Whether you are just friends and are going to be roommates, newlyweds feeling your way forward, or are a couple moving-in together, there are things you can do in the initial stages of cohabitation that will lay the foundation for a successful and happy venture. Below are ten tips for making the transition more enjoyable for everyone concerned.
1- One of the first things most people do when they move in together is begin setting up rules. Quite often this makes sense because most everyone has lived with someone else before, whether as a child with parents or as roommates with someone else. In living with others, they learned that there are certain things they did and didn’t like. By setting down rules, they hope to avoid the unpleasant experiences of the past so that they can be happy in the future. Unfortunately, life doesn’t always work out so easily. Writing down rules that you expect your roommate, partner or spouse to follow is more likely to set the stage for conflict if and when those rules are broken. Likewise, being expected to follow a list written down by someone else can feel threatening and intimidating. Instead, you might want to consider the person you are planning to live with as a unique individual and as someone you can trust to behave in ways that won’t upset you. If you don’t feel you can trust them, why are you moving in with them?
2 – In almost every living arrangement there comes a time when one or both of the parties involved begin to assert some ownership over material possessions. Depending on the nature of the relationship, this is something that can lead to friction. Things can get sticky for example if one of you brings a television into your new home and sets it up in a shared space, such as the living room. There is the possibility of the original owner claming more rights as to which channel to watch for example. To avoid such clashes it’s best to speak openly about how shared resources will be used before they are allowed into the shared room. If your roommate doesn’t want you touching his stereo, then maybe it should stay in his room. If your wife doesn’t want you reading her e-mail, perhaps you might suggest she not have it accessible to you. The point is, it’s best to talk beforehand about how you feel about your possessions, and they about theirs. If you don’t, you run the risk of misunderstandings and the resultant arguments.
3 – No matter what type of relationship you have with another person, there is always going to be an issue regarding boundaries. These are imaginary lines that you hope other people will not cross. They might be physical, such as expecting to be left alone when in the bathroom. They might be emotional, such as expecting to be left alone when angry at someone else. They might even pertain to actions, such as it being understood what your actions will be if your spouse cheats on you. It’s very important to learn the boundaries of your roommate, spouse or partner, just as it’s important they are very clear on yours. Boundaries are important to people, we all spend a lifetime developing ours, but spend very little time explaining them to others. For some reason we expect them to know without our having to tell them. This is a mistake. When moving-in with someone, be very clear on what your boundaries are, and ask them very sincerely about theirs. It will help you both to keep from accidentally tripping over them out of ignorance.
4 – Somewhat related to understanding one another’s boundaries is the concept of discovering what is important regarding living with this other person. What is important in their life? You? Family? God? Their wardrobe? It’s important to discover what is important to them so that you won’t take those things lightly. It’s equally important that you make clear to them what is important to you. For the most part, when people cohabitate, there is some degree of expectation that you will become a part of one another’s lives. To do so, it’s important that you get to know each other and to understand when to take things seriously.
5 – One of the best things you can do to forge a smooth transition to your new living arrangements is to forgive small mistakes. Your roommate might forget to lock the door at night. Or turn off the television. Your husband might turn off your computer without saving your work. Or leave a mess in the kitchen. There is no end to things people can do to annoy you. And vice-versa, no doubt. Learn to forgive and forget. It’s not worth getting angry or fighting over the small stuff. There will be enough big stuff to fill that void.
6 – Another very useful tool to help you keep things harmonious is to listen. If you live with someone, you have to hear things you might not have before. Is your wife hinting that you’re taking too long in the shower and thus making her have to rush to work? Is your roommate about to lose her job? Is there something wrong with the drain in the kitchen sink? These are domestic issues that need to be heard and addressed. Your roommate, spouse or partner is sharing these details with you in hopes that you will do your part to find a resolution. As with everything else, this too works both ways. If something is wrong, you need to make the other person aware of what it is, otherwise they might not notice. Getting angry at them for not noticing is not productive.
7 – It probably should be able to go unsaid, but the actual fact is, when you live with another person you need to be more considerate, courteous and polite. While it is true that the place you share is your home too, this fact does not give you the right to ignore common courtesy. If your roommate finds you wandering around the house in your underwear offensive, you might consider a robe. If you’re going to be late coming home or be gone for a day or two, it’s nice to let people know so they don’t worry. If your roommate, spouse or partner buys groceries, it’s nice to say thank you. Or if want them to do something, to say please. None of these things will undermine your need to be yourself, but they will most certainly make you a more pleasant person to be around.
8 – Almost everybody needs some personal space. When setting up your new home, be sure to include a place for both of you. It doesn’t have to be much, usually, just enough to give you both a place to be alone, and to know whatever you choose to put in that space will be left alone. In addition to physical space, there is the issue of emotional space. Most people need some time alone now and then. Even if you live in a small space, it’s important that you allow the other person the opportunity to do whatever it is they would do if you weren’t there. Whether it’s not interrupting while they are listening to music or cooking, or typing an e-mail. It’s important to recognize that your status as housemate, spouse or partner, does not confer all rights to another’s time or actions.
9 – When people move in together, there is almost always the underlying assumption that your lives will mingle. When people’s lives mingle, there is usually the underlying assumption that this other person you’ve chosen to live with will be there for you if something unexpected happens, or if you need them for things you wouldn’t if you weren’t living together. For example, if one of you gets hurt, there is the expectation that the other will do what is necessary to help you. Less dramatic but possibly equally important, you might also be expected to meet and treat your roommate, spouse or partner’s friends with grace and respect. You might be expected to attend events with them, or go to the mall with them, or the grocery store. You might be expected to be a sounding board and confidant. There are quite literally millions of things that might be expected and that you might expect in return. The best way to keep things happy and humming in your humble abode is to say and do those things the other is asking and expecting as often and with as much enthusiasm as you can, and then, to expect no less from them. Granted, sometimes you won’t be able to, but that is not the point. The point is, to maintain good relations with people, you need to not only be there for them when they need you, but you need to know they will be there for you too. And that only happens by doing so.
10 Finally, one of the least obvious things you might do to keep your shared living experience as pleasant as possible, is to acknowledge your reason for being there together in the first place. It never hurts to tell your roommate, your spouse or your partner that you like them. That you like living with them. That you like them being around. It never hurts to tell them how much they mean to you or how happy you are that the two of you chose to move in together. What it will do is make the other person feel good. And if people feel good, they are likely to share that good feeling with you.
These ten tips to help those considering moving-in together should help if you apply them judiciously to your own living environment. Just as no two people are alike, no two living arrangements are alike either. Do what feels right and makes sense. But always be aware of the other person in your home. Be kind to them, and they most likely will be kind to you. That’s it, I hope some of these tips will help you. Good luck.