Essay: Trials and Tribulations of Coupling Up and Cohabiting
Readers, I’m excited to introduce you to my friend Liz Welle. I met Liz when she was the tender age of 19 and working her way through undergrad. She’s been one of my favorite follows on social media and I admire her humor, candor, and willingness to wear her heart on her sleeve. As I move into the next phase of my life as mother, I wanted to bring in a voice who speaks to those of you who are in your 20s. I remember how hard those years were and how badly I wanted to connect with others who were navigating those early years of adulthood. As a regular contributor on Wit & Delight, Liz will be sharing her unedited experiences in love, work, personal growth, and friendship. I hope you enjoy her voice as much as I do!
Did your decision to live with your significant other come from a super mature conversation about how your relationship was blossoming to the next level and, by golly, you were both ready to take that next step in the modern-day romance flow chart?
Please share how you do the whole “calm, cool, collected” thing whenever you have a sec because that is most definitely not what happened to me. The “byyyyye, mascara” meltdown I had completely destroyed the whole chill vibe I was doing decently well at maintaining up until that point.
Soon after falling flat-on-my-face in love with my now boyfriend, I was living in two different places at once. We spent approximately 99% of our time at his very grown-up furnished house (N’espresso machine and a fireplace) and somewhere around 1% of our relationship in my studio apartment (toilet that worked when it felt like it).
Living in several places at once is like the worst thing someone with ADD could possibly do to themselves. I had a duffle bag in the corner of his bedroom that I would haul home every morning for months; clean underwear and jeans in my car, and the rest of my stuff at my place. I could never remember where a damn thing was and some days that was enough to make me cry.
Not only did my car resemble a youth hostel, I was spending a lot of money every month to not live in an apartment my name was on the lease for. This is fun to do when you’re in love for like, ten minutes and then you realize you’ve basically just paid a $5,000 fee to have a boyfriend for the last couple months.
Worse, I felt like my boyfriend hadn’t acknowledged and or verbally appreciated that I was living my life all over the place just to be with him, and what was even more awful: I was convincing myself he wouldn’t do the same for me. I had shifted my whole life for him. You can play house for only so long before you have to deal with some real shit.
For the first time in our relationship I felt actual anger at him. He still woke up every day in the same bed, went out the same door to work, and brushed his teeth looking at himself in the same mirror he had the last ten years. I didn’t feel like he understood that in this house EVERYTHING was his and not mine. And when I felt hurt or scared or sad, I didn’t have a room that was MINE, had always been MINE, to fall apart in. Every time I went back to my apartment to get a piece of wardrobe or tampons, I felt like I had to apologize to all my things and that space. I felt like I was abandoning a part of myself, and I wrongly took that out on Erik for not noticing.
It became too much during a fancy strip mall Chinese food date. My iciness during the meal and ensuing drive home led him to ask that most seemingly innocuous of questions: “What’s wrong?”
What is it about “What’s wrong?” and “Are you okay?” that trigger your brain to be like, “ALRIGHT TEAR DUCTS, FULL STEAM AHEAD! LET’S GET THIS WATER WORKS PARTY GOIN’!” I just. Exploded.
“WELP! LET ME TELL YOU! I’M PRETTY MUCH HOMELESS AND I’VE PAID SOMEWHERE AROUND THE PRICE OF A REALLY RARE DESIGNER DOG TO NOT LIVE IN AN APARTMENT THAT I REALLY LOVE AND I’M CHUCKING MY INDEPENDENCE OUT THE WINDOW FOR YOU AND YOU HAVE NEVER ONCE SAID THANK YOU. YOU’VE NEVER ONCE EVEN ACKNOWLEDGED THIS.”
My boyfriend does this very annoying thing where he’s both rational and calm all the time? It’s a very cool juxtaposition against my natural inclination to just REACT.
“I’m not sure where this is coming from, but I’m sincerely sorry I made you feel like I haven’t acknowledged that you felt you were abandoning your place and the meaning it held to you. I love the crap out of you and I would never want you to feel that way. I think moving in together is a step I’d love to take, when and if you’re ready. Do you want to do it next month? Or what are your thoughts?”
You guys. Even having him verbally recognize my stress in this situation made my anger meter go down eleventy billion notches and the part of my brain I prefer to have lead my decision-making process was able to take center stage.
It was like he passed the logical thinking torch to me. It’s amazing what communicating can do for your relationship??? Have you guys all tried this thing called communication??
“You know. Actually, I think we should wait a little bit.”
So we waited. We waited a full year. It felt like the right amount of time to know for sure that someone is not a serial killer.
My one piece of advice in all of this would be to wait until you are at least past the “honeymoon” phase of your relationship and your brain is not flooding itself with happy drugs 24/7. In a year you can build a solid beginning foundation for your relationship. You know what it takes to love that person, and how it jives with the way you need to be loved, and whether you two can realistically make that work in a space you both will eat, sleep, laugh, fight, and poop. If you ultimately decide once that neurological cocktail of ecstasy (it’s a thing!!!) wears off that you can’t see yourself long-term with that person, that’s SO okay! Because waiting for that person that you can’t believe you get to wake up next to every morning, even when their breath smells like they threw up rotten McDonald’s, is a pretty neat feeling.