Table for Two: Cohabitation Survival Guide

This picture was staged but not exaggerated.

These cereal boxes…

These boxes, which have been empty for months and are therefore no longer cereal boxes, are not your problem. Considering how easy it would be to just throw them away, their constant presence on your boyfriend’s desk in his dorm room might annoy you, yes, but they are not really your problem.

Hypothetically, say you love and live with the sole owner of these empty boxes but only rarely use the desk they clutter. Are they your problem now? They’re part of your shared space, and they annoy you. You can’t help it. Are they 50% your problem? 25%? Do you have a right to be annoyed or should you just get over it? Do you and your BF agree on the solution to this cereal situation? The answer is more important than you think.

After two years of living with the aforementioned cardboard delinquent, I’ve found this inner monologue applies to a number of topics, both trivial and consequential. Agreeing on answers to “Is this my problem, your problem or our problem?” is one of the trickiest parts of co-habitation, and an issue that many people fail to consider.

The main course of our co-habiting relationship is made of laughter, TV cuddling and good times. To that main course we have a side of lengthy discussion (aka arguments). Like a small side, like a tablespoon of potato salad. Here are a few things that have helped us whittle down the lengthy discussion (aka arguments) from that deli quart of goopy slosh to a modest, infrequent helping of the mayo-laden frustration.

**Tips and Tricks to Survive the Ride**

The college convenience factor. You’ll likely have different class schedules, which creates guaranteed alone time at home to offset the onslaught of togetherness. There are plenty of close-by locations (library, study lounge, etc.) to study or relax with a pair of headphones in solitude. And if issues arise, your friends will welcome you to their couch without a second thought.

Disclaimer to the convenience factor. Would you be considering living together out there in the world if you didn’t have the convenience factor in place? Although you’ve lived with friends before and spent 22 hours a day at his house for the past six months, it’s not quite the same. The consequences are greater. It’s kind of tough to be “on a break” with your roommate. Living together in any context implies that in addition to desiring increased snuggle-time, you see a real future together.

Say it, don’t spray it in a hot, fiery stream of rage three weeks after the fact. One cultural roadblock for us girls is that we don’t want to be the nagging banshees sitcoms hilariously portray, so we convince ourselves the things that bother us don’t matter. Lest we become bitches and our men leave us. But bottling it up will hurt you in the end. Just look at the math: Voicing 10 small concerns keeps waters calmer than voicing one small concern with 10 times the exasperation. The second situation is where the (still unwarranted) perception of “crazy bitch” comes in: “She blew up at me about a bar of soap. Wtf, dude-man-broseph?!”

The important things. And finally are the moments that make it all worth it, which I’ve neglected to mention here because they are far too plentiful. Not being afraid to voice your concerns means remembering to articulate the things that make you happy, too. There’s a reason you want to move in together, right? Gotta lock it down now before even more important things come about. You know, like babies and stuff. Mouths to feed!

Babies Jaden (left) and Willow (right) gobbling their share of canned tuna

Jen Cantin graduated from Clark University in Worcester, Mass. with a degree in English and Journalism. She shares other (a)musings at Deep Fried Epiphany and dedicates this post to eating the dried up crispy parts of Adam’s fried food in the company of their cats in peace and harmony.

Originally posted on Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

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