This Couple Makes Moving In Together Look SO Easy

Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
You basically spend all your time together anyway, and rents are steep — we get it. At some point in many relationships, moving in together becomes a very real consideration. Our mothers — and, you know, The New York Times — have been dwelling on the risks for years, but recent research on the science behind cohabitation is changing the conversation to be about maturity and certainty.
So, looking past the honeymoon stage of the relationship, what does it actually take to make things work when you and your beau find yourselves knee-deep in cable bills, dirty laundry, and three-day-old dishes? We decided to conduct our own case study to put things in perspective. The subjects: NYC jewelry designer Paula Mendoza and financial journalist James Allen. Like many couples, they began long distance, but unlike many, they were separated by an ocean. After a year of flying back and forth (and draining their bank accounts), Allen made the big move across the pond to be with Mendoza in Manhattan. Sweet? Definitely. But, that was just the beginning.
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From deciding which apartment to live in (small walk-up or luxury building with a tricked out garage?) to discovering each other's daily rituals (he has afternoon tea at 3 p.m. sharp and she has a skin-care regimen that incorporates the trio of Elizabeth Arden FLAWLESS FUTURE Powered by Ceramide™ products), read on to see how this formerly long-distance couple became much much closer.
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
You've been with James for about three and a half years now. Take us back to the beginning: How did you two meet?
"It was a set-up, basically. One of my friends just said, 'I’m going to introduce you to your next boyfriend.' She sent me a picture of James, and I was like, 'My next boyfriend is very handsome, but where does he live?' When she said he lived in London, I was like, 'Okay, that's a problem.' But, we ended up meeting in Chicago, when he was visiting friends. We were pretty into each other that first night; he made me laugh a lot. There was just a great connection."

How did you know you wanted to be with him after that first night in Chicago?
“I don’t know, it’s weird. He’s divorced, I’m divorced. When you've been married before, you know if your next relationship is going somewhere, so we felt from the beginning that this was something. Like, in the way that you speak about the future, the way you take the other person seriously...I think if those things [are similar], it makes you feel that this is something that's going to go somewhere. We really took things very seriously from the start."
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
You guys did long distance for a year and a half before he moved. How did the whole long-distance thing work?
"Every two weeks, someone traveled between London and New York for a long weekend or sometimes for a week. It was very expensive and tiring and so complicated. Since I'm Colombian, every time I had to go to London, I had to apply for a visa!"

What eventually made you decide to bridge the gap?
"We were both like, 'We've been together for a year and half. We cannot just carry on traveling from London to New York. We have to live together in the same city.' It was just a matter of being practical and wanting to be together."
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
When it was official that he'd move here, what was the apartment hunt like?
"It was important to have two bedrooms because James wanted to have friends and family over. We looked everywhere, but started getting more and more disappointed [because everything was so expensive]. I showed him one apartment in the same building I was staying in when I first met him, but he was like, 'It doesn’t have a doorman or a garage.' For him, it was shocking and hard to find a great place [with everything he wanted]. He found New York a lot more expensive than London."

It looks like you two found a happy medium in the heart of Chinatown, though. How did you and James shop for decor together?
“James is a pretty easy person, and he trusts me [and my taste], so he was like, 'I'll go shopping with you, and you can get whatever you want.' So, one time, I bought a gold piggy bank. People say that pigs give you good luck, but I just love gold — and pigs are cute!"

"At one point, though, he told me the apartment was getting a little too feminine (maybe it's the fashion books...) and that it needed a masculine touch. So, the biggest fight — no, moment — then was that he wanted a TV in the bedroom. He tells all his friends that I won't let him have a TV in the bedroom. We still joke about it, but the TV is still in the guest room.”
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
But, moving halfway around the world is a much bigger deal than moving across town — there wasn't a big "talk"?
"Yeah, we never really talked about it — it just happened. I wanted to be with him and to make things work, so if it were as [simple] as moving to London, I would've moved to be with him. And, I actually did — I spent a couple of weeks with him [after we decided to move in together], but he wanted a change and to live outside of London for a while. He ended up moving with his company here, and it was a great opportunity to come to the city anyway since his company had opened an office here."
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
Moving in together forces people to get rid of any pretenses one may hold onto during the early dating stage. Were you nervous at all about revealing your behind-the-scenes routines?
“No, not at all! I’m very open — I even put on my masks in front of him! Taking care of my skin is something that I started really young, like in my 20s. My mother told me to always take my makeup off before going to bed and to use good creams."

So, what's your beauty regimen like now?
"Usually, at night, I wash my face with cleanser, apply antioxidant drops [serum], and then I apply Elizabeth Arden's anti-aging cream on my whole face. For the morning, I use some more antioxidant drops [serum], an SPF moisturizer, a cream that helps with my dark spots, and then foundation."

You're obviously extremely diligent about your skin care — has that rubbed off on James?
“Yes! I've convinced him to buy a cream for his face! He never used anything before, but I made him buy a moisturizer and he actually loves it now."
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
Both of you frequently work from home. Do you have designated areas that you sort've stick to when working?
“Yeah, James never goes into the office because he likes to spend time with me, so we work together in the apartment. He's always in 'the man cave,' which is actually the guest room. And, I’m always in the dining room where the computer is."

What's one of his daily habits that you've learned about — and had to adjust to?
"He drinks a cup of tea every afternoon at 3 p.m., like a good Brit. It's very important to him. The tea has to be PG Tips tea. He gave me a couple of classes. So, you leave the teabags in hot water for a long time and stir it around with a spoon a couple of times. When the tea becomes a caramel color, just put in some milk. Oh, and it has to be [served] with British biscuits."

So, beyond making tea every afternoon, how else do you guys split the household duties?
“I cook and he washes the dishes. He’s very disorganized, so I try to keep the flat as tidy as I can. Sometimes when he’s on the sofa with his computer, he leaves his charger when he goes into the bedroom, and I'll immediately [put the charger away]. When he comes back, he's like ‘Where’s the charger?’ and I go, ‘I already tidied it up.’ He jokes about it because I can be annoying.”
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
There's an old NYT story that details the risks of cohabiting before marriage, while a recent article from The Atlantic suggests that it can be a good indication for marital success. Which camp do you side with?
“When you move in with someone before getting married, you really get to know the person in a real relationship. A real relationship has normal problems, and they're important to have, since they'll show you who you are about to get married to. [For me,] it's been great, like moving in with my best friend that I have a lot of fun with. Of course, there are times when I want to kill him. Life is not perfect, and there’s no perfect relationship, but we’re comfortable with each other.”
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Photographed by Ben Lamberty.
Do you believe in soulmates, and if so, is James it?
"I think you have more than one soulmate in the universe. I think you find someone that really matches your personality, but it doesn't mean he's your only hope. I think James is definitely one of my soulmates. And, I hope it stays that way, but if it doesn't work, then I'll find another one [laughs]."
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