One thing I’ve learned about long-term relationships is that you can love someone with all your heart … And at times, still find them annoying as hell.
Certain habits are akin to drops of water — The way they leave towels on the floor, their gentle snoring, the loud slurps they make when drinking coffee. Minor things start out as a minor nuisance, but over time, begin to work like Chinese water torture. Over and over, for days and weeks and months on end, these things are like a slow “plink” between the eyes. Eventually, it can make you cough up even the most classified government secrets.
Put another way, it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.
I bring this up because it’s official: The BF and I are talking about living together. This is intimidating, but it’s also kind of cool — I’ve never been serious enough about a relationship to consider melding my life (in any capacity) with a man.
The problem, however, is that this isn’t my first rodeo. I know that for all the perks, maintaining a relationship means unexpected challenges, and word on the street is that living together introduces a whole new set. Or, sometimes, just exacerbates the old. I have to wonder moving in together might wind up putting “Alec” and me on the fast-track to conflicts and domestic issues.
As of today, for example, both of us have our own place, so when conflict arises we usually cool off and regroup before speaking again. Sometimes I tend to have emotional reactions before logical ones, and need time to understand why I’m *really* upset. So, it’s best for me to do something else (work, workout, etc) before discussing a situation. Let the subconscious marinate for a bit.
When living together, this isn’t really an option. Sure, either party can go out or get behind a closed-door, but the distance is temporary. I also suspect that cohabitation-fueled conflicts will involve a lot of little things, the annoying stuff we do that’s just … Human.
What I mean is — We all have personal quirks that we probably don’t even see as weird, e.g. turning the AC down to 65 at night, leaving empty milk cartons in the fridge. Roommates of any kind will observe and potentially learn to loathe these neuroses: the guy who lives with Alec now hates it when people leave doors open. My college roommate was borderline OCD about the way dishes were put in the dishwasher. Growing up, my dad would spaz if anyone left the cordless phone out of its charger, or if CDs were in the wrong jewel case (back when people owned CDs and used a landline).
Right now, I hate watching couples get irritated with each other over incredibly minor things, but at the same time, can understand the feeling. Already with Alec I can sense the tide a’comin. Every time he stays over, he leaves dirty clothes in the floor, dishes in the sink, and general debris that I have to go around and pick up later. I’ve tried to ask nicely (“Can we put the dishes in the dishwasher, instead of beside it?” or “Maybe take 5 seconds in the morning to put dirty clothes in the hamper, instead of just on the ground?” He’ll say “Sure,” make an effort for about a week, and then things will go back to the way they were.
This all may sound overbearing on my part, but as I’ve explained to him, it’s not picking ONE shirt up off the floor that bothers me, it’s picking up one times NINETY shirts. One dish, one sock, one crumpled receipt on the kitchen table — not a big deal. After two years, though, it’s 500 dishes, 300 socks, and 217 receipts. A thousand little gestures… Plink. Plink. Plink.
These are minor details compared to how much I care for him, but I wonder if this is the beginning of a long dark road. I picture some bitter housewife nagging her husband to use a coaster, and screaming things like, “I’m not your maid!!”
I pray I’ll never be that woman, but everyone has a different breaking point and gets irked by different things. In LTR’s, the majority of people encounter at least one pattern of a sigO that leaves them seething. Unfortunately we can’t “count” the drops of water to know when we’ll be officially irritated, just find that over time, some things make us want to scream. Arguably, one way to circumvent future insanity is to nip the problem before it starts. Or, try to reshape your behaviors early on while the relationship is still malleable. Of course, early on you may not even know that something irritates you. Even if you do, blowing up after a few incidents or over a minor thing can look controlling and crazy.
It gets even trickier when the annoying habit starts out as a good thing. With my ex, B, the first few times he wanted to stay in and hang out on a Friday night, I was grateful. Whoo, relaxation. After 2 years of watching him snore alongside Netflix every weekend, though, I felt a little resentful. I hated going out to social events alone, dodging questions about my absent boyfriend and coming home to the spectacle of his 6’6” frame snuggling a pillow. Be normal! I want to yell. Come out every once in a while!
I hesitate to give other examples because these things always sound silly from the outside — in describing a relationship peeve to a third-party, it looks like an overreaction. Again, though, the key is constant exposure — Once ain’t bad, twice won’t kill you. Three hundred and sixty five times in a row and you’re an emotional IED.
With Alec, aside from the dishes/clothes things, I can’t foresee any major issues. But I know that living together will inevitably unveil the crazy on both sides… and I can only imagine what mine will be.