Woe Is Me! “I Love My Boyfriend, but I Hate Living With Him”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
“My boyfriend of two years, whom I love, moved in with me recently and I hate it! I’d gotten so used to my space, which helped me take out time for him with no resentment. But now he’s here, and when he’s not, his stuff is here all the time, and I can’t smoke in my room like I used to. Don’t get me wrong, I love him and he’s really trying, but my room is a mess! I have forgotten how to live with the man I love, which sucks, because I know I’d be kicking myself when he leaves.”
— No Room For Love
LG: Dear No Room For Love, get over it. I’m sorry to be so blunt, but people come with stuff and neither people nor stuff fit neatly into the life of another person. News flash: you don’t fit so neatly into his life either. Two people making a life together is messy, both emotionally and spatially. It’s great that your boyfriend is really trying — it sounds like he isn’t the only one who needs to do so. The fact that you’re referring to the flat you both share as yours alone (my space, my room, instead of our space, or our room) is telling that you don’t think of him as an equal — at least, not an equal habitor. I get that it can be a difficult cognitive leap to make, especially for a recent move, but it’s an important one if you’re actually committed to cohabiting and sharing your lives with each other. A discussion about how to divvy up housekeeping and use shared spaces can help you both navigate this shift — but just make sure he has as much input into any resulting rules as you do.
SM: It’s clear you’ve never lived with a romantic partner before. And letting go of physical and emotional space is frustrating for you. And trust me, I feel you, and this is completely understandable. I think you should attempt to make some adjustments from your side, communicate to him that you need space sometimes, figure how to take time out for yourself, and continue doing some of the things that you loved so much about living alone. Make some adjustments from your side too, to be accommodative of his feelings about the living situation. And if you’re still not happy in a couple of months, I think you should step back, and think through whether a live-in relationship is what you want, and if it’s what you want right now. It’s not just about our preferences overall, but about our preferences, with respect to the phase of life we’re in. Maybe you only want a lover but not a full-time companion; maybe you want a full-time companion but that companion isn’t your current boyfriend, or maybe you’re just the kind of person who likes living alone
ADT: Hello and welcome to living with other people. It seems like you’ve spent all this time compartmentalizing your boyfriend as a part of your life rather than someone who shares a life with you — this is normal! As relationships grow older, though, they also need to morph in different ways. Yours is morphing into this cute living together situation, but you’re seeing this as a loss of independence, which sucks. Now, from whatever little I know of ideal relationships, I know that you should feel comfortable enough to do whatever you want around the other person, and when you’re not, you should tell them! So, tell your partner their stuff is always around and it is a mess, clean together and discuss where you’d like to put his stuff, and discuss where you’d like to smoke. And if there’s not enough space for all three, hunt for a more spacious home if you’re renting, or more storage.
RD: It’s weird that you say you’ve forgotten to live with the man you love because it seems like you never liked it in the first place. You know how they say never move in with your best friend if you want to preserve the friendship? Well, I see no reason why that shouldn’t be the case for romantic relationships as well. It’s okay not to want to share your space, no matter how eager the other person is to do so. It sounds like you’re missing your freedom to be in your house as you want to — that doesn’t mean you don’t love him or that you’re not invested in the relationship. You’ve gotten advice from my colleagues about how to make the best of the situation — my two cents are it’s okay to want to reverse the situation too. It’s been drilled into our heads how to perform romance or accept natural progressions of a relationship, but if in the process, you feel like you’re compromising your quality of life then it’s not worth it. If not separate apartments, at least get separate bedrooms for when you need to get away … or smoke.
AM: Give him some time. He’s used to living a certain way, and you’re used to another. Everyone’s lives are different and so are their childhoods. Maybe he doesn’t realize that he’s messing up the room because for him that’s normal. He doesn’t know what clean rooms look like and therefore, you need to tell him that his stuff all over the place is not your normal. And, if both of you have decided to live together, he can live his way too. Just because the room previously belonged to you doesn’t mean it’s still only yours; now it belongs to the both of you. You guys need to have a talk and come to a consensus on what is messy for you and what is clean for him. And what’s the harm in dedicating tasks — one of you does the bed, one takes the responsibility of keeping clothes in place, etc. If you’re going to be so stuck up about ‘my space,’ ‘my room,’ then living-in or sharing the house may never be your thing; everyone’s used to their space, but everyone learns to adjust. Good luck.