Thursday, August 28, 2014 Elul 2, 5774

Dipping Their Toes in Rough Waters

April 26, 2007 By:
Adina Matusow, JE Feature
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I guess my last column got a lot of people talking about living together, and whether or not that affects their chance of divorce. Since then, I've spoken with a handful of people about their relationships; these are just a few of their stories.
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Moses, 27, and his girlfriend complimented each other well. They had many friends, and both loved an active nightlife. They were together for about a year before deciding to cohabitate.

"At that point, it was a no-brainer," he said. "We wanted to make it work; it's what we both wanted."

However, their relationship started to change when they began waking up next to each other every morning. Moses realized that living in close proximity with someone he loved was not as harmonious as he expected.

"We had very different living habits and very different standards for cleanliness," he said. "She felt that mopping and vacuuming where degrading to women, and refused to do either. I had no aversion to doing chores, and was always cleaner than her. I feel like everyone has to clean the toilet at some point. This difference caused many passive aggressive fights."

Living together may have made the break up harder for Moses, but at the same time, it made him realize the couple just was not meant to last.

"Looking back, I have fond memories of the overall experience, but I would say our domestic situation was kind of a nightmare. Still, it seemed a shame to throw it all away. I realized that I couldn't imagine creating a home and having children with her when we were screaming at each other all the time."

The two waited to officially break up when she moved out West to go to law school, and he stayed on the East Coast to go to medical school, but the distance turned out to be the perfect excuse for a relationship that had no future.

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After a year with her boyfriend, Miriam's lease came up. Her boyfriend suggested that she move in with him. After discussing the pros and cons, they decided to make it happen. Looking back, Miriam, 29, realized a wiser decision would have been to put off the move.

"Having more time living alone would have allowed me to observe where our relationship was going. When we moved in, I didn't get to ask him about his intentions because I was just living in the moment. I wasn't thinking about the future."

The longer the two lived together, the more Miriam started thinking about the importance of her future. Anytime she brought up marriage, her boyfriend mentally or physically went to lunch. It was no surprise that Miriam started to wake up to the fact that permanence wasn't in the cards.

Amazingly enough, the relationship lasted another three years after they moved in together. Miriam admits that living with her boyfriend only postponed the inevitable. Though it was clear that the road map of Miriam's relationship was not leading toward her intended destination, comfort, stability and a fear of change took precedence over the pursuit of her life goals.

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Joseph, 30, moved in to a new place at the start of a new relationship. His girlfriend was still living at home with her parents, so she ended up staying most nights. She started leaving more clothes and toiletries, and then began asking for drawer space. Joseph gave her a key, and she came and went as she pleased.

Joseph opened the door on what would be an overall healthy three-year relationship. Under reasons why the relationship did not last, he listed the fact that she wasn't Jewish, he felt he was too young to settle down (at the time, he was 23) and, quite frankly, he thought there would be better relationships to experience.

"Looking back, I wonder if I was too quick to end the relationship. She said to me when we broke up, 'You're not going to find a relationship better than this,' and so far, I haven't. I wonder if we could have evolved, and if I had tried harder, whether the relationship would have worked. She was toying with the idea of conversion because she knew how important [Judaism] was to me."

You can infer from these stories that living together has almost become an extension of dating. Everyone has a different story, and each one has a valid piece of advice to offer before moving in with a significant other.

Miriam said that she would move in with someone again, but she'd make sure they wanted the same future. "You must have a clear understanding of what you both see happening down the line. Sit down and have a conversation of where you see yourself in three years. I wouldn't move in with someone again unless we had every intention of getting married and having children."

Moses learned that communication about the small things is as important as the big topics. "If someone doesn't screw the top of the O.J. on tight, and the other person pulls it out and it spills all over, make sure you explain that her actions upset you. Don't let the little things like that build up into a big argument."

He also suggests taking a long look at the way your significant other lives, and keeps his or her home. "As much as you feel you unconditionally love someone, when you take that big step to move in together and live with one another every day, 24 hours a day, all their pet peeves will get to you. It's foolish to think you can change someone."

Joseph suggests paying attention to personality traits that upset you from the start. "If a person is controlling, and they want to know where you are or what you're doing, it's only going to intensify after you live together."

If learning the rules of dating now include adding the rules of living with someone, then maybe it's time to make sure that in addition to caring about each other and wanting to spend every night together, you're also ready to take on that person's flaws -- and work to love them anyway.  

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