I have been living and tackling challenges of living together with my partner for more than a week now. This week, obviously, makes me an expert on the topic: “how does living with your significant other look like?”.
Here is the fantasy: you move in with the person you love and all of a sudden the dinner is tastier, the sleep is calmer, the Netflix and chill action is much more fun.
Here is the reality: you move in with the person you love and all of a sudden you have three keyboards, three monitors, five drones, ten robot cars, one robot helicopter, one scooter with flat tires, several boxes of broken cables, several boxes of empty bottles which shall be used for brewing beer, and – most importantly – an archaic sword. I apologize, my boyfriend just corrected me: it is an ancient sword. I would like to hear your ideas: why do we need these items and what is exactly my boyfriend preparing for?
The sword is so rusty that I started to think that my boyfriend might be king Arthur. The sword is probably the one he took out of that famous rock. Nothing wrong with my boyfriend being a hero or a king. It might become a problem only when it makes me feel uncomfortable to fall asleep.
On a more serious note, I must be fully honest: it is not easy for him either. He brought all of his things – those we all use, and plenty of things I had no idea that they even existed – into the flat of a perfectionist with a borderline OCD. Naturally, after his moving in caused a mess in a flat I have tried to keep spotless for a year, I proceeded to talk about the “spirituality” of a tidy place. Marie Kondo would be proud of me. My boyfriend, however, by now probably thinks he has moved in with a lunatic. You do not know who your partner is until you move in with them.
The move-in day and origin of chaos
Here is how it all started. On Monday, 21st of October, at 23:00 o’clock Felix arrived in Berlin with a van. Inside of the van there were so many boxes that we filled most of the flat and the whole basement with them. We carried the boxes up to the flat and down to the basement until 4am.
I then wrote to my colleague: “too tired to even write an email to our boss, please tell him I am coming later today”.
On Tuesday, we started unpacking. I firstly tided the kitchen. I felt accomplished, so I calmed myself by thinking: “I love this person so much, there is nothing he can do or say that will change my feelings for him”. Until he said: “oh Ivona look, more kitchen stuff, isn’t that cool”?!On Wednesday, I ordered all of our books by height and topic. Once again, my mood improved, until he came and either took out or shuffled some of the books! I felt like crying.
History has a way of repeating itself, but there is no point for me to keep on repeating how many times this cycle happened over and over again. Choose anything: shoes, alcohol bottles, glasses, dishes, cups, towels, decorations, books, documents, robotic toys, board games… They just all kept on reappearing no matter how much I was sorting them out. And even now – when almost all of my storage space is filled with Felix’s stuff – there are still more objects waiting to be put into place. It is frustrating.
This is not a complaining rant though, but it is instead an evaluation of what two people need, expect, and do to accommodate these needs and wishes of the other person when moving in together. Thus, I must give Felix also a great credit. During the past week, he threw or gave away quite some of his items, even though he is almost emotionally attached to all of them. He insisted I write quite, because he has not thrown apparently only some of his belongings. Anyhow, this was really hard for him! On top of throwing quite some things, he built an extra wardrobe for his clothes, exactly the way I wanted it. He also designed and, with the help of a friend, built a wonderful high bed for us. This resulted in more space in our bedroom for extra shelves, drawers, and wardrobes.
I am thankful about all of this so much. But, how do you make your partner see that just because you truly appreciate a part of what they are doing, you still do not feel well about other aspects of their behavior? And more importantly, that doing something well does not automatically exempt them from responsibility about the rest of their actions. He cannot just say: I did this as you wanted me to, so now you have to tolerate everything else. The same holds for my side of the deal.
Challenges of living together with my partner: the lesson?
Communication is the key in a relationship. If your partner cannot understand what you are going through he or she will never be able to give you the empathy or sympathy you need.
I somehow failed to explain how important the cleanliness and tidiness are to me and Felix failed to correlate. I tried talking to him beforehand about this and also how terrified I am from all of his belongings. Yet, even after the explanations, he would still prefer to sit and relax a bit in the evening. But I cannot be relaxed in a messy place. Now, I feel suffocated. Anxious. I even feel physical pain: I have headache, problems to breath, and skin inflammation.
So naturally, we fight. He imagines I do not want to spend time with him or talk to him. I imagine he does not want to help me and as soon as he brings a new box out of nowhere, I explode. He reciprocates back in anger, because he does not know how else to cope with my changing mood.
On top of all this comes the fact that this is a huge change for us. We have never lived with a partner. Until now, we did not even live in the same city. It is hard to all of a sudden share everything and compromise over everything. Yet, compromise is everything and at the end of the day we opt for compromise because the love for our partner is more important to us than our ego. There are many challenges of living together with your partner, but learning to compromise, especially after you have lived alone for a while, is crucial.
Truth be told, we end up with him doing most of the compromising and he probably feels like I am a spoiled girl who is not even a tiny bit grateful. This is of course not the case, but it really does not matter whether I am grateful or not. It matters how your partner feels and how s/he perceives your actions. And I, I am failing to make Felix feel my gratitude.
Have you ever encountered the situation when you tell your partner that you are doing something, but they tell you that you are doing the opposite? If yes, it means that you are not speaking the same language and your emotional message is not really being transmitted.
In my case, both Felix and I feel equally desperate, but the source for this desperation is slightly different. I feel unappreciated because I want to make our flat a cozy home, but I think he does not care. He feels unappreciated because I do not spend time with him, or because he thinks I do not show well enough how thankful I am for everything he does (for me). And finally, we both feel mad at the other one. Mostly for saying bitter words in moment of anger because the frustration conquers the reason.
Challenges of living together with my partner: the solution?
There is no ultimate guide book to tell you how to live peacefully and harmoniously with your loved one. This is crystal clear to me even after a week of joint living. Why? Because the challenges will always change form. For us, the challenge now is to fit all of our stuff, be patient and tolerant, and still find the time to be together. Later, it might be the work-to-life balance, or whether we should move to another city. There are always problems, but are there always solutions?
I believe that the success of the solution is not predetermined by the size of the problem. Couples split over the tiniest of issues, while others go through life battling hardship over and over again. It comes down to the will to go through all of that together and to the awareness that perfect life does not exist. Your partner might act very emotionally over points totally irrelevant to you and this will puzzle you. You will not be able to correlate to them. But, if you truly care about the person, then you should take the time to understand these peculiarities and if possible, accept them. If not accept them, then at least learn to recognize them and tolerate them.
I guess this is also what I was expecting of Felix. I hoped that although maybe he is not as obsessed about tidiness as I am, that he would still help me in a calmer way. On the other hand, expectations often lead to disappointments. Thus, share your expectations and ask your partner if they are realistic for him or her.
You should feel free to tell your partner that s/he is doing something wrong, but should also be ready for some criticism. This sounds great on paper, but in reality it is much more difficult. Mostly because when the person starts to “defend” himself by criticizing, you feel attacked as well. The end result is almost always a fight and never a solution. So, try to change your perspective. Be aware that if you want to be heard, so does the other person.
Last, but not least, learn to forgive, but not to forget. Forgive your partner, but do not forget why a certain problem appeared. Only by remembering it and learning from it you can prevent it from happening again. In love we find strength, in strength we find forgiveness, in forgiveness we find peace. And when there is peace in our mind, we can hope to live harmoniously and blame no one for trying to build the life of our dreams.
So finally, tell me this: do you live with your significant other? Was the start bumpy and challenging? What exact challenges of living together with you partner did you encounter? How long did it take you to adjust to the new life style and what helped you overcome the rough patches?
At the end of the day, I actually deal with the disagreements by focusing on our love and our shared happiness. I constantly remind myself how he inspires me, how we are having fun when we travel, or go to festivals. Or how he is now part of my support system and makes my life abroad so much more pleasurable. And how, with his help, I am managing to build a home away from home for myself. Finding storage space for ancient swords and robot toys is a small price to pay for all those perks. 🙂