Q. My boyfriend and I have been dating for four years, and most of that time has been long-distance. This summer, we are finally getting the opportunity to live in the same city and have leased an apartment together! I am really excited and very much in love, but I know there will be some adjustments, going from seeing each other maybe once a month to living together full time.
We have had many, many conversations about our living styles, expectations for chores/finances, and things like that. But I’m wondering what advice you have for my situation and moving in with a significant other for the first time, in general. Thank you!
A. Congratulations on closing the gap! I’m challenging every commenter to share their expertise here. Here are my thoughts on cohabitation:
1. Find a solo activity — something you can do weekly, at the very least — that gives you space from your partner. Maybe it’s an online class. Maybe it’s a hike. Whatever you need to duplicate some of the alone time you had before.
2. Figure out the TV situation. If you need more than one TV because you like to watch different things, try to make that happen. Everyone here knows that TV is a big part of my life, and that I see it as a help to couples. That’s not the case for everyone, but if there’s entertainment that keeps you happy, make sure you have access to it without too much hassle.
3. Call on friends — and friends of friends — to make connections so you can meet new people together. Then ... meet new people together.
4. Visit friends and family. You’re going to want some escapes and familiarity. Returning to your old life for vacation is OK.
5. Think about chores and finances, but please have fun. You’re living together after such a long time! There should be late-night surprise desserts (take that as a euphemism if you please), and afternoons where you both curl up and do nothing because you don’t have to watch a ticking clock before you separate. Relax and enjoy.
6. Expect some weirdness. Conflict is OK. New experiences are bumpy sometimes. Give yourself room to make mistakes.
7. I like vertical bookshelves. They fit a lot of books and other things. I know I say this every time I’m asked about move-ins, but do not underestimate the power of the right bookshelf.
8. Make a good playlist for unpacking. It sets the right tone.
“We have had many, many conversations about our living styles, expectations for chores/finances, and things like that.” Expect to discover that 99 percent of what was said during those discussions was complete b.s.
^Yeah, things rarely go the way you anticipate they will. Roll with it.
Forgiveness over scorekeeping.
This! Do not be a scorekeeper.
Expect that there will be conflict at times, no matter how in love you are with each other. Do not be passive-aggressive; say what you mean, but be kind. Never give anyone the silent treatment; give them a chance to know what you’re thinking, even if it’s just to tell them you need some time alone and you’ll talk later. Try not to take each other for granted. Tell your partner you appreciate them when they do nice things. (For example: If they fill up your car with gas, don’t have the attitude of “Well, of course he should, he drove it around for hours. Why should I say thank you?” Show gratitude.) Don’t focus on being right and having everything your way. You’re living as a couple and need to compromise. Good luck!
Separate bathrooms. You’re welcome.
Never go to bed angry.
^I’m seeing a lot of comments along the lines of “never go to bed angry” and I have to disagree with that advice. ... Sometimes the only practical thing to do is sleep on it and talk through things the next day. Trying to resolve issues when you have nothing left in the tank can make problems worse. I think as long as you’re committed to addressing it ASAP it’s OK to get some sleep even if you’re mad.
Toothpaste and toilet paper: cap on, and the paper rolls from the top down. Oh yeah, and put the toilet seat down.
Never leave dishes in the sink. Wash as you go, keeps the peace.
Never ask the question “What are you thinking?”
The chores. ... I know you’ve discussed it, but that may be different when you are in it. Communicate, don’t let it fester and then lead to fights. Who will do the shopping? The cooking? Make sure there are shared or assigned tasks. Life isn’t a rom-com, unfortunately, with work and general life. ... You’ve got to just roll with the punches.
Realize you will find out some info about your mate you never expected (like he brushes his teeth in the shower, or she likes to eat ice cream right from the tub) and just take that as part of learning more about one another.
Don’t fight about ketchup brands or mayo vs. Miracle Whip. If you need to have two bottles of everything in the fridge to keep each other happy, so be it. And make sure you make time for solo activities. Even if it’s just reading at night, have your own space to do it.
^There is no need for Miracle Ship in any fridge.
Duke’s, baby. Made in Richmond, Va. In a pinch, Hellmann’s.
Send your own relationship and dating questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch new episodes of Meredith Goldstein’s “Love Letters” podcast at loveletters.show or wherever you listen to podcasts. Column and comments are edited and reprinted from boston.com/loveletters.