Cohabitating Habits

So yesterday at brunch we started a discussion on whether or not it was necessary or even desirable to cohabitate in order to have a truly loving, intimate relationship. I think it’s a discussion worth pursuing a bit further.

Some people felt very strongly that, yes, they wanted to wake up every morning to their significant person; to share the minutiae of day-to-day living with them; to feel their presence in their home. They felt that this closeness helps build and strengthen relationships.

Me, not so much.   I kind of feel the opposite. I think the minutiae of day-to-day living impacts negatively on intimate relationships.

I should note that the people I was speaking with were all in fairly new relationships. Relationships are fun when they’re new. You’re getting to know each other’s quirks and oddities — you can still joke about them and you’re willing to overlook them or even think they’re cute.  You’re all about compromise and giving each other leeway because this relationship is special, different, The One.

I hope they’re right and that they’ve found their happily-ever-afters.

Me, I find the quirks and oddities start to grate real fast. Between the job and dealing with the world at large, a big part of my day is work and compromise and gritting my teeth and giving leeway. When I come home, I want to relax and be myself and be comfortable.

 “To maintain a good relationship takes hard work,” it is said. I guess I don’t want to work hard for a relationship. In my opinion, if you invite someone into your life it should be because that person enhances your life somehow. Hard work does not enhance my life.

I don’t want to pick up another adult’s debris no matter how much I love them. I don’t want to argue about when and what we’re having for supper. I don’t want to smell their poop in my bathroom and I don’t want to keep still on my side of the bed so someone else can sleep. And, I don’t always want to be with someone every dayand night; week after week; month after month; year after year.

What if we each had our own, separate homes and then we can get together when we really want to see each other? Maybe we’ll spend the night together sometimes, but it’s not obligatory. You can be always at your best with each other. Wouldn’t that keep the relationship fresher, newer, saner?

A little absence really does make the heart grow fonder. When you’re away from each other regularly you have a chance to miss the person, think about the things that actually attracted you to them in the first place; yearn for them. Really, don’t you find you love your kids most when they’re asleep or away for a while? Doesn’t the same thing apply to your significant one?


41 responses to “Cohabitating Habits

  1. Hmmmm… well I think it’s one of those to each his/her own issues. I don’t see why you couldn’t have an intimate relationship without living together.

    The Man and I have been shacked up for 13 years. I just really like him, and we were together all the time anyway so it made no sense financially not to live together. We’re both really laid back so it’s never been much of an issue. (New mattresses mean you don’t have to lay still. Unless the other has a cold in which case, it’s probably best if you sleep on the couch.) And now with The Boy, it just wouldn’t work to have us live in separate homes without causing massive logistical nightmares. (I have divorced friends with kids — who does what when is it’s own special kind of hell.)

    Now, if something should happen and I end up on my own, I’m not sure I’d let someone else move in. I can see the appeal of having your own space. And I know someone who’s been in a relationship for a long time — they just don’t live together. I think I’d like that arrangement too. And can see it working.

    Just don’t ask me my views on marriage. 😉

  2. You obviously have no sense of romance.
    The snoring and farting in bed.
    The getting up 5 times a night to pee.
    The dirty laundry, dishes, bathtub.
    The football on TV.
    These are the things that love is made of.
    Who would want the sparkle of always being called for, finding your partner washed, shaved, dressed.
    Going neat places together because you feel like it.
    Doing naughty things together because you feel like it.
    Being asked if you want company instead of just having it every single day of your life no matter how close you are to committing murder.
    That’s no way to keep the love alive. You need constant and unrelenting contact to be happy.
    Now pull my finger.

  3. This is a question that has always intrigued me.

    I absolutely think that two people can have a loving, dedicated married or unmarried relationship, living in different places, infact I think it only adds to it. No matter how easy going you both are, living together day in and day out adds a level of boredom to any relationship. Boredom and routine is crappy so why not try to avoid it as long as possible. I think that most people live together for financial or convenious purposes.

    I also find that individuals who have been there, done that, tend to have the same attitude as mine. They’ve learned from past experiences and wanna do it differently this time ’round. The older you get and the longer you have lived alone you tend to get set in your ways – you don’t want or feel the need to put the extra effort into living together.

    That’s my take.

  4. When I lived in Kingston a couple of years back, DH and I had separate houses. He lived in town, I lived 30 minutes out on a lovely acreage. It was the perfect arrangement, as far as I was concerned.

    I am a lover of silence, solitude and always having things in their right place… my right place, not his. I loved choosing when I wanted companionship, and having the ability to do without. I love my own company.

    He got transferred to Ottawa and I had to do a lot of hard thinking. We couldn’t afford two houses in Ottawa, so if I went with him, it would have meant a single house for him and I and his two daughters, who I honestly don’t care for at all. He, however, is a gem. What to do?

    I thought long and hard and came up with what I needed. If I was going to live in the same house as his daughters and him, I needed room- lots of room. I also wanted a room of my own- a refuge in the house where I could go and no-one else was welcome to even look in, let alone trespass. He agreed. The deal was stuck, the houses in Kingston were sold, the house in Ottawa was bought.

    It’s been two years now since that decision was made. I still think it was the right one, despite the perpetual aggravation factors (the girls, his messes, his own stamp on our living space.) He is worth it enough that I still consider this a good decision.

    I however am happiest when both he and the girls are gone and the house is all mine, and peace and order reign. If I could afford two houses again, I would love love love the option and it would be the best of all worlds.

  5. I think this is one of those situations where you have to do what feels right to you. Trying to convince another person otherwise is just a waste of time and energy. That being said, you asked for MY opinion, so here it is. 🙂

    I grew up in a crazy household. There were tons of kids, and it was always loud, cramped and crazy. I never had a space of my own. Things were never where I left them. I always had to share…everything.

    In college, I lived with a roommate and loved it. For the most part. After college, I lived with different roommates, and it was challenging, but I loved the presence of another human. I did live on my own for a short time, and it was nice, too…but I prefer human contact.

    My hubby and I met and we moved in together rather quickly. He initiated that, and I agreed. We’ve been living together for almost 12 years. (Almost 8 years married…)

    I think the key to a successful relationship is understanding that a good relationship really isn’t supposed to be a lot of work! If it’s a LOT of work, something’s not right. (Compromise here and there, but WORK? NO way. No thanks.)

    Maybe we’re just lucky?

    We click. We argue and disagree, but at the end of the day, we make our peace and sleep soundly. We’ve never gone to be angry with each other.

    You can stop rolling your eyes now… 😉

    He goes away to the office every week-day, and that’s just the space we need to function. He’s a neat freak, so I don’t have to worry about that.

    Spending my nights with someone centers me. It makes me balanced, and it does the same for him. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    Sorry for the long comment.

  6. Nat – thanks for your thoughtful comments. The issue of kids might change things a bit, but I think it’s still possible if you don’t live too far away from each other. But you’re right — it’s a choice everyone has to make for themselves. People just don’t seem to take a relationship seriously unless the couple is living together.

    Bandobras – Very well put. Who needs romance when you could have all that other stuff?

    Raino – Some older, been-there’s do shy away from this sort of 24/7 involvement, but others seem to plunge in even more quickly the second or third or fourth time around.

    Susan- Now THAT’S an interesting perspective. You would prefer your own place, but economics is really what’s keeping you all in the same house? Wow. At least you have a quiet space for yourself. It sounds like a tough compromise — he must really be worth it!

    CP – I’m totally not rolling my eyes. I respect other people’s choices and I’m always glad when relationships work out well — surprised sometimes, but still glad. And I love your long comment

  7. In my case, I’m home alone all day, so I enjoy “company” at night. I like having someone around to do the heavy lifting and the high reaching and I need someone here to make laugh and make me laugh. Dinner is never an issue as I am the cook, so I always decide and he is always appreciative of whatever I set down before him. And we have separate bathrooms. Everyone is different and my best friend is aghast at the thought of her boyfriend living there 24/7. Currently he stays Thursday thru Sunday and that is plenty for her. Ideally, a couple just needs to be on the same page about how they should share their time and space.

  8. Jeez why doesn’t anyone just go for option 3?
    Don’t get involved, live on your own without kids or family!
    OK it will in time lead to the end of the human race but WTF?
    That would be in 60 to 100 years anyhow! I won’t be around so who cares!
    My best option was always to be madly in love with someone who is totally unavailable to me (Avril? Where are you?) and build a life around the pleasant pleasant solitude. 🙂

  9. Pingback: » Sketchy minutes: It was something like that

  10. Geewits – You guys sound like you have a lot of fun together. I’m sure the separate bathrooms help to keep the romance alive, too!!

    Lebowski – No one is aruging the value of option #3. There is much to be said for that. This particular discussion assumed you were already in a relationship and whether or not that required eventual cohabitation. And, um … Avril??

  11. ”To maintain a good relationship takes hard work,” it is said. I guess I don’t want to work hard for a relationship. In my opinion, if you invite someone into your life it should be because that person enhances your life somehow. Hard work does not enhance my life.” – My first two long term relationships were damn hard work. What amazes both the Lion and I, is that our relationship requires no work at all. We simply fit, like the perfect pieces of a puzzle. It’s a dance where we both know, or anticipate, the steps of our partner. I honestly would never have thought it possible to be that in tune with someone, but we are.

    I don’t want to pick up another adult’s debris no matter how much I love them. – I do pick up his debris, but he picks up mine. It all evens out in the wash.

    I don’t want to argue about when and what we’re having for supper. – no arguments at all. We like the same food. He does most of the cooking, but I pitch in as well.

    I don’t want to smell their poop in my bathroom – BIG RULE for me because it really bothered me in my previous relationship – LEAVE ME ALONE in the bathroom. The Lion has no issue with this. AND keeps a can of febreeze on hand for his stinky moments.

    I don’t want to keep still on my side of the bed so someone else can sleep. – king size bed. Snuggle then move to your own side.

    And, I don’t always want to be with someone every dayand night; week after week; month after month; year after year. – Ah see, that is where it comes down to personal preference. I do want to be with the same somebody. I’m just that type of gal. But then, since we were at the same brunch, you already knew that *smile*

  12. Well… I’ve been living with Mr. Jazz for pretty much 20 years. And though he annoys me at times (as do I no doubt), I wouldn’t have it any other way. Because it isn’t a lot of work actually. If it were, I wouldn’t be with him…

    However, if I were to find myself alone, I don’t think I’d ever live with anyone again. Too much to get used to, and I’m simply too old to be bothered anymore. I think it’s much easier to live with, and get used to someone else’s quirks when you’re under 30.

  13. i think it truly has to do with living and loving the right person. i have lived with 2 people in my life and hated most minutes of it TBH. but then again, didnt really like them much either.

  14. Not just economics, truth be told… two houses is ideal for me, not him. You know, the age-old story that they need us more than we need them. It was not and will never be optimal for him, but he would do it if necessary to keep me. Same way as I tolerate being together to keep him.

    Love is only for the slightly masochistic.

  15. I have been living with my partner for one year now. I mostly find cohabitation difficult. We give each other space, we don’t rely on constant interaction, but the fact remains I love, love, love being alone, for superficial reasons and stuff that goes deeper. I love coming home to an empty house, I love turning up my atrocious selections of music, I love pacing crazily while I think things out, I love keeping things clean and ordered (or messy, as mood dictates), I love falling asleep reading, with the lights still on, I loved not having to mediate excessive moods; I loved my single days when I’d go grocery shopping and come home with new jeans and some sushi take-out instead and no one would be inconvenienced because of this.

    All this sort of stuff sounds pretty trivial in light of what I get back from our live-in situation: affection, emotional support, a listening ear and a helping hand. But I pine for solitude. I wish we had a bigger place, or at least a yard…I think if you’re going to live with someone, it’s done most decently in the country. Not these maddening urban centres where you have no where to escape to!

    I have considered taking a sick day and renting a hotel room just to have someplace private to draw the curtains, cook up some Kraft Dinner, and dance to Bollywood music videos like in the olden days!

  16. Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera had the right idea with the separate houses that were joined by a bridge. Yeah, that’s about the only part they had right, though.

  17. My husband would be able to stand me having a second home…but oh, it would be fantastic to come home to a house that was as tidy as you left it. To know that any mess made was you and you alone. To have one’s own space…Aaaah!

    But as for Meeester M, I went into the bathroom on Saturday to put a hair treatment on and within ten mins he was banging on the door wanting to know what I was doing, and could he come in to watch and when was I coming back out.

    Meeester hates it if I even go into a different room. I’ve got a daughter as well who is the same and a cocker spaniel. It’s nice to be loved but FFS give me a break!

  18. i like liiving with my husband, we strike a nice balance and also respect each others need for whatever it is we need (he needs football on sundays, i need complete solitude on occasion and a clean kitchen) and we usually make sure we are getting what we need. HOWEVER i can see separate bedrooms in the future as we just don’t sleep well together; he snores, i hog blankets. we recently went to separate duvets and there has been a remarkable improvement, but i can see sleeping alone as the ultimate decadence for both of us.

  19. UP – Those points were just examples. There’s plenty of other stuff that gets irritating fast. But, you seem to have things worked out or at least are in the process of working them out. I’m going to be at the edge of my chair for at least the next year to see how you and the Lion make all these new adjustments. It’s very cool that I can get both your perspectives at the same time with your co-blogs.

    Lebowski – Calm down, man! I was only asking. I DO think she’s getting a bit long in the tooth for you, though.

    Jobthingy – So are you, or would you live with someone again? You obviously loved these people initially or wouldn’t have moved in with them presumably. That’s kind of what I’m getting at — maybe if you hadn’t moved in together you’d still be in love??

    Susan – You jest, but I think you may be right! It works out if both people want the same arrangement — whether it’s living apart or living together. It must be very difficult if you’re compromising your lifestyle for the sake of the other person.

    Grumpus – Your “stuff” doesn’t sound trivial in the least. These are the joys in your life and you’ve given them up. You say you get back emotional support, a listening ear and a helping hand, but all that could still be available without you having to live on top of each other. You’re finding it difficult and you don’t seem happy because I think you’ve given up everything that means “home” to you. Maybe you could re-negotiate? Buy a duplex together or something??

    X – Lots of couples have managed to have a perfectly wonderful life together — slightly apart. Entire cultures exist where there is no such thing as cohabitating couples. It’s a Judeo-Christian paradigm and we have been indoctrinated with the belief that this is the “right” thing to do when one is “in love” and wants to build a life. (PS- love Frida Kahlo)

    Misssy M – Good grief! They’d be having to cart me off by now if I lived with such a collection of needy beings. It must suit you for the most part, though, no?

  20. See, I don’t think that could work for me, and I’ll explain why: You actually taled about the “newness” as making it more fun and interesting, but I”m the exact opposite. I crave familiarity, and, if anything, at the beginning, the quirks and differences were much harder to deal with then they are now. I guess it depends on how much you like to spend time with others in general?

  21. I’ll put a very similar response to the one I left at Geewits.

    I totally agree with the way you feel and yet, at the same time, sometimes for very short period of time, I wish I lived with someone. I’m strange… but I also love coming home to a quiet place with just a cat greeting me at the door. I love going to bed on my own, knowing there will be only my noise (and the cat too, she loves to purr when she’s snuggling with me) and no snoring to keep me awake.

    I think that if I ever hook up with someone, I will be pushing very hard for separate households. Not neighbours either, separate as in I don’t know when you’re home cause I can’t see you lol

    But then again, maybe I won’t. I have no idea. Right now, my life satisfies me and that’s good enough for me.

  22. While I do look forward to cohabitating, I remember feeling quite insulted a while back when a woman told me I didn’t really have a “true” intimate relationship with the man in my life because we don’t live together. While it’s something I want when the circumstances are right, I also don’t think my relationship is lesser because we don’t. So there!!

  23. Thank you so much XUP for posting this. I could not agree with you more.

    I lived at home from childhood through university, and when I moved out, I moved in with my boyfriend who later became my husband and now my ex-husband. I never lived by myself.

    After I got over the shock of the end of my marriage, I’ve come to discover that I LOVE living by myself (well, I have my daughters of course, but I mean without a significant other). The freedom! I decide what to cook for dinner, what to watch on TV, where to go on vacation with the kids. If I feel like eating pb&j sandwiches with the girls in the fort they made under the dining room table instead of vacuuming or mowing the lawn, then I do that with no guilt that I’m not ‘keeping a clean enough house’. I like having the bed to myself. I like having a bathroom and a closet to myself. I’ve become selfish with my space and my time — I’ll give as much of it to my daughters as they need or want, but I’ll be damned if I’ll have to take care of anyone else’s needs other than theirs or my own.

    Men? I love them, but I don’t think I could share my home with anyone again. Your solution is elegant and perfect. I hope to find someone someday that could make that work with me.

  24. I think you make some thought provoking arguments here. As a legally married person living with her spouse, I have to say that “hard work” is not how I would describe it, more like “exemplary patience”.

    My husband keeps an office away from home, and there are times when I am so grateful for that office and I wish it was bigger and able to hold more of his mess! Then there are times where he works late for days and I wish his office was just upstairs so I could surprise him with a hug before I went to bed.

    I was thinking the other day about dating ads and saying things like “I like long walks on the beach.” I never understood these statements, they do not seem like long term activities to me. How many people keep taking long walks on the beach 18 months into a relationship? Or 18 years? Maybe it is a personal problem? Maybe if I lived closer to the ocean I would take more walks on the beach?

  25. Well she is – but then again I am getting long in the tooth myself – might have to readjust my sights slightly higher then a pedophile– HOWEVER….

    Having enjoyed co-habitation on several occasions I will quite simply say this – should the opportunity rise again in the future I will take the risk to actually say no.
    Either that of I will have to be living in a home so large that it is possible to hide from that person for hours-even days on end. I have arrived at a point in my life that I honestly believe that it would be impossible to change my personal habits to accommodate another. Its a lot more comfortable to just spend weekends and such with a person then have them underfoot all the time.
    I have a dog for that.

  26. I grew up like an only child—my brother was so much older than me that I didn’t have to fight for space or demand peace and quiet. When I went to college, I really had a hard time living with roommates—it was fun but there were always too many people around, so as soon as I graduated, I ran out and got my own place. Aaah. No one else to clean up after, no noise…

    When my husband and I moved in together it was a bit of a transition—he had been married and has kids and was used to being around people All. The. Time. I obviously wasn’t. It took some time to make it work, but if you’re both on the same page, it’s not so bad. He gives me space and now that he’s learned to enjoy some alone time, I give him space.

    I gotta tell ya—he was gone for a week and I LOVED it. I missed him, but I enjoyed having the house all to myself! And I don’t feel the least bit guilty!

  27. Meanie – I think a lot of couples end up at least getting separate beds after a while. It just gets harder and harder to get a good night’s sleep let alone having to cope with someone else’s sleeping disorders. A bedroom of your own sounds lovely, though, too doesn’t it?

    Noha – With your very close, loving family, I can totally see how and why living with your significant person on a day-to-day basis would appeal to you.

    UA – That’s a good point about having the other person live far enough away that you can’t see them all the time. Maybe within reasonable walking distance, but not so close that popping by is too tempting??

    Lesley – Ya, you can’t worry about how other people define “real” relationships: cohabitating, marriage, kids… and yes, there are some people who don’t even recognize a marriage if the couple doesn’t have kids.

    Alison – It must be great to finally be able to live your life on your own terms. People always say these are just little things we have to adjust to when we become a couple, but to me these “little” things are the very essence of life; the things that bring you joy; that make your home feel like your home — a place where you feel comfortable and relaxed and where you can be yourself.

    Missy – It seems like as the relationship progresses the little things become big and the big things become little. Alll the stuff that looms so large when a couple first gets together, fade into less significance, while all the small things that just niggle at the beginning or that you just ignore start to become large bones of contention later on.

    Lebowski – We seem to have a slight majority here so far. I’m counting 13 people who prefer not to live with someone all the time and 8 people who enjoy cohabitating. Interestingly, of those 13 who would prefer to live alone, 5 of them do not live alone.

    Mo – Have you solved all your little domestic, cohabitating issues yet? Are there still some outstanding things that look like they’ll never get resolved? Does the stuff that bugged you the most at the beginning still bug you the most or has that shifted? How long did it take to get into a workable rhythm? Maybe you could do a post on this yourself. I’d really like to know.

  28. this is one of my favorite topics. i agree with you 100%.

    i have long wondered if we are better off just living next door to our mates.

    i brought this up in my last long term relationship before i married my husband, so that was about 14 years ago.

    i kept leaving relationships thinking i had not met the “right one” and realized they were variations of the same one. part of it my life path and patterns we create and replay over and over.

    i think many relationships would work better if these “standards” were not shoved down our throats.

  29. I think it gets a little harder to merge lives as we get older, because our lives aren’t as elastic as they once were…but with the right person, maybe it’s not that much of a stretch.

  30. You know, it’s weird – I knew my relationship with my husband was good when it occurred to me that I never grow sick of him, no matter how much time we spend together. And I don’t mean that we’re all lovey dovey la la la blah blah barf, I just mean that even when he’s driving me nuts, he isn’t REALLY. I always want him around. I feel better when he’s around.

    I have many, many very solid, very long term relationships in my life with some incredibly amazing people, but there’s not a single one of them that I don’t end up getting a bit sick of if we’re together too much. But not Dave. (And we’ve been together 16 years now.)

    I don’t know. Fascinating discussion!

  31. DP – So, are you still married and living with the husband? And it’s going okay? And yes, people seem to go into relationships all wide-eyed thinking this one is different and then it all goes sideways. But sometimes it doesn’t and I guess that’s what keeps people doing it over and over — looking for the magical combination.

    Zoom – Ah yes. The ubiquitous “right person”. Sounds like such a simple formula and yet one so difficult to work out. I guess if we want it badly enough we’re always willing to take the plunge and hope for the best and/or make the necessary compromises no matter how old and inflexible we get. (I’m rooting for you)

    Maggie – Congratulations and here’s to 16 more. For some of you it all seems relatively easy. So relationships really shouldn’t be hard work — that they’re good when they’re easy, right?

    Lesley – Yes, and such diverse opinions from people in varying stages of relationshipdom.

  32. I agree with you XUP, and how is this for jaded thinking – there’s a biological imperative at work in the shack up thing – it is no fun single parenting 4 kids all the time. I look forward to Papa Pan’s retuern at the end of the day, every day, so I can hold *one* kid in my lap while he gives another kid a bath. Then the kids are bigger and you’re STUCK with a live in partner…and it isn’t easy to renegotiate bathroom rights then.

  33. Lesley – Yes, the readers really make this blog. I hope you’re getting to know them as bloggers as well as readers of my blog!

    Mud mamma – Ha ha! Jaded indeed. Should Papa Pan start looking around for his own digs pretty soon?

    Woodsy – He’s kind of a lummox most of the time, but every once in a while he seems to be able to nail a topic dead-on.

    Everybody – Hey, thanks for enjoying this topic so much that this has been my #1 post in terms of hits so far!!

  34. I will require him to find his own bathroom yes…there is a presedent set and everything his ex wife assures me he will go use the bathroom washroom without any trouble whatsoever.

  35. i am indeed still married and living with my husband. the cohabitation habits are not as i’d wish it to be, so i guess that means a slow painful death of being alive for me 🙂

  36. mudmama – well, okay. I was afraid you were going to kick him right out of the house once his usefulness as a provider and babysitter was done.

    DP – Or you could modify things to make them more comfortable for you?