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New beau? Moving in together? Whether this is your first time cohabiting or your fourth, there are some important questions to ask yourself as you plan your dream home. So what do you need to discuss before you take the plunge to live together?
When you first move in with a partner, it’s exciting to be together 24/7. But long term, there will be challenges in how you share your space, how you divide responsibilities, and how you align your daily rhythms. Domestic harmony is the goal, and design can be the solution.
Before you can find solutions, however, you must first be willing to acknowledge that you and your partner are different people, with different habits and different needs. These differences can seem minor at first, but they may be worth addressing early…
*to protect the innocent names have been changed
Samantha* was over the moon when she moved in with Alex. This was her first time living with a romantic partner, and she felt more than ready to begin their new life together.
She had lived with roommates for many years, and believed she had the skills and emotional aptitude to share a home with others. But, she later had to admit, it was easier to create house guidelines when the arrangement was more business-like. Living with a partner brought her face to face with some tough new realities.
“I was so happy that I didn’t notice the little things right away. I guess I first became aware of it about a month or so in, when I went to use the bathroom in the middle of the night.” Samantha shambled sleepily to the bathroom, and, without turning on the light, tried to sit down on the toilet seat only to find it wasn’t there. When the seat was not where she expected it, she lost her balance, and plunked down onto the cold, thin, unsupportive porcelain rim of the toilet bowl, nearly plunging back into the bowl itself.
“Well that woke me up, I can tell you!” Samantha was able to recover from the shock, complete her bathroom visit, and, eventually, fall back asleep. But a small seed of fear had taken root in her mind. This was the moment when she began to suspect there was a difference in her and her partner’s expectations about toilet seat etiquette. (Alex could not be reached for comment).
What happened to Samantha is all too common, says Dr. Leslie Kelman*, an expert in cohabitation science who specializes in bedroom and bathroom behavior. She calls it “The Battle of the Toilet Seat.”
*(not a real doctor)
“What happens, essentially, is that endorphins flood the system in people who are newly in love. This has the effect of masking the potential downside of mismatched living styles, and the frustrations that this disconnect may bring. We tend to see each other’s bad habits as cute or idiosyncratic.”
But that new relationship glow doesn’t last forever. As time goes on, what was once adorable becomes a pain point for the couple. Worse still, Kelman says, we find it hard to confront different living styles once we’ve settled into a routine. A partner can become defensive when asked to make a change a few months in; whereas, if house guidelines had been established from day one, they wouldn’t have found it so challenging.
The good news is that you can harness that new relationship energy to establish expectations and even goals for growth right away. “Don’t wait for the honeymoon to end before you ask your partner to leave the toilet seat down. If you ask now, they will likely find it cute, and be highly motivated to meet your needs,” says Kelman.
The Battle of the Toilet Seat is not an isolated incident. Other common cohabitation complications include The Battle of the Pillows (AKA: How many is too many?) and The Battle for Climate Control (AKA: Who decides what a “normal” room temperature should be?)
So how do you address your individual differences when planning a new home? Every designer has a unique approach to engaging with client needs. In our company, we specialize in designing for clients’ habits, both the ones they have and the ones they want to form. It’s also possible to design around the bad habits you want to get rid of!
In the above example, a smart toilet, or at least a smart toilet seat, could help Samantha and Alex. Or they may choose to have separate bathrooms altogether if they cannot get on the same page about their individual behaviors. “After all,” says Kelman, “bathroom habits are very personal and even ritualistic, so it can be a difficult zone to make changes.” It is possible to design solutions that will address your different habits and needs, so that you never have to go through what Samantha did that fateful night.
It’s easy to laugh about it, but these are actual pain points for real people, (with actual real names). A frank conversation early on can set the tone for your relationship. It will also set a standard for open communication about your shared living space and lifestyles. Consider starting this conversation with your partner when you decide to move in together.
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