if you wanna be my lover, you gotta get with my cohabitating spirit

about a year ago, Ben and I first moved in together. my lease was up and we were going month-to-month on Ben’s lease until we decided what we were doing with our lives.

he graciously gave up half of his closet and, in return, I happily cut my nail polish collection by half.

we somehow managed to fit both of our things into his smallish apartment, and we navigated our way through the ins and outs of living with your significant other. there were definitely hurdles, and we had to have a conversation about communicating with each other about our feelings, but it was great (until he got a job a few weeks after living together and left me for the summer…but that’s probably another post). the past 10ish months of living with Ben have been an amazing experience and, though I understand others’ decisions to wait to live with someone until engagement or marriage, I am so happy I didn’t.

here are a few reasons why:

  1. you have time to adapt to one life change before throwing in another.

I’m going to be real here, living with Ben was not nearly as much of an adjustment as I thought it would be. overall, it was actually a pretty seamless transition. (perhaps because we already spent so much time with each other in St. Cloud, or because we gradually made the change by living together for a month before doing distance for the summer, or maybe because we have about 10 times the amount of space in La Crosse than we had in St. Cloud…) that said, we still did have to adapt to this new aspect of our relationship and, just like with everything else, it took time.

let me speak for both of us and say it has (almost constantly) been a comfortable experience. has it been a little awkward for Ben experiencing how much I cry at some things? probably. but we’ve fallen into a wonderful groove of not caring about not showering before noon on the weekends or falling asleep without brushing our teeth. am I constantly picking up coffee mugs of cold coffee and glasses of warm, watered-down brandy? yes. but we’ve also figured out that I love to load the dishwasher and Ben loves to unload the dishwasher…and kill spiders…and take out the trash…and vacuum. so I do our laundry. it all evens out.

  1. you’ll know what to put on your wedding registry when (if) the time comes.

cart before the house? curious about how to subtly work engagement into every conversation? just ask me. jay to the kay.

when we moved in together, we combined our belongings to put together a hodge-podge of a shared apartment. and over time, in an attempt to avoid living like college students, we have acquired lots of grown-up things (like a record player and a coat rack). and also over time, we realized what we like and what we don’t (we watch a lot of HGTV); what works for us and what doesn’t; and what we have and what we need (or want). so, when it comes time to register for our wedding gifts, we have a pretty solid sense of what we’d like to include. priorities, people.

  1. you get to enjoy that many more simple moments together.

before Ben and I actually shared a home, we spent a lot of time together. we knew what it was like to have sleepovers, share meals, and even go grocery shopping as a pair. but what we didn’t get to maximize were all those simple moments that happen when you don’t have time to go out, or even hang out, together. the quick kisses when you pass each other on the way in and out of the house; the impromptu trips to get ice cream; the little laughs you share right before falling asleep. if we hadn’t lived together this past year, we would’ve missed out on all of those moments—ones I wouldn’t trade for anything.

even though we have been in this place for almost a year, we are always learning new things about each other. Ben is always showing me how to effectively load the dishwasher and how much to water the plants, while I am always locking the doors and making sure the freezer is shut all the way before we go to bed at night. he has learned how I like my steak and I have learned how he likes his asparagus. we keep ice cream in the house at all times and we hold hands every time we watch television. we try to crawl into bed at the same time as the other person (which means Ben has to keep up with my grandma-like ways), and I miss him every night we spend apart. I selfishly cannot get enough of these moments.

the biggest emotional thing I have learned from living together is how to be a good partner for Ben and what he needs from me (like trying not to cry throughout an entire movie. read: The Theory of Everything). even if we don’t always agree on things, I’ve learned how to express my opinions so he understands my feelings. and it’s important to love and respect the person you are with and accommodate them and their feelings (and vice versa).

but the best thing about living together is waking up and falling asleep beside your best friend, and knowing that they are your home no matter what your zip code is.

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making peace with parallel parking

today’s topic of discussion: parallel parking.

don’t get me wrong, back in the day, I must have known how to do it like a champ, since I did in fact pass my driver’s test with flying colors (if turning my blinker on two blocks before a turn constitutes “flying colors”). but a few weeks ago when Ben and I were spending a Saturday running errands, I was driving us to lunch and I had to parallel park.

things you should know before I tell this story: it doesn’t matter how many times I drive with Ben in the car, if I am behind the wheel and he is in the passenger seat, I am already nervous. something about him being too judgy about my driving abilities? jay to the kay, I’m the judgy one. anyway, I get nervous.

doubly nervous because one night when Ben and I were grabbing a drink at a pub in town, we were sitting at a table along a wall of windows, and we saw this girl try to parallel park for what must have been 20 minutes. and it wasn’t just us. the entire bar was watching. she kept driving up on the curb, having to reverse out, and try it all over again. all while cars were whizzing by her. when she finally walked into the bar I wanted to buy her a drink because I was so stressed out for her.

anyway, Ben and I approach a spot on a sunny Saturday afternoon and he looks over at me a little too skeptically and asks if the spot is big enough. puh-leaze, parallel parking is my jam. after five minutes of said “jamming,” I finally shimmy us into the spot and Ben loosens his grip on the door and laughs, “are you okay, Austin Powers?” I probably shot back something about how he could walk home, but now that I have had time to recover from that stressful situation, I wanted to share with you some pointers.

just don’t parallel park. if you don’t have to, just don’t. avoid it at all costs. park far away and walk, that way you’ll burn extra calories while steering clear of the rest of driving mankind. safety first.

don’t go halfway. you need to go all the way. crank that wheel “to the windooow, to the wall” style, going all the way to the direction of the curb first and finishing with a crank in the opposite direction.

drive around the block a few times. you can survey your surroundings while scoping out a bus-size available space into which you can work your magic.

avoid witnesses. if they are like me, they are probably judging and you don’t need that kind of negativity in your life.

getting out is just as important as getting in. give yourself bumper space, because you may get in and then new people park in front and behind and close in on your bumpers, and you’ll feel trapped and claustrophobic and sad. or you might love tap the bumper of the car in front of you when you try to leave…

once you’ve successfully shimmied your way into a spot, celebrate like you just won the lottery. then go get ice cream. you deserve it.