Friday, November 19, 2010

It's Me, It's Not You

When it comes to things between me and M- I would say that those things are going pretty well. Right now, we're juggling my increased work schedule (I now have business meetings, dinners and trips!) and I'm struggling just to wash the dishes in my sink.

I wouldn't say things are totally ok, though.  Conversations about moving in together have stepped up and are triggering GirlFriend Separation Anxiety (GFSA) and Boys Are Messy and Gross Anxiety (BAMGA), which is also related to Boys Hog the TV Remote Irritation (BHTVRI).  A friend who recently moved in with, and married, her boyfriend has struggled sharing her condo with him, his duffel bag collection, his sports gear, his records and his snoring.

She said to me today, 'Oh, that irritation and anxiety is real. It is not all in your head. Do not underestimate that.'

And what is interesting about this to me is how my anxiety bucks the female nesting stereotype. The image of the woman who can't wait to get her hands on some man's space and fill his drawers with her bras and panties is blown to pieces.  I don't want my hands on his space. That's his space. And this is mine!

The other night I actually paused while brushing my teeth thinking about how we will probably need an armoire and what if he hates going to Ikea to get one and what if I don't have enough closet space and what if his things clash with my things? And what if we can't find a place with at least two bathrooms? And I walked to my cramped bedroom where my bras, socks and various sundries were all  helter skelter, and felt a little sad.

Goodbye, girl space.

Of course, this is my Libra/Capricorn tendency to over-think.

I think I'll handle everything ok if I just keep myself grounded. And think of how my other coupled friends balance their together/apart time and how, generally, change is always good and moving in with a guy does not mean that I will never see my girls but that I'll have to be more intentional about seeing them on a regular basis, and that I've had two roommates before and living with them well always came down to open communication.

Then again, maybe I'll need to start seeing a therapist again once a month.


Danny said...

First time caller (male, het) and recent blog follower and big fan of yr work via BPhD. I feel moved to drop something from having negotiated this from the other side, offered as hopefully useful data for your working it out.

I think a lot of the issues are not solved in the public sphere model of "open communication", because the domestic issues are not so much about intentional decisions, they're more about style, genre, the type of person who one is. They can be reined in, but not changed very easily except through one's own growth into a new way of doing things, rather than by someone telling you to do it. And I think we tend to overestimate the amount of change we are prepared to do ourselves and underestimate the changes made by our partners.

After some more or less successful previous attempts, I resolved to treat moving in with my girl this time as an adventure. See what happens! As you say, if you stay grounded there's not really a problem, the problem is that we tend to place our "ground" in our ability to predict what will happen in our environment, rather than what we feel ourselves.

I've come to realise that the biggest predictor of domestic happiness is my ability to stay close to the feelings that made me want to cohabit in the first place. Everything else is really secondary; or at least it works for me to keep them secondary. It's a different world than I expected, but the point was kind of that expectations aren't real when you decide to do something like this, they're more projections from your past to the future.

Good luck!

jp 吉平 said...

"...and what if his things clash with my things?"

throw out his things and buy him new things to suit yourself. Tada!

Johanna said...

I'm the same person who commented on your "update: the road less traveled" post (feel like I should at least leave a name, since this is a personal blog and not a big one like BitchPhd; I too have been a big fan of your writing for a long time). I'm also dreading/looking forward to moving in with my boyfriend, and one thing that we've jointly decided is extremely important is for each person to have an area of the apartment that is strictly his or hers. Finances may mean that this doesn't necessarily entail an entire room, but it has to be a space separate from the area of the bed (with my previous partner the whole bedroom was "hers", and that was weird). A space where only your personal concept of acceptable messiness applies, where no one is going to tidy up your shit so you can't find it or tell you that your choice of decor is tacky. A space that has a magic wall of invisibility for your partner, and if visible to guests, well, its condition is your problem, not his/hers.

Danny is totally right about the tendency to overestimate the accommodations we make and underestimate those of our partners. I thought I'd learned the hard way about fair accommodation, but damn is it harder in a hetero relationship when every decision is tinged with "is this because I'm me and you're you or because I'm a girl and you're a boy?" You have to keep bringing it back to the person, keep bringing it back to what is objectively fair, not girl space but YOUR space.

And yes, cohabitation should be an adventure. It should be fun. You'll learn so much from each other, you'll come to appreciate things you never thought you would. If, and only if, you both realize that giving due importance to your own separate identities and the manifestations thereof isn't selfishness, it's vital to your survival as a couple. He should worry about whether you get to see enough of your friends, you should worry about whether he sees enough of his.

From what I've read, you don't seem to me like a person who's afraid of challenges. And living with another adult whose life is intimately entangled with your own is one of the biggest challenges there is; so no, you shouldn't underestimate it, you aren't over-thinking, but if you love and trust this man and he loves and trusts you, if you truly do your damnedest to be good to each other, you know what? It doesn't even matter if in the end you fail to be compatible. Speaking as someone who has failed in the past, and doesn't regret a bit of it.

liza said...

Maybe it's just me, but I'm not sure that new job/responsibilities plus the holidays equals the best time to make major decisions.
Then again, I want nothing more than the December you described below.

Also: if he hates Ikea (who doesn't) then you get to pick whatever you get. No?

Joy said...

I was also very nervous about moving in with my boyfriend, for the reasons described by you and other commenters--space, and identity, and "I have my things and my systems and my space and I don't want to lose them." And my worries were basically for naught. Once we moved in, it was like we had always lived together. Yes, of course we did have to negotiate about what stuff went where, housework responsibilities, money, the usual, but it wasn't fraught or wrenching. Three years later, we are married.

That last line wasn't meant to scare you, by the way.

Delia Christina said...

@Danny - I really like this part:
I've come to realise that the biggest predictor of domestic happiness is my ability to stay close to the feelings that made me want to cohabit in the first place.

When I was talking to my therapist, she would advise something similar: staying present. And to be in touch with those things that make my 'issues' about autonomy and feeling trapped crop up.

When I get ready for this, I think it will be an adventure - but I still don't know if it's one I'm ready for, yet.

Delia Christina said...

@Johanna: I really like this idea! thing that we've jointly decided is extremely important is for each person to have an area of the apartment that is strictly his or hers.

When I had roommates, it was sort of understood that our bedrooms were these spaces - and that's what makes this type of cohabitation different. The private spaces that exist between platonic friends doesn't exist anymore. It's a whole new level of vulnerability and exposure (things I am NOT into.)

In our plans (and more about that later) we imagine a 3-bedroom house. A room for his collection, a room for my study/guestroom, and our bedroom. That's not too much to ask, is it?

Delia Christina said...

@Liza - you are SO right. i've just realized that this subtle pressure from work, my family issues and other thing (just the damn holidays, man) is making me slightly stressed out. So it's like I'm creating a perfect storm of triggers for myself.

@JP - ha! you're joking but...

@Joy - it's inevitable, though, isn't it? and I agree - despite my online caviling, I do think it'll be an adventure, and I am looking forward to it. But I can't help feeling my instinctive 'gah! some man is trying to tie me down!'