When you live with roommates, you have to share a space and be mutually respectful of that shared space (ideally). In college, I lived with a couple of different sets of roommates, and each experience was the same: my home life was spent in my bedroom, where I had complete and total control. My desk, my bed, all my stuff — in my bedroom. I ate there, worked there, hung out there with friends there, and lived in my room and only my room. This wasn’t necessarily because my roommates were annoying — I just liked having control over my space. Most of the time the space was spic and span as I’m just fond of my stuff being tidy; but during exams, for example, I’d let it get out of control. However, it was my choice to do so. It was I who decided that I’d get to the laundry in a couple days, or that those books could hang out on the floor until this paper was done. Whether it was messy or clean, it was under my rule. Like a tiny queendom with black and purple decorations and a stocked liquor cabinet.
This also meant that if I ever used the common areas, I made sure to leave no trace when I went back to my room. I hated it when I came home to a pile of dirty dishes with the perpetrator nowhere to be found, or when someone’s homework covered the dining room table for days. In an effort to set an example, I covered my tracks anywhere around the house as best as I could.
So, here’s where this adjustment to living with my boyfriend comes in. The other day when he was at work, I texted him to say “I’m exhausted and I just want to warn you that the dishes aren’t done. I’ll get to them tomorrow first thing.”
His response: “I hate to tell you this, love, but you’re an adult now. You can do the dishes whenever you want!”
My reaction in my mind: “Not true. I have a responsibility to my roommate to maintain this house in the way that I would want to live in it.” Then I caught myself and thought for a minute. Does living with your partner mean that maybe, just maybe, the entire home is now under our shared dominion? And that, within reason, I can decide what gets done when, just like he can? I still wasn’t sure.
A couple days later, I caught him doing my dishes. “Sorry, I was going to get to those,” I apologized, baffled at why anyone would want to clean up my mess. “No big deal — we each help each other,” he responded casually, like it was a regular thing for roommates to help with each other’s messes. Cheerfully, even.
And after all, he’s right. I think nothing of tidying up after him from time to time, or doing his laundry along with mine, etc. When I finally examined it, this was because we’re not actually roommates — we’re partners. It’s our place, and I’m finding more and more that it’s our job to keep it tidy, too.
Of course, there are going to be times when I wish he would get to chores a little earlier. But I’m sure that goes both ways. And instead of feeling resentment against a messy roommate, I can feel good about talking about sharing household chores — though I’m still kind of perplexed at this arrangement. But one thing’s for sure: I don’t have to live entirely in one room anymore.