One of the biggest fights my husband and I ever had was over a paper towel dispenser. We had just moved in together (like, the day before) and had survived an epic trip to Bed Bath & Beyond where we’d purchased, among other things, a wall-mounted paper towel dispenser for the kitchen.
Before moving in together, we’d been seniors in college, living in a large house with about six of our friends in Los Angeles. Now it was just the two of us on the other side of the country in a tiny apartment in Manhattan, and my husband was about to reveal himself to be completely deranged.
Screwdriver in one hand, plastic paper towel thing in the other, he reached up and prepared to screw an actual screw into the laminate side of the kitchen cabinet.
“What are you doing?!” I screeched. “You can’t put it there!”
He shrugged. “Why not? Look. It’s right over the sink.”
I burst into tears.
I gestured wildly at the cabinet. I started four different sentences I never finished. I turned away from him in disgust and then back around again in despair. “How can you not know that you can’t put that there?!” I wailed.
Okay, okay, fine, I’ll admit that, perhaps, it was me who was the one who was completely deranged. But, in my defense, I was 3,000 miles from home with a man who thought it was totally fine to put holes in the laminate cabinets of an apartment we didn’t own.
The point is (yes, I do have a point here) that moving in with your husband can be stressful. (Full disclosure: it may not have been the paper towel dispenser I was actually upset about. At least, not entirely the paper towel dispenser.) Moving in together is exciting, sure, but it’s also a huge step. A step, one would assume, towards living together forever (if you catch my drift) and that’s a big deal. Plus, to paraphrase Monica from Friends, you’re going to have to live with a boy. And boys are weird (no offense boys, you’re also awesome).
But! Despite his poor judgment in paper towel dispenser placement (and my potentially even more problematic propensity for overreacting), my husband and I are still living together nearly 15 years later. So, if you’re planning on moving in with your significant other, here are a few tips for how to make it go more smoothly.
1. Expect a Few Bumps
It’s easy to imagine that the home you and your significant other make together will be a blissful Eden of wonderfulness right from the start. I mean, why wouldn’t it be? You’re going to wake up next to the man you love every morning and fall asleep next to him each night. You’ll snuggle on the couch watching TV together and eat dinner at your very own table set for two. And all those things will (hopefully) happen and be wonderful. But there are probably a whole bunch of other things you didn’t see coming.
It’s best to go in with your eyes open, knowing that — if your love is strong — you’ll settle into a routine and figure out how to live together.
Maybe he pees with the door open. Or leaves his dirty underwear in the middle of the bedroom floor. Maybe he likes to alphabetize his books by author, and you prefer to organize them by color. Maybe he won’t throw out the ratty old armchair you thought belonged to the weird landlord of his old apartment but it turns out is his favorite object in the whole world, and you hate it.
And maybe he doesn’t like how your perfume collection makes the bathroom smell like a department store. Or how your collection of kitchen implements is eclipsed only by your collection of shoes. Maybe the frilly bedspread and pillow shams you ordered online in a heady whirlwind of pre-domestic bliss are the final straw, and he swears he’ll screw every last thing you both own into the laminate cabinets if you make him sleep on “Floral Fantasy Number 4.”
My point is that there are bound to be a few growing pains as you get used to living in very close proximity to another human being. It’s best to go in with your eyes open, knowing that — if your love is strong — you’ll settle into a routine and figure out how to live together but that, initially, there may be a few hiccups.
2. Be Ready To Compromise
There are going to be things he wants to bring into your home — or do in your home — that make you want to move to a remote island off the coast of Alaska. But, chances are, he’ll feel the same about some of your own prized possessions and household routines. It’s entirely likely that things that seem completely normal to you (like not putting holes into kitchen cabinets . . . just saying) will seem totally alien to him — and vice versa. But, even if you can’t understand why he wants what he wants, if you’re not willing to compromise, you’re in for a whole lot of heartache.
If you can’t understand why he wants what he wants if you’re not willing to compromise, you’re in for a whole lot of heartache.
Ask yourself which of the strange things he wants you’re willing to put up with, and which of the totally normal things you want (that he just totally doesn’t understand) you’re willing to get rid of. Maybe you feel very strongly that the television should be in the living room (not the bedroom), but you’re willing to put his ugly armchair in front of it rather than in the trash where you think it belongs.
The same goes for your things. If he’s adamant that you need to get rid of some of your shoes because there’s literally nowhere to put them, and he keeps tripping over them in the night and banging his head on the wall, concede that he has a point, but that you’d like to keep your kitchen utensils because you also have a handy caddy thing they all fit into.
Don’t expect him to do all the compromising. It doesn’t matter how reasonable you think your needs are and how ludicrous you find his to be. He feels the same way about your stuff — as hard as it may be to believe. This kind of give and take is good relationship etiquette. Might as well start working on it now.
3. Discuss All This Beforehand
As with all big changes in a relationship, it’s a good idea to sit down with your husband before you move in together and talk about the fact that it’s going to be bumpy. You’re not going to know what things are going to become the problem areas before you actually move in, but you can acknowledge that there will be issues and that you’re committed to working through them together.
If you want, you can set some ground rules. For example, you might want to agree to designate a time (maybe at the end of each day) to air any grievances you have. That way, you won’t constantly be griping at each other while engaged in the already stressful process of unpacking and setting up your home. Or maybe you want to agree on a number of vetoes each one of you gets when buying new things for your home. Or commit to stopping whatever you’re doing at a certain time each day to get out of the house and just be together. Whatever your ground rules are, having some might help you in the moment.
Commit to stopping whatever you’re doing at a certain time each day to get out of the house and just be together.
You might also want to talk, beforehand, about your hopes and fears for this next big step in your relationship. Knowing what you’re both worried about and looking forward to might help when issues arise. If, for example, you know he’s concerned about having enough alone time, you might suggest some time in separate spaces if you notice you’re both getting frustrated. Things like that are helpful to know, too, so you don’t worry he doesn’t love you anymore when he doesn’t want to spend every waking moment with you (for example). Some people just need some time to themselves sometimes.
Moving in with your husband is an exciting step. But it’s also a big step, and it would be naive to assume it’ll go off without a hitch. But remember why you’re doing this in the first place: you love each other, and you want to spend your lives together. That’s something worth working on. At least, it ought to be!