I lived in a house with one or more parents until I was 34. Seeing that written down feels weird, but for the most part that’s because other people reading it will find it weird; while there were frustrations, sharing a house with my mum didn’t get in the way of much and there’s always been a bunch of beds/sofas/mattresses at friends’ houses to choose from. It was just the way it worked out for various reasons- some stemming from my parents’ divorce, some not- and I’ve always had an unusually close, supportive, and respectful relationship with my mum. I also have never had any desire, even when I’ve felt a mite stifled or childish, to live on my own. Friends, family, a partner: yes. But not on my own: that’s a very quick way to minor depression for me.
When I met M I think we tried not to move too quickly, even while emotionally we were speeding out of sight. We didn’t see each other every night, and work trips and my social life (and the fact that M couldn’t really have one) meant that we had space from each other. Except that by six months I was staying at M’s house so often, and hanging there even when he was out, that the writing was pretty much on the wall: we live together now.
I had always taken the view that moving in together would be huge, and if the timing was wrong that it could spell absolute disaster. And I still think that, but I feel that at my age I’m in a better position to know what I want and what I’m able to adapt to. And in so many ways it’s felt stupidly easy. I’ve sat in bars and pubs asking my co-habiting friends whether they found it difficult when they first moved in together: I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or I did. It turns out that I had interpreted my difficult to be the same as other people’s difficult, which it isn’t. We split the chores, and although we’re both messy and that can irritate, we’re mostly pretty considerate people. Where I realise my difficult comes in to play is when it comes to feelings. I have all the feelings, and I’m a naturally very emotional person. I’m also resilient, supportive, and fairly alright company, and my emotional side makes me a better friend and partner. But I do realise that I’m used to living with someone who’s known me all my life and who’s able (pretty much) to gauge my moods and knows the tricks to make me feel better, or to take care of me. Which me and M are still navigating. We have an agreement that I need to signpost M to what I need because I’m not that easy to read, and also because I’ve had those very emotional relationships and he hasn’t in the same way. But it’s not easy when you’re upset to tell someone that you feel they’re handling the situation wrong or you need something else. I try to guess what people need and I think I do ok but it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to be able to do that with me.
I also have a characteristic that I’m sure can be very tiring for the person I live with. I have a need for things to feel special, or an occasion, or marked in some way. I’m not sure where it comes from, or rather I do but I can’t quite articulate it. I know I want to be present and I like things to be deliberate- I really am not one for channel-surfing and ending up with half an old episode of Only Fools and Horses. I think the concept of ‘occasion’ is a throwback to my childhood: up until quite late in my parents’ marriage, occasions such as birthdays, Christmas, and holidays were sacred. People put aside their differences and made nice for a couple of days, and we had fun things to eat and drink. I can’t quite unpick exactly where this need comes from and why I need a sense of ceremony on a bog-standard Saturday night, but I do. I do my best not to dictate our weekends, and it’s worth noting that somehow marking the evening can be as small as picking something nice for tea, or watching a film instead of something from the Sky planner. It’s just important to me that we’re present, I guess. Similar to my feelings about marriage, I want to be actively being in our relationship, not coasting or sleepwalking through it.
I carry with me a fear, always, that I am being emotionally demanding or dictatorial. While I think we are usually excellent communicators, a recent row proved that pussyfooting around and thinking that we’re being considerate essentially ends up amounting to (benign) dishonesty, and potentially feeling a bit hard done by. It’s a tricky balancing act between signposting a need and making a demand, I suppose. But we’re not doing too badly.