The coronavirus pandemic threw me and my boyfriend of 6 months into lockdown together, back in March.
It was a no-brainer; he lives alone but regularly interacts with older family members.
And as someone with roommates who have partners who have roommates, while my “bubble” was difficult to define exactly, the element of risk was certainly too close for comfort.
So, into his house, I would insert myself hopefully with success.
We discussed the logistics of how to make it a smooth transition for us both.
After all, we’d have to live and work in a relatively compact space for who knows how long; keeping the peace would require some ground rules.
So, I put pen to paper and wrote them down that very first night.
These were things like continuing to make intentional time for each other, respecting personal boundaries.
And doing our best to pipe up the first instance anything bothered the other.
I couldn’t let resentment in the door with me, my overstuffed suitcase, and myriad domestic quirks.
It wasn’t sexy in the slightest discussing all the flaws right off the bat like that, but we did it anyway.
I knew our future selves would thank us for it.
It wasn’t that I was moving in against my will, or in any way bitter about it.
In fact, it was quite the opposite; I was thrilled at the prospect of this “trial run” of what it would actually be like to live with him one day — if we got that far.
Plus, my roommate’s cat had been driving me loopy.
His eagerness to have me inside his bubble during all the corona-chaos rather than out of it spoke volumes and warmed my heart.
He’s a very independent creature, so I knew it wasn’t a gesture to be taken lightly either.
Akin to an incubation period, this was an opportunity to delve into an accelerated version of what would otherwise have been a fairly normal unfolding of a relationship.
Not that normal is bad or anything like that, but I was up for the challenge and so was he, it seemed.
The world was a little bonkers, but I felt we had the tools at our disposal to make a real go of this.
If it worked — great. If it didn’t, at least we wouldn’t waste any more time than was necessary.
Sure, it sounds harsh, but hey — I’m not getting any younger.
There have been ups and downs, as you would expect.
There have been times I’ve longed for space I simply don’t have, to process difficult conversations or better handle our somewhat mismatched body clocks.
Overall, though, it has been surprisingly easy, which is kind of weird and foreign to me, in comparison to prior living arrangements with partners.
It’s tranquility sans boredom and I like it a lot.
Now, three months down the line, I pause to relish how proud I am of the two of us.
We’ve kept our shit together while the world at large and elements of our careers have felt as though they’ve fallen apart.
We’ve had to be each other’s social life and coworker and support system when things get tough.
As a result, we’ve navigated difficult conversations maturely, and directly, after all, there’s nowhere to run.
It’s the relationship I always wanted for myself and I truly feel as though we’re operating as a team.
As time has passed, I’ve grown more and more comfortable living under the same roof.
Going to bed and waking up together.
The small moments of joy nestled within the mundane tasks that keep a day flowing.
It wasn’t until just a few weeks ago, though, that I addressed the elephant in the room: my desire to live together for real.
Not purely because of a health crisis.
The multiple attempts to try and discuss the details of my moving back home kept turning to dust.
I could never find the answers because it wasn’t a reality I cared to entertain or explore.
I’d adjusted to this new life together and the thought of leaving felt more every day like a bandaid on a blister: painful when removed.
A divinely timed email from my landlady about the renewal of the lease gently nudged me to stop hiding amongst the many shades of grey.
And have the black and white chat that I so desperately needed.
As it turned out, my boyfriend was on the same page, much to my relief.
Living together was no longer a fantasy to dabble in, in private and cocooned in fear, but rather a shared desire and intuitive next step.
Many normal people under normal circumstances would probably deem it too soon, but the current state of the globe overrides all of that, doesn’t it?
As such, I think it’s safe to say that normal has gone out the window and we’re free to make up our own rules.
We began talking details and quickly realized that his place couldn’t be the one for us.
It was too small to allow us to both live comfortably long term.
It was accommodating me with plenty of TLC in the interim, but what about the reality of all my stuff.
These were strictly limited in the space available.
Plus, while he’d been doing his best to keep his night owl tendencies to a minimum.
The simmering soup of nocturnal creativity that Boyfriend had been quietly brewing needed to be brought to the boil sooner or later.
As it stood, the bed was always going to be within tip-toe range in this particular space.
We acknowledged that my moving in would be beneficial in some ways.
But it wouldn’t allow our needs as individuals to be met.
That was the problem, presenting itself to us loud and clear; two people — no matter how in love — become depleted if they aren’t being nourished in the ways that they need to be for themselves.
This was the pickle we had found ourselves in.
And though admitting it was uncomfortable, we know it to be the best move for “long term investment.”
Unfortunately, we can’t simply pick up and find that perfect place right now.
Between contracts, social distancing, and the uncertainties associated with this time of change, it’s tough, but I’m grateful for the discernment.
A relationship is the sum of its parts and can only be strong if everyone involved is nurtured.
I’ll continue on my separate path for a little while longer before we find something that works for us both and I’m realizing that that’s okay.
I’m in it for the long haul and building each other up sits right at the heart of my priorities.
If you’re considering moving in with your significant other, remember that while space to grow together is important, so too is space to grow independently.
What is it that you need to not only survive but thrive?
It’s not about the hot tub or walk-in closet or maybe it is but rather admitting to yourself the bare bones of what it is that you need to be happy and able to grow.
Once you’ve identified those things, be respectful, and hold space for them; your best future self depends upon it.
Kat Kennedy Unconventional British scientist in the Arizona Desert – Sleep | Health | Wellbeing. News Editor for Peaceful Dumpling. @sphynxkennedy