind of "white flag" system that prevents one of you from hitting a raw nerve at the wrong time.
I'd given this advice to some friends when they decided to take an apartment together. When things got a little tense one or both of them would throw up their hands and say, "Time out!" and they would walk up the block to the bodega and get a coffee or a lottery ticket or an Italian Ice or something. They said they both got so used to just dropping the subject and walking away that often times when they got back, they'd completely forgotten what they were bickering about.
5 - Make It Your Business
You even said you two had agreed to stop paying two mortgages. Like it or not, living together is partly business. There doesn't have to be anything cold about that. As a matter of fact, we tend to be more polite in our business dealings than in our casual dealings.
When the heat is on, stop viewing the other person as your lover, and try considering them as your partner. You would most likely think before you spoke harshly to an office mate, or with someone whom you're working on a business project. Try to mindfully adapt that same formality. It makes you take a moment, breathe, and refrain from making an issue into something personal. If this was a business deal, you'd try extra hard to be respectful and polite. Wouldn't it be nice if we all did that more?
6 - Remember It's OK To Disagree
There really is such a thing as a healthy argument. Sometimes venting, getting it out there, letting yourself be emotional and upset is healthy and good for the long term aspect of the relationship. By no means am I saying to avoid all fights always all the time. I'm saying you need to develop the skills to diffuse the big ones, and the unnecessary ones. You need to respect how your partner reacts and feels about arguing. You need to figure out how to argue; it's a skill like anything else.
Some people communicate with alot of intensity and yelling. That's fine, if you're partner is fine with it too. If one of you is more animated than the other, you need to talk about some limits and figure out how to best communicate.
7 - Say "I'm Sorry."
Sounds simple enough. But for 20 or 30 years you've been spilling, breaking, forgetting, wasting, and being human in your home without ever having to give a single thought to anyone else's feelings.
It will surprise you how much better you feel if your partner messes something up, but acknowledges it with a simple apology. A simple "thank you" can be just as powerful. It shows you pay attention, and you notice, and you care. While you feel you may mind your manners well enough, it's just not something that's automatic when it comes to your home. You're used to it being a solitary environment. Make that special effort to thank your boyfriend when he does a nice job cleaning up the kitchen. Don't act like it's just expected even if it is. Apologize if you've forgotten to pick up more soap or if you've broken the can opener, even if it is "yours."
Sounds silly? Try it for a day, and see how it feels. This one just may surprise you.
8 - Don't Go To Bed Mad
It's a very old piece of advice. And it's been around so long because it's important. Don't let things build up and fester. Don't hang on to an argument. The bigger picture is always the more important one. At the end of the day you have a relationship that deserves nurturing, and that's much bigger than who is a slob or who uses too much wicker.