Living with another person is a huge transition—going from only needing to cater to your own aesthetic, your own cleaning patterns, your own preferences to combining two people’s homes into one can be a massive undertaking! But if you begin with these things in mind, you might just make that transition a little bit smoother.
Understand It’s a Process
The most important thing to remember is that it’s a process. You probably aren’t going to move in together and immediately be on the same page with everything. Things that your partner considers perfectly normal might seem alien to you and vice versa! Knowing from the start that there’s more than likely going to be a learning curve will help tame the stress of such a major life change. Learning to live together requires a lot of compromise and getting to really know one another on a deeper level, so give yourself the benefit of the doubt that you’ll figure it all out. It’s okay if it takes a little while.
This sounds super simple, but it is absolutely fundamental when you’re learning how to live together well: communicate, communicate, communicate! If you’re unsure, err on the side of over-communicating. Things that, to you, are obvious—like immediately rinsing your dish and putting it in the dishwasher when you’re done with it—might not even be on your partner’s radar. Rather than assume that your sweetheart is the biggest slob on earth, or worse, just ignoring your wishes, talk to them about your expectations. So often we imagine everyone else has the same systems in place as we do, and when someone doesn’t follow those systems, we get annoyed or angry and assume the worst. Always make your wishes and expectations clear from the start, continue to communicate as things come up, and encourage your partner to do the same!
Establish a Routine
Along with communicating as problems arise, establishing a routine will help immensely as you learn to live together. There are many ways to split up tasks around the home—I know a couple that has established that one of them is responsible for the outside chores (garbage collection, mowing, shoveling, pruning the lawn, powerwashing the home, etc.) and the other is responsible for all of the indoor chores (vacuuming, dusting, dishes, etc.)—but the most important thing is to establish a routine of responsibilities that works well for the two of you. Many, many of the potential stresses of living together will start to clear up when you’re both on the same page about who is going to take care of what. Whether you want to switch off tasks, always do your assigned tasks, or some combination of both, taking the uncertainty out of the equation will make a major difference!
Routines are important and can be extremely helpful, but it’s also essential to remember to be flexible. If your partner has a very full week at work and is struggling to get his or her responsibilities done this time, don’t hesitate to help and know that they would do the same for you. There is always going to be a time when someone is sick and needs to rest, and naturally you’re going to take over for a little while. It’s easier to be flexible when you feel like things normally stick to a solid routine, so remember that as you’re putting together your responsibilities list; it’s good to have a solid place to start.
As you continue to live together you may realize that some of your pre-established routines do not actually work in practice. That’s okay! The great thing about creating your own rules is that you’re able to change them when they no longer suit you. Don’t consider having to make changes a failure; consider it a win as you get closer and closer to figuring out what balance works best for your little family. Don’t be afraid to adjust as you go along.
Don’t Take it Personally
Probably the second biggest key to nailing this transition is being able to give each other grace and not take things too personally. If your partner forgets to do the dishes one evening even though it’s their responsibility, do not immediately assume they’re doing it to spite you. This goes right back to the communication piece mentioned earlier—ask about it and communicate your feelings rather than immediately taking it on yourself and making it personal. We all forget things and make mistakes sometimes, but it can be truly toxic for your relationship if everyone’s taking those mistakes to heart. So take a breath, gather your thoughts, and talk to your partner to smooth these kinds of things over as soon as possible.