How You Know You’re Ready to Live with Your Partner
“You can’t shack up with him until he’s changed your last name.”
My mom said that to me one evening in the summer of 2014 when I expressed that I was planning to once again move in with my then boyfriend, now partner.
She is a northerner with Southern Carolina roots and did not believe in moving with a partner until after (yes, after) you were married.
“Mom, we haven’t even lived in the same place for like four years,” I whined. “We need to live together.”
She wasn’t having it. Like many of the older women in my family, they didn’t believe in “shacking up” before marriage.
“And what happens if you move in with him and y’all break up?” she asked. "What will you do then?”
It was a good question and one to which I had given a lot of thought. My now husband and I had broken up many times before that. Sometimes for a short period, like a week, and other times, for over a year. We had gotten back together not too long before this conversation and it was something that weighed heavily on me. It was, in my opinion, old school thinking, but she was right. I needed to have security, and the type of security where in case we did decide to part ways I could still manage on my own. I had never actually lived on my own, and while I had roommates and lived with a large family, living with a significant other wasn’t something I had ever experienced.
We had been dating long distance for awhile at this point, and it was getting very expensive. Flights every other weekend, hotels when he visited me (because I lived with family), and trying to love on one another enough in one weekend to last until we saw each other again became monetarily and spiritually expensive.
Despite the expenses though, and while I was confident that we were in it for the long haul, I knew I needed the security that came with moving in with a partner. That security came in the form of an engagement.
When my partner and I first moved in together in 2016, it was what you would expect after a couple endures a long distance relationship for years — romantic, loving, and adventurous. Like many long distance couples who make the leap to move in together, it also meant we had to make some major adjustments. I left my job, family and friends behind for a partner — most of the time, I knew I had made the right decision. Other times, I felt dumb. On top of this huge life adjustment, we were also planning a wedding. We were doing the absolute most and we would fight about anything and everything.
“It’s your turn to do dishes,” became my quintessential weeknight statement.
“Can you stop putting makeup all over our towels and pillow cases?” he would ask in return.
“Your towels are dingy!” I would yell again, and again.
“They wouldn’t be if you took better care of them,” he would snappily reply.
“I’m not going to cook anymore this week if you can’t help put groceries away and do the dishes!” I would reply.
”I don’t like your food anyway,” he would say.
Fighting words, I know.
Sometimes, those exchanges would turn into wars that lasted days, but most of the time, things were really good (though when you’re fighting that’s the only thing you can remember.)
That’s what happens when you move in with your partner. And since we both came from traditional southern families with praying mothers and aunties, questions about why we were living together would always find there way into our conversations with them.
“Is this what y’all should really be doing?” a family member would ask.
“You know my son moved in with his girlfriend and look where they are now. Not together,” another family member would say.
Thankfully, we were strong and committed enough to withstand the judgment of others and choose what was best for us. That wasn’t always the case though. When you live with someone, you can’t really hide the ugly parts about yourself or the things you didn’t want your partner to know about you. For me, my insecurities about my skin made me wear make up to bed (hence the dirty pillow cases.) I had to stop hiding my skin from him, and that was one of the hardest things for me to overcome.
For him, as an introvert, the moments he sought solitude away from me were difficult. I couldn’t understand, as an extrovert, why he needed time to recover from being around people, even if that person was me.
The first year we lived together was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve had in my life. I had to reconcile the monsters I had in my own closet, days I would spend just watching TV and not seeking sunshine, or the nights my anxiety would make me insufferable to be around. There was also my tendency to yell when I was flustered or anger.
I had to learn to deal with the issues that had been haunting me in order to be a better partner and roommate. We had to learn to do things together — to be honest about our finances, credit and debt; to be willing to tell one another when something really hurt us; to listen to understand before being understood; to talk to one another and not at one another; to have very intimate conversations about sex.
Needless to say, it was hard.
Looking back on it now, I’m grateful to have chosen to move in with him when I did. It taught me to grow and mature in ways I didn’t know I needed to. Living with somebody else will do that to you.
You have to suck up all the bullshit and decide, without the influence of others or how it may be perceived, to do what’s best for you. That may mean you’re not ready to live with someone else, and that’s okay.
Living with your significant other may also end terribly, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is choosing not to see or learn from your own mistakes in the process. What’s not okay is moving in with someone knowing you’re not ready to do it.
For me, and a lot of others, being engaged or having a ring may give you the perceived security you desire in order to make the leap. And that’s okay. You have to be confident in the choices you make and sometimes a promise to marry can give you that.
At the end of the day though, those are just promises. You have to be able to discern whether or not with or without that ring if you’re willing to make that jump.
Like my partner and I, we knew we wanted to make the leap. Our engagement was just an added bonus. Like any major life decision, you have to weigh the pros and cons and consider how you can thrive in a space that’s not just your own anymore. Those are the most important considerations to make when you choose to live with your partner.