I’ve also always had between one and four roommates, making for some interesting and quickly adopted intimacies. The combination of small spaces and the presence of roommates make a lot of things tricky — solving the mystery of who ate all the eggs, for instance — but nothing is trickier than lumping in dating with these already high-tension elements.
Sure, when you first meet someone, it’s all fun and games, galavanting around New York from bar to bar and kissing on the Bowery at 3 a.m. But, what happens when you get settled into couple life and want to spend more time at home? How can the constant presence of other people coupled with the excruciatingly small spaces we inhabit in New York City be reconciled with a desire to snuggle on the couch, cook romantic candle-lit dinners, or generally nurture the intimacy of lovers?
Jack could sense the tension between his girlfriend and Simone from the day he moved in, as Simone got antsy when Elenora brought her toothbrush to leave at the apartment straight away. The strain in the apartment grew as Eleanora, who lived in Westchester, but worked in Manhattan as a bartender, would spend more and more nights staying with Jack in order to avoid the commute. “The first trigger for Simone was that Eleanora would dirty up the common area with clothes and unwashed dishes, mostly left around because she worked late nights. At the same time, on the weekends, while Eleanora was working, Simone and I would go out and explore, because she was helping me get familiar with the city. This made Eleanora a little jealous — she wanted to live with me alone. These were the main underlying issues of tension.”
This was the first of many blowups between the three, and it became apparent to Jack that Eleanora had her sights on ditching Simone so that the couple could live alone. For four months, the tension continued in the cramped space until finally, Simone moved out. Unfortunately for Jack and Eleanora, the strain had already taken its toll on their relationship. “I decided that the way Eleanora acted was enough and that we should go our separate ways. Luckily, my friendship with Simone survived. It took some time to get over, but now it's just a funny story from our past.”
However, the challenges for Tyler and Hanna were different than those of Jack and Eleanora — their main concern was becoming too secluded. “We spent a lot of time trying to make sure we got out of our bubble, met new people, saw our friends during the work week, etc. In our circle, it gets called ‘love jail.’ We were trying our hardest to seem not stuck in it,” says Tyler. Hanna agrees that the start was “emotional and intense” and says, “We learned a lot about each other during our first months living together and that helped us overcome problems, like talking things through and understanding the logic behind our respective habits and compulsions... Finding out what the larger issue is when one of us is pissy about something small — like dishes or which cabinet something should go in — helps a whole lot.”
Hanna agrees that it’s the unorthodox things that serve to keep their relationship a happy one. “We do unexpected sweet things for each other all the time," she says. "Like taking turns being each other’s maid and proofreading tweets. Also, for Valentines’ Day we watched the entire season of House of Cards.” She is also adamant that their living situation does not put any drastic restrictions on their relationship and how they live it, which Tyler agrees with. (These two agree a lot.) “I’ve been in collective-living situations my whole adult life, so I’m used to the ‘inconvenience of other people’ or whatever," he says. "I think one of the most unfortunate restrictions in this case is not having enough space to make the elaborate meals that we used to prepare together.”
There doesn’t seem to be a formula for keeping a relationship alive in the nooks and crannies of New York’s overcrowded apartments, but if I learned one thing from Tyler and Hanna, it’s that shared goals, patience, and a sense of humor are probably a good start.