On Friday I called my grandmother since it was her birthday. She asked me how the move went and how my boyfriend was doing. My boyfriend, David, and I recently moved to Oakland from Humboldt County (rural Northern California) for my magazine internship in Berkeley. I told her things were going well and that our two-year anniversary was Sunday. She was surprised by how much time had passed already, and I reflected back with her the summer I first met him.
When we first started going out when I was 20 years old, I wasn’t looking for anything serious or long-term. Just three months before my heart had been crushed by an ex boyfriend, and I was leaving the following semester to study abroad in Paris. I just didn’t feel like starting something I wasn’t certain I could finish. But a month into dating David, I was hooked. He was just so easy to fall in love with. And after two months of dating, he asked me to live with him when I came back from Europe.
Part of me was excited, but part of me was also completely freaked out and half-doubted moving in with him. But June of last summer, after being apart for six months, I moved into his apartment.
And now a whole year later, we have survived (but not without a few bumps along the way), and even made the crazy decision to keep living together and move to a new city together.
Now as I start a whole new chapter of my life with him still by side and us signing our names onto a year-long lease on our first apartment that is truly ours, I can’t help but think back to what I learned from our first year living together.
Let things go
I’m stubborn as hell, and refuse to lose an argument or not get my way. But living with my boyfriend certainly challenged that side of me, and well, that side gave in. Sometimes losing is actually winning. I don’t need to yell incessantly just to prove my point. Not everything needs to be fought over and sometimes surrendering saves a silly fight from turning serious.
Compromise is absolutely essential
Becoming a live-in couple meant that a lot of decisions would be made together, and that meant learning to compromise; from the little things like home décor and cleanliness to the bigger issues like caring for our cats and dealing with roommates. While I never thought of myself as a person who would adjust her lifestyle to fit someone else’s, I think that’s what part of growing up really means: growing from an individual to a partner. I learned to step away from my selfish desires and needs and consider his. I don’t think I’ve lost myself. I still am my own person, but I’m also a “we.”
It’s okay to ask for help
Both David and I are very independent people and hate relying on others for support. But in living together, we have both come across shortcomings that have left us in need. David has been unemployed and low on cash, and I’ve been there to lend money. And I’ve been down because of lost friendships and fighting with my parents, and he’s been my shoulder to cry on. In the past year, we have become each other’s rock, so I know when my energy is weak, he is there to strengthen me. We have both let go of our pride a little bit to help each other, and it’s only made us grow closer.
Space is necessary
When you’re just dating, you typically see each other a few times a week and you have time apart at home. But when you live together, from the moment you wake up until you fall asleep you are pretty much together. And no matter how much we love each other, breathing room is necessary to keep the relationship fresh. Initially, I wanted to spend all my time with him, but that isn’t feasible or sane. Too much togetherness eventually led us to feel cramped and claustrophobic around each other. Even though we are dating and living together, I had to find some time to be without him. I studied in the library, hung out with friends, practiced yoga, and wrote. The me-time was essential to appreciate the “we-time.”
Don’t go to bed angry
You have to know when to pick your battles; when to let go and walk away and when to resolve an issue. No matter what the argument was about, I knew falling asleep mad would just bring tears to my pillow. If we fought before bed, I always ended up fighting with him for countless hours until the dispute was over. But this method never really worked. We both just got more frustrated with each other and wasted time. If it’s a big thing that can’t wait until morning, then yeah I’ll deal with it before bed. But 98 percent of the time it’s not a big deal, so a simple kiss on the cheek and a soft smile reassures both of us that it’s going to be okay.
Learn to laugh
I was always told that I don’t have a sense of humor and take things too dramatically. But I feel living with David has changed that. Getting mad over stupid things just isn’t worth it anymore. Life is going to throw us major obstacles, whether it’s the stressors of moving or troubles with work. Sometimes it’s just better to take a lighthearted approach and laugh things off. Mellowing out and laughing at the little things has made our life together easier. We stopped getting mad when something went wrong, and just laughed it off and dealt with it.
And cherish every moment
Our life together has been a nonstop whirlwind of highs and lows, goods and bads, and filled with a whole lot of love and care that sometimes get lost in the chaos. Remembering every day that this is my life, that I am spending my days and nights with a wonderful man I love, and that I get to wake up each morning next to him is a reality that still feels like a dream. Living with someone isn’t always going to be incredibly easy, it takes time to adjust, but getting to curl up next to each other every night is one of the many reasons why we signed onto another year of living together.
Photo: Jessica Renae