By Dani Alpert
Living with another person, whether it be a college roommate or your life mate, can be contentious and will most certainly be fraught with negotiations and compromises. Who requires their privacy when going to the bathroom? Which one needs to mediate, alone, in the dark, before tackling the day? Of the two, who welcomes separate vacations? Me. Me. And me.
There is a difference between living with someone when you’re in your 20’s and cohabiting when you’re in your 40’s. When you’re younger, you have a substantially greater tolerance for, well, just about everything and anything. However, as you get older, you have developed patterns, routines, and habits. You have cemented your like’s, dislikes and preferences, so that having to change any of them can be unbearable and sometimes, nearly impossible.
What’s the alternative; live alone for the rest of your life? Why not? Trust me, I have seriously contemplated this but I fell in love and I believed that the positive aspects of shacking up would outweigh any of the potential negatives.
I lived alone for nine years before moving in with my lover. Let me say that my habits, idiosyncrasies, and yes, peccadilloes, were fully developed. For example, quiet time is very important to me. My lover, however, can work and sleep even if there were a marching band playing in the room. A typical conversation in our house goes something like this.
ME: “Can you turn the television down?”
HIM: “It’s already low.”
ME: “Just not low enough.”
HIM: “Only dogs and dolphins can hear at this volume.”
ME: “What’s your point?”
How much privacy do you and your lover require? I am in no way a prude, but when it comes to hygiene and all that it encompasses, I prefer to work my magic behind closed doors. When we designed our house, my lover thought that it would be cool to have one big suite that included the master bedroom and the master bath. No doors. If I was laying in bed, I could simultaneously watch the Today Show, and my lover take a shower. I was against the design because as erotic as it may be to watch him take a shower, I also didn’t want to watch him trim his nose hairs, shave his pubes or wipe his ass.
He didn’t want a door closing off the toilet either. Maybe that’s how it’s done in Portugal (he’s Portuguese) but here in the United States, we Americans generally like to piss and crap in private. If I’m wrong about this, please let me know. We put in a pocket door, which he never slides shut, so the subject is moot.
Perhaps it is a man thing, (or a caveman thing) but closing the bathroom door was not in his repertoire. It used to be cute that he wanted to be ‘that’ close to me but then it was just crass. Where’s the mystery and sexy-ness in this? It is a fine line between feeling comfortable enough with your partner, that you can sit on the toilet in front of him, and basic manners and consideration for the other person. I prefer not to share everything.
The question of alone time and how much a person needs and wants can be a bone of contention. I live for my alone time. I get excited when my lover is away for the night. Stints of separation is healthy for a relationship. I know people who do not need nor want to be alone. I don’t hang out with these people. Absence makes the heart grow fonder. Of course separation could also lead to, ‘out of sight out of mind’, but I’m a romantic, so I’m going to focus on the former.
When my lover is away, I eat breakfast food for dinner, standing in the kitchen, while leaning against the sink. There’s no one asking me questions about why, or suggesting that I sit down. It is my time, my style and my space.
My lover and I both work from home and he is adamant about having lunch together. I have never understood this but I have learned to acquiesce because I know it means something to him. I’ll do it, but I’m judging the shit out of it in my head.
Can we live harmoniously with another human being, even though some of our lifestyle requirements differ? I think that we all have the capability for behavior modification. It’s a cliche but communication is everything. We come to a relationship with a history, preferences and baggage. Unfortunately the bags do not get unpacked until it’s too late and you find yourself flossing in the bathroom, while your partner thinks nothing of walking in and taking a crap (sorry, no other way to say it) -- door open, oblivious to your presence. This is the perfect time to have a roommate meeting.
After three years, and a lot of nudging, now when I ask my lover to close the bathroom door, he will. He’s even found the air freshener spray. There is a god.
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