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Hardnight's Day Unpacking: A Newcomer's Guide to Cohabitation

Taylor A.Comment

Unpacking. The word itself brings out the dual nature of being displeased and overzealously excited in the same instant. In part, I'm really looking forward to everything having its specific place and being able to find what I need at any given point in time. On the other hand, I really hate unpacking-- it is tedious, and if things don't fit, it sort of makes you crestfallen. After you spend so much time and energy moving, it is that little annoying voice in the back of your head saying, "Hey, I know you're REAL busy and tired and all, but don't forget about me!" BOXES EVERYWHERE. However, downsizing was really great-- I'm down to roughly half of what I owned before, and my boyfriend couldn't be happier about that. 

Cohabitation is really an interesting experience. I'd been married once before, but we were teenagers for all intents and purposes, so we didn't really have a whole ton of stuff. There were no arguments about whose kitchen table to keep, why my films are boxed away in the upstairs closet (when there's plenty of space elsewhere), or wall hanging placements because we really didn't have anything. Although I'm not an expert at this or anything,  I did learn along the way some really easy tips to keep the peace and get moved in fairly easily. Many of these tips don't just apply to moving in together, but to relationships in general.


Space Out Your Move: 

If you're not moving across the country, it isn't always beneficial to move everything in one go. Since I was in the position of commuting anyway, it made sense to allow myself an entire month to go through my belongings, decide what I definitely couldn't part with (and what i could), and go through everything with my boyfriend to see if we


needed two microwaves or two sets of silverware.


Gauge Your Partner's Moving Style: 

Although ideally, most partners welcome change, it doesn't always work out the way we envision. My partner, for example, was really resistant to having things moved around and balked at every load I brought to our new home.

This is pretty typical of folks who have lived on their own for a while

, especially if you are moving into an existing residence rather than getting a new home together. My solution, which was silly but also effective, was to move the smaller loads while he wasn't home, or not have him help me move those loads. When he only had to move some furniture and any of the heavier stuff, it cut down a lot of the tension. I then could put unpack at my leisure and once he saw the house start coming together (without me making too many major changes), he never failed to mention how it looked way better than it did before I moved in.


Six Months Rule:

If you're having a disagreement over placement, colors, or certain pieces of furniture, tell your partner that you would like to try it for six months-- if they are still unhappy with it after six months, you will change it back. The key to this is that six months is a long damn time, realistically. By the time the six months had rolled around, they likely will have forgotten all about those changes and may have even grown accustomed to them or even like them now.



That being said, you can't use the Six Months Rule with everything. Sometimes you just gotta get over that old seventies eyesore of a recliner in your living room, or the life-sized cardboard cutout of THOR in the guest room. Because whether you love these things or not, they do. And if you love each other, you have to accept the fact that cohabitation means blending your personalities together, not snuffing one's individuality out.


Do New Things Together:

This doesn't just apply to cohabitation alone, but it is so good for your relationship to do new things together and build up rituals and traditions-- it releases stress from outside influences and strengthens the bond with your partner. Moved to a new neighborhood? Go on a nature walk and document little things or trails and parks to visit. Look up a recipe together for something you've never eaten before and experiment with different ingredients. Learn about a new subject, craft, or place together. Go on a thrifting adventure (we did this a few weeks ago and had so much fun).


Make New Family Traditions + Rituals:

Expanding on #5, as you begin your life together, start thinking of inventive ways to have new traditions or rituals together. For example, if you both need a caffeine fix in the morning, get up a few minutes early and make coffee together. It really helps to unwind before the workday begins and is a good way to plan out your schedules, talk about the weather, and jumpstart your day on a positive note.  Doing chores together is also surprisingly gratifying. Planning yearly holidays where you go certain places or do certain things with each other (or with family) is a great way to preserve traditions. Going to places that are important to family histories, for example, can be a memorable experience and is so much more fun to share with someone you love.


Respecting Game Day

: For those of your that aren't 100% sports fanatics, Game Day can be a daunting experience. Saturdays during football season in our house take on an almost religious fervor, so I know that if I don't intend to watch football, I should plan my activities for the day accordingly. That being said, it's really good to keep the relationships you both have with friends. So, if he is having all the dudes over for beer and games, it might be an excellent opportunity to go see your girlfriends, do some knitting,  and have cocktails. :) That being said, if you have a sport you both like, sometimes it is good to be "one of the guys" and hang out and watch sports together with a whole group. We both like watching baseball and wrestling, so when those events are going on, we try to attend them when possible.



I would never recommend establishing a chore list necessarily, but a tried-and-true method for us is that if we see something that needs to be done (dishes, dirty floor, trash, laundry, etc), we will just go ahead and do it. My partner does the same, and this really helps keep the house clean and makes the workload manageable. While we're both not neat freaks, we both like the house to be clean and relatively uncluttered. You can also establish from the beginning who likes doing what, and switch out on occasion as needed. Some people really don't mind cleaning a litter box, while other people will throw up if they even look at it, so trading out certain tasks works well in those instances. 


Mind Your Manners:  

Unless it's mutually decided, DON'T pee with the bathroom door open. DON'T walk in on someone while they're in the bathroom. DON'T leave food all over the place. DO clean up after yourself (or your pets/kids). DON'T snoop around in their drawers/cabinets. Basically, RESPECT each other's eccentricities and privacy. It's seems like a no-brainer, I know.


Let Go of the Past:

When you start a new life together, you both may have trouble letting go of some things. Things I am talking about are photos of you ex-boyfriends, love letters, gifts, etc. Some of these things, of course, are okay to keep if they have some integral value to who you are as a person, or are practical (like the mop your ex-girlfriend bought for the kitchen that isn't quite on its last leg yet).  That being said, try to do a once-over of your belongings before the move-in to make sure there isn't anything too incriminating or disturbing. There's really nothing worse than going to move a piece of furniture or opening up a book and finding ten-page love letters (to or from a previous ex) or graphic photos of previous lovers (or in my ex-husband's case, a pair of underwear from the first girl he ever dated-- gross).  Just use your best judgment. If you put yourself in their shoes and think about what is acceptable and comfortable behavior,  you'll know what is appropriate and what isn't. 


 Keep Your Family Close:

When I moved, a big plus is that my parents are now less than an hour away and most of Jonah's family is in-town or within a short driving distance. If your family lives near you, definitely make more of an effort to maintain those relationships and let them thrive. Just because you live together doesn't mean you're conjoined at the hip. Take daytrips, have a night on the town, or invite your folks over for a cookout. Get to know each other's families and call every chance you get just to check in with each other. 


Make Music Together (or Craft, or Shop, or Whatever):

If you're both into music, start a band. If you like horror movies, maybe have a horror movie night at your place. If you like board games, have a night where you make cocoa and play Scrabble. if you both like gardening, plan a garden together. Whatever you do, find hobbies you both like and cultivate them.


Get Romantic: 

Just because you're together all the time doesn't mean you should completely slack on the amorous side of things. Buy each other flowers. Write each other little notes. Do nice things for one another just because. Cuddle. Kiss each other. Get inventive in the bedroom. It seems like a lot of people settle into complacency after moving in (if you've ever farted in front of your significant other, you know where I'm going with this..), so it's really important to maintain the spontaneity and keep active in your relationship. A relationship is a lot like a painting-- a little work every day can make a beautiful picture over time. And as you add layers to your relationship over time, you can create new designs.


Don't Change Each Other: 

As much as you love your partner, you don't own them. You can't make them do or think anything. So changing them is a no-no. Live by example. Live a healthy life for yourself, and if they realize they too would like to live a healthier life or don't think that is a good fit for them personally, be supportive of them regardless. If you partner has bad habits, rather than try to change them, accept that these are part of who they are. That doesn't mean you won't be bothered by them from time to time (or every time), but all the nagging in the world won't make someone change. Just love each other.


Take Care of Each Other:

Also a no brainer, but if your partner is sick, it IS okay to baby them a little. Make them a hot toddy, bring them a blanket, and make sure they eat.


Cultivate Yourself:

Spend some quality time yourself. If you're fortunate enough to have a room or space to yourself in the house, decorate it how you want. Invest in your individuality. Join a club, organization, or class to learn new things and strengthen who you are as a person. Love yourself. Take time out each day to do activities you love, keep a journal or blog, and if you're a spiritual person, connect with your higher power. I connect with my higher power through nature, creating, and through investigation into philosophy and history. Tapping into your strengths and intuitions can be very gratifying and keep you balanced.


Balance Your Partner:

If your partner has a bad day, let them vent about it to you, and really listen to what they're saying. Pay attention to them and treat them with sympathy. If there's a crisis, put their needs before your own. Be their rock. Never be afraid to talk to each other about your troubles (but don't let them consume you, either). But also give them time by themselves if they need space. When you live together, it is extra-important to not let the little day-to-day things bring you down and try to have a positive outlook on most things. Struggles and troubles are going to happen at times-- it is the nature of life and it is inevitable-- but keeping up communication and maintaining teamwork are excellent ways to maintain balance in your relationships and in your home.


Don't Go to Bed (or the Bar) Angry:

 Perhaps the biggest mistake folks make is that they let their egos override their reason-- they go to bed (or storm off) pissed as hell at their significant other. If you love someone, no matter how annoyed or mad you may be at them, don't forget that at the end of the day, disagreeing with them doesn't mean you're not still on the same side. The goal is to stay together and make a strong, beneficial relationship. If you can't deal with occasionally being pissed off at each other (major or minor stuff), why would you want to be together at all? Everyone's moody on some level, and everyone's going to blow off steam from time to time in various ways. If an argument gets too heated, take a short break and walk around the block or spend time working in another room for a bit just to cool down. Passion is a great aspect for any relationship, but sometimes it can cause problems because of the height of strong emotions getting in the way of logic and reason. Fight fair, don't point fingers, and whether the issue gets resolved or not, if you think about how sad you would be without them, don't sweat the small stuff too much.

For those of you who have (or are planning) to move in together, what are some strategies you have for maintaining the peace? :)

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