"Living together is an art", said rocket scientist, William Pickering. And for most of us when things are going wrong, it certainly feels like a lost art. So how is it that that pretty picture of living together - which once seemed so full of promise - could then nosedive so badly that it becomes a struggle to remember what the upside was. You still want to be there - but is the resentment you are feeling about some of the habits of your beloved going to sabotage your relationship?
The top 5 complaints about living together (and how to solve them):
No surprises that the chore front features high on the list. Your partner seems to have a happy knack of leaving things to 'soak' - (like burnt scrambled egg pans and casserole dishes). Teeth gritted and resentment soaring, you try to tidy up the house only to find the vacuum cleaner bags have run out and there are hairs clogging up the shower drain. If this is starting to become a pattern it's time to talk. Remember how when we were kids, our parents used to have a chores list for us - it wasn't a silly idea. And remember how we always checked to make sure that it was fair? We might be too old for star charts - but there is definitely a reward in sight for the relationship which shares the drudgery and considers the other person. And if you grew up without star charts and a parent did everything for you - it might be time to understand that your partner has different expectations. Work out the basics, allocate them and stick to the roster.
This old chestnut requires some transparency and open discussion. When we cohabit, any differences of views about money management will quickly be apparent. One of you wants to throw lavish dinner parties - the other worries about whether the lights are turned off in the hallway after 9pm. Again, recognise that there will be old patterns at play here. A household budget is not the hardest piece of maths in the world - and can save a lot of argument. Do it as soon as you can. Open a shared living account with rules for expenditure - bills and toilet paper, not wine and clothes.
Friends can be a key ingredient in keeping us happy and healthy, both individually and within our relationship - but remember that you are not clones of each other. Are you comfortable about your shared environment being visited by each other's friends? What are the ground rules for the couch, or spare room, being used by family or friends? Is your shared home a place for after-work drinks on a Friday night? Or do you see home as a private post - work sanctuary? Do you keep an open door policy for friends to drop by - or are you more comfortable if friends ring first? Do you know how your partner feels about this issue? And if you have very different views on sharing your home socially, it might just be a very good idea to have some sort of roster.
You might love each other - but are you exactly the same in terms of needing to get plenty of sleep early in the evening and waking up full of action at dawn - the fowl? Or are you more often burning the midnight oil and slowly surfacing in the morning - the owl? Different patterns and needs can become seriously problematic if assumed to be the problem and responsibility of the other. Decades of research cites lack of sleep near the top of the lists of stressors. How creative can you be? Is there a middle path? What would happen if you tried a middle ground? For example, a couple of dawn risings in exchange for earlier nights under the duvet - along with a turn at staying up later and planning a slower start to the day.
What happens when one of you says that you are going out alone tonight - is this flying in the face of what one of you thought "living together " meant? How do you define the space that you need as individuals, and the time to be together that you both believed that living together might create? Without the conversation that looks at these assumptions, the depth of misinterpretation might well run very deep. Along with its twin - resentment. Not good fuel for the smooth running of your living in relationship.
So there you are, tackling those pans, feeling aggrieved about money you think has been wasted or argued about, and the the final straw is the fact that your partner went out without you last night. But let's look at it the other way - what if you actually sat down and named these problems as a shared concern and decided that blame just might be the biggest impediment to living well under the same roof?
Maybe you would find that the smartest thing in the world might be to understand how common these problems are, and why finding a solution you can both buy into might be in fact be the only way through. And that having done the hard yards around talking it through, you could then possibly enjoy the pleasure of sharing your life with the person you love, under the same roof, and with the same agreements.
No magic answers - lots of cooperative solutions.