I’ll never forget the day in March 2013 when my boyfriend, Steve, officially moved into my Brooklyn apartment. A month earlier, I’d given my roommate the news. I told him that Steve and I had thought it over and decided that this sweet little two-bedroom home was where we wanted to live together. Since we’d practically been living together since we started dating only eight months earlier (after a couple of weeks, I had a drawer and a shelf at his place), it didn’t take much to get accustomed to the official nature of our relationship milestone.
But, even though it didn’t seem so at first, the move was a huge upheaval — and not just because we had agreed to share practically everything. My home was Steve's home, and vice versa. If we argued (and as two self-described stubborn people, we definitely did), there was nowhere to escape to. Sure, I could go into the bedroom or pop out to a bar, but neither was as appealing as going home to my own place would have been on those occasions when I wanted to get as far away from him as possible. I desperately craved my “me” time — time that Steve rarely, if ever, seemed to desire. When I was living alone during grad school, and then later in NYC with various roommates, I had the luxury of not really thinking about someone else’s needs, moods, and feelings when I wanted to shut out the rest of the world. I relish the independence I had during that period of my life: eating what I wanted when I wanted, turning the light on to read at 3 a.m. when I couldn’t sleep, playing SATC reruns while I baked, cleaned, or graded papers — to hell if the Mets are two or 12 games above 500.
It can be exhausting to always think about someone else.
More often than not, I am excited to see Steve when he walks through the door, but the truth is, I don’t always want to talk about my day. I don’t always want to share the half-bottle of wine left over from the previous night’s dinner. With a roommate, I could issue a polite greeting and then retreat to my bedroom and close the door for hours on end — without being bothered or feeling rude or bad. It can be exhausting to always think about someone else. None of this is to say that Steve doesn’t understand my need for space. He does, and it’s one of the beautiful things about our relationship. We don’t check up on each other, though we sometimes check in. “Hey, how’s the weather?” he or I will call and ask in the middle of the week at a random time of day. I tell people that Steve is the best roommate I’ve ever had, and I mean it. There is no one else I could spend as much time with, whiling away whole Sundays and Friday nights. I adore the comforts of our relationship. I appreciate being able to send a text that reads, “Bring home milk, pls,” or the more cryptic, “I have a sweet tooth.” And while I reside on the neater side of neat, I’m not a freak and appreciate not having to live in a spotless environment. (An impossibility when you live with someone who doesn’t actually see messes or clutter or dog hair). I can fry myself an egg and rush to the office without cleaning the pan immediately, and I won’t hear about it later. I don’t make the bed, even though I’m the last one out of it every day, and Steve could care less. On occasion, I am guilty of leaving the bedroom a disaster area when I can’t figure out what to wear, and it would never even occur to Steve to give me shit about the disarray.
I know that I wouldn’t trade what we have now for living on my own, without a partner to care for.
Now that Steve and I have lived together for two and a half years and are engaged, I can’t help but wonder if we moved too fast. What was the rush? If we’d waited six or nine more months to live together, my guess is that we’d still find ourselves where we are right now: planning a wedding and a future, making daily arrangements for dog care, and deciding where to go over New Year’s. But, as much as I lament the fact that my home-alone nights are few and far-between, I know that I wouldn’t trade what we have now for living on my own, without a partner to care for. It’s something special to wake up in the middle of the night with a stomach flu, end up with your head bent over the toilet bowl, and feel your partner’s reassuring presence behind you. It’s also pretty special when he goes out of town to attend a conference or see a baseball game, and I’m left behind — alone, but never lonely.