It’s not standard practice to choose your significant other based on the frequency with which they clean their bathroom. That said, once you’ve reached the cohabitation stage of intimacy, there’s no limit to the number of things you might uncover. A shared home is the wild wild West — no matter how well you presumably know your partner.
So yes, it’s possible that moving in together will lead to imminent doom. But it’s equally possible that it will strengthen — or even build upon — the very foundation of your relationship. And strangely enough, all of that can be hard to talk about.
For all the intimacy that comes with sharing a shoebox apartment, there remain a number of things we don't say — whether for fear of hurting our partners, for practical purposes, or simply out of sheer discomfort. That's why we tapped R29 social media editor Alexa Fecca and her boyfriend of three years, Isaac Shapiro, to let us in on the highs and lows of navigating cohabitation together.
Alexa and Isaac met in college in Pennsylvania, through what they both describe — somewhat begrudgingly — as the collegiate performing arts circuit. Two years into their relationship, they made the move to New York. Alongside a new city, new jobs, and a new home, they found themselves facing the culture shock that comes with sharing a home, as well.
Their Hell’s Kitchen apartment, which they currently share with a third roommate, has come with its own complicated set of nuances: doubts and disagreements, along with plentiful comforts. But as they close out their first year in New York together, they’re now in the process of moving into a new shared space, sans roommate, far from the throes of Hell’s Kitchen. Ahead, read as they ask one another 29 intimate questions about everything from finding (and paying for) a new space to managing disparate schedules and social calendars from a shared home base.
1. Alexa: What were you most nervous about when we first moved in together?
Isaac: Well we were already spending most days of the week at one another’s places, so it wasn’t the time together I was worried about. Instead, I think it was the actual lack of space that scared me. I wasn’t sure if we would have enough room to do our own things but in the same physical home.
Alexa: It’s important to note that Isaac is 6 foot 5.
2. Isaac: What were you nervous about?
Alexa: I was nervous about it just being the two of us. In college I lived with five people and you lived with 12. It was just going to be a different social arrangement, and I didn’t know what it would feel like.
3. Alexa: What do you think were the initial challenges we faced, moving in together?
Isaac: I think it was hard to learn how to be together just the two of us without going out and doing an activity. But I think the biggest thing was that everything was changing when we moved in together. I was starting a new job and moving to a new city, and so I feel like I hit all these milestones at once. When I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t sure which of those things was the problem.
4. Isaac: Did you feel that same way?
Alexa: Yeah, definitely. But I think for me it was also about learning how to fully be myself in a shared space with another person. It took me a while to get comfortable putting on a face mask and lighting 17 candles and walking around with palo santo even though I wasn’t alone.
Isaac: Yeah, same for me.
5. Alexa: What have been the good parts of living together thus far?
Isaac: Well, I work these crazy hours, and even when I come home late at night, I love having you there. It’s so comforting — even if we don’t have time to go to a nice dinner or something — to be able to come home and be together.
Alexa: Yeah, I’m always down to watch TV at 10 p.m. with you.
6. Isaac: What makes you happy about our shared home?
Alexa: I’m a paranoid person. When I live alone I honestly will sleep with the lights on. I think someone’s gonna break in. It’s unfounded, but I like having the security of having another person. But beyond the fear thing, just being with someone who feels like family is so nice. I’m still adjusting to the city and everything, and doing it together makes it easier.
7. Alexa: What was most important to you in an apartment?
Isaac: I really wanted to live in a doorman building. We have one right now and I love it. I also really wanted a gym in my building. That’s a big priority for me.
8. Isaac: I know your priorities were different from mine. What did you want?
Alexa: I mostly just wanted a space that felt big enough to be our own. It’s the first time we won’t have another roommate living with us, so I wanted to be able to fully inhabit it.
9. Alexa: Do you wish we’d approached the apartment search differently?
Alexa: Yeah, I mean I don’t think it was our most efficient project. You got really into it, and you were searching so hard; I was just kind of vetting things once you selected them. I think it wasn’t making either of us terribly excited.
10. Isaac: What are you most excited for in our new place?
Alexa: Getting a dog.
11. Alexa: What are you most excited for?
Isaac: Definitely the dog, also. But I’m excited for some alone time, too. Right now, it feels like we rarely get any time just the two of us.
12. Isaac: What are your worst roommate qualities?
Alexa: Well your mom always says you can tell a lot about a person by how they load the dishwasher. I am terrible at loading a dishwasher. But as a whole, I’d say you’re the dish man. Doing the dishes is kind of your thing.
13. Isaac: True. Then what are your best qualities?
Alexa: I always clean the bathroom. I tackle bathroom duty.
Isaac: You really do. And man, do I appreciate it.
14. Alexa: How do you plan to approach decorating our new apartment?
Isaac: I tend to be really worried about functionality. Because we don’t have that much space, I just want everything to make the most sense and be the most efficient. That will probably be the thing I think the most about when we’re furnishing.
15. Isaac: What’s super important to you when it comes to furnishing our space?
Alexa: Well you’ve always been sort of the function-over-aesthetics person. I’m definitely the one who's more invested in buying design-oriented things or pretty things, and you always ask me “is that functional?”
Isaac: Well we have to be smart about this!
16. Alexa: When it comes to money, do you feel like things are even?
Isaac: I definitely do. I like that we split rent down the middle — like it’s nice that we each are responsible for our half and we can just put it on auto pay.
Alexa: Well I don’t put anything on autopay because I’m paranoid, but yeah, agreed.
17. Isaac: Do you feel like things are even, financially?
Alexa: Yeah, I do. I think we’ve done a good job trying to split up decor and furniture and other things. You have this one dresser that I hated at first, but now I’m glad I helped pay for it because it’s so functional. That said, I probably end up buying more art things, just because I want them.
18. Alexa: Have you always been sure you wanted to live together?
Isaac: Well, the move to New York together was so hard. I think it really made us question if we were doing the right thing. We were young — are young — and there were so many moving pieces.
19. Isaac: How do you feel now?
Alexa: Well, I know we weren’t considering breaking up, even if we didn’t live together in this new place. But I think we were both so sad when we talked about [the possibility of] not living together anymore that it was really weighing on us. I actually think we’ve been way happier and things have been really good between us since we decided on that.
20. Alexa: Why do you think we were questioning living together?
Isaac: Well I think it has a lot to do with what I said before — about having all these milestones and major life shifts at the same time. It was all just a lot. And we’re young. But at the bottom of it all, we actually just wanna see each other.
21. Isaac: Do you think things will definitely be different in our new apartment?
Alexa: I do. This is our chance to start new, because the first time we moved in together there were so many stressors. I was hating my job and your new job had insane hours. There was so much happening and a lot of it felt bad. But now we’re settled in New York, and we’re past a lot of those life changes.
Isaac: It’s true. I think this whole process has just kind of reaffirmed our love for each other.
22. Alexa: How do you feel about finally being on our own, without a roommate?
Isaac: At times it’s been fun having someone else in the house, but beyond having more time alone together, we’ll really get the opportunity to make our space our own. We’ll finally have full jurisdiction over it, so it gets to be our space.
23. Isaac: Why do you think we initially felt so pressured to live together?
Alexa: In part it was because we were going to tackle this new city together. But we also knew so many people who were doing it. We have like 10 different friends in relationships who were moving in together, so it just felt like we might as well take the same jump as they were.
24. Alexa: Would you do anything differently?
Isaac: I think if we were from here, we would’ve taken more time to get our footing instead of jumping right into living together. But as is, I’d say we’re really happy. We’re feeling really excited about moving into our new place.
25. Isaac: Would you change anything?
Alexa: I think we could have done better on this apartment search, maybe. But at the same time, we wanted to honor and respect each other’s priorities. I guess at this point I’m just so looking forward to getting out of the old space and into the new one. Plus, the NYC apartment search just breaks you. It makes you want to lower your standards every day.
26. Alexa: What do you think our new apartment will change for us, as a couple?
Isaac: In the simplest of ways, it’s just the next step. I think it’s an opportunity for us to be together without the pressure of other things and other people. If anything it just ups the intensity. It’s like a new level.
27. Isaac: What do you think it will change?
Alexa: I just think we’ve been through a lot, so this is proof of us coming out on the other side.
28. Alexa: What do you want to do first in the new space?
Isaac: Use the in-unit washer/dryer. That’s pretty exciting stuff.
Alexa: Seriously. And we have a balcony!
29. Alexa: What time will you be home later?
Isaac: I have to work late, but I’ll be home in time to hang out.