Are you currently living together? Thinking about moving in? Why do you want to move in together? On this episode, we tackle some of the situations & questions that arise when cohabitation is on the table as well as statistics about living together for couples. We cover questions to ask yourself, actionable items to make your living situation great and cover special considerations for living harmoniously non-monogamously.
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Multiamory was created by Dedeker Winston, Jase Lindgren, and Emily Matlack.
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Dedeker: If we're realizing this isn't working for us, either it's just not working for us to live together or our relationship is not working and not serving us, how do we feel about that, how do we want to go about that? That's a scary and vulnerable conversation to have, but it can be so important to at least open the door to that conversation as opposed to waiting until everything's falling apart and you're fighting over the Tupperware. I've been there, to be talking about these things.
Emily: If you're happy with the same old ways of dating.
Dedeker: If you enjoy sucking at communication.
Jase: And you have no desire to improve your romantic life, then our podcast might not be for you.
Dedeker: But if you want some out-of-the-box ideas to deepen your current relationships.
Emily: Broaden your sexual horizons.
Dedeker: Develop a better understanding of yourself.
Emily: Or learn more about non-monogamy.
Jase: Then you've come to the right place. I'm Jase.
Emily: I'm Emily.
Dedeker: And I'm Dedeker.
Jase: And this is the Multiamory podcast.
Jase: On this episode of the Multiamory podcast, we're talking about cohabitation. In other words, sharing a living space with someone else. We're going to talk about some important questions to ask yourself before moving in with someone as well as some actionable ways to create a harmonious living situation with whatever kind of living situation it is, whether it's a roommate or a romantic partner or something else, as well as covering some special considerations for people in non-monogamous relationships.
Dedeker: My first living situation wasn't until I was out of college, different for most people, I think. I somehow managed to get through college not living in a dorm, not living with roommates.
Jase: Not at all?
Emily: Whoa. You were totally alone?
Dedeker: I was totally alone, and it sounds really sad when you put it that way.
Emily: No, it sounds amazing. Are you kidding me?
Dedeker: I felt that I was very strong and independent and bad-ass, but yes, I was totally alone.
Emily: Okay. I apologize that you felt that that was a bad thing that I was saying.
Dedeker: [laughs] No.
Emily: I was literally like, "What? You had your own place, all throughout college?"
Dedeker: I loved it because I was just renting a mother-in-law unit from some family friends so they rented it to me for super cheap.
Emily: What is a mother-in-law unit?
Dedeker: It's like a standalone little studio that was in their backyard that was detached from the main house, but it was pretty cool, had a tiny little kitchenette. It was two stories, actually. It had a real staircase that went up to a real second bedroom. It was quite spacious.
Emily: I bet it was awesome.
Dedeker: Obviously, it's like, once you lock that down, I wasn't giving that up. I stayed there through all four years of college, just me and my cat. It was great.
Jase: Okay, this episode is not about living alone in college. It's about--
Dedeker: Right, I totally skipped the whole purpose. [laughs] Okay. I just love living alone so much. After that experience, my first cohabitation experience outside of just with my family when I was a child, was moving in with a romantic partner at the tender age of 22, maybe even 21, actually, I think.
Emily: So tender.
Dedeker: We moved into a place that I think was smaller than the place that I lived by myself in college. That was all kinds of rough.
Emily: You were in Los Angeles, right? That makes sense.
Dedeker: Yes. It was also my first time moving to Los Angeles.
Jase: There's a lot of play there for sure.
Dedeker: There was a lot there. There was a whole lot there. First time even having a roommate in general and then also first time living with a romantic partner and also thinking it was going to work in a super teeny, tiny, dinky, little space. It was something. I learned a lot. That's what I'll say.
Jase: When I was much younger, my brother and I shared a room, but not in a long time. I think that was the first time sharing a space, especially a small space, like a college dorm. That freshman year roommate, we had this relationship where we would sort of talk but didn't really interact very much. It was just the bare minimum necessary to function in the same space with someone else.
Then had some other roommates in college. Then my senior year is when I moved in for the first time with a romantic partner. That definitely was a very different sort of thing, at least for me at the time. I thought about that very differently than I had with living with roommates and things like that.
Dedeker: I guess I felt more adult at the time. Even at that tender age of 22, it was like, "This is a very adult thing, moving into the romantic partner."
Jase: Yes, for sure. Definitely, that was a factor for me too.
Emily: I'm so adult now.
Jase: Yes, feeling very adult.
Dedeker: What about you, Emily?
Emily: I accidentally moved in with an ex-romantic partner my sophomore year of college.
Dedeker: How do you accidentally move in with someone?
Emily: Accidentally is not really what happened, but we were dating all through the first year of college when we both just lived in the dorms because we went to school in Cincinnati and had to have a dorm situation for the first year as many colleges make you do. Then we signed a lease before we left for the summer and then broke up over the summer. We're like, "We'll be fine. We're just buds. It's a two-bedroom. No problem," which was a problem. That was not ideal.
Dedeker: How long did that lease last?
Emily: The whole year.
Dedeker: How long did you survive?
Emily: Nine months, the year of school. We stuck it out. It was not pretty, but we stuck it out. Then I ended up moving upstairs. It was this huge eight-bedroom house in Cincinnati that was two, basically, doors, two bedrooms below, which is where I lived my sophomore year and then five bedrooms above. I guess that's...
Dedeker: It was separate entrances? Is that what you're saying about the two doors things?
Emily: Yes, exactly.
Dedeker: There were only two doors in the entire house? It really made things difficult.
Emily: No, two front doors.
Dedeker: Got it.
Emily: Then I moved upstairs with a bunch of foreign exchange students and then one other guy from my class.
Dedeker: Did your ex still live below you?
Emily: No, he moved to his own place. That was a really cool place so I could go over there sometimes and we became good friends after that.
Jase: After living together. Yes.
Dedeker: Okay. It did work out, actually.
Emily: It worked out, but when we were living together, not so much, that was really rough. After we stopped living together, then we became really good friends.
Dedeker: Yes, that's understandable.
Emily: Yes, he still lives in the city and we still hang out sometimes. Nice guy.
Dedeker: Okay. It's a happy ending. I was expecting a much worse ending to that story.
Emily: No, totally. Then pretty much from the time that I moved to Los Angeles on, I've either been living with a roommate or living with a significant other. I had two brief moments of living alone and that was it and they were like six months or less. Jase and I lived together, what, for how long? A long time. Two and a half years? Three years?
Jase: I thought it was more like three or four years, but yes.
Emily: Four years?
Jase: Pretty decent amount of time.
Emily: That was a while. Now I live with Josh, so there it is. Living with everyone.
Jase: To bring it back to the topic and talking about all of this, we want to talk about questions to ask yourself before moving in with someone and then also things you could do to make that better. We did want to look at first though, some statistics and things about cohabiting and then also all pointing back to this question of why do we choose to live together.
I think that's a pretty central question to ask yourself. Not because there's necessarily a right or wrong answer, but I think that having an honest answer of why you're thinking about moving in with someone or why you are moving in with someone or planning to or have already moved in with someone is important. Dedeker found this study by the CDC, which I'm confused about why the CDC would be studying this.
Emily: The Center for Disease Control, that is really random.
Dedeker: When people live together, you know how it is when you're living with someone and they get a cold and then you get a cold and then especially if you have multiple partners and they come over then they get a cold. CDC is aware of this, they're like, we need to get this under wraps, we need to know who's living together, why, how long, how we can prevent Dedeker from freaking out and wiping down every knob and light switch with alcoholic wipes whenever a cohabiting partner gets sick. That's my theory.
Jase: Yes, which she does do.
Emily: You would do.
Jase: The CDC wanted to understand that, why does Dedeker do that? Let's do a study. We do want to preface this by saying that as so many of the studies that we talk about on this show, unfortunately, it is focused purely on heterosexual romantic couples living together, it doesn't also take into account roommates or same-sex couples or non-monogamous couples or anything outside of that. It is limited.
Essentially, they came up with a bunch of statistics from this study. At least from us looking at this data, a lot of the data doesn't say quite what you think it says because it really depends how you interpret it and how you compare it to other factors and things like that. You'll hear people toss out lots of statistics like, oh, if you live together before you get married, you're more likely to get divorced or things like that. That statistics-
Dedeker: It just seems very puritanical.
Emily: The thing is if you look at the numbers, you go, okay, that checks out on some of these studies but it's leaving out a lot of details and a lot of factors and things that go into that. One thing that we did notice about this that is relevant to what we're getting to about this question of why we move in together is that one of the big takeaways is the fact that people who choose to cohabit without getting married first are more likely to be economically disadvantaged than the people who do get married first.
Dedeker: As in they are-
Emily: You have less money.
Dedeker: As in a context of being economically disadvantaged when they choose to move in together. It's not that cohabiting makes you economically disadvantaged versus getting married.
Emily: That's a great example of how you could look at those stats and go, ah, living together before you're married makes you more likely to be poor. Instead of going actually people who are poor are more likely to cohabit. That starts--
Jase: Maybe you just live in Los Angeles and it's $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment.
Emily: All of these are factors in terms of these changes too that there's things like the fact that housing costs are much more expensive now relative to inflation than it was for previous generations. If we're looking at younger people or older people who are now looking for a new place to live or their living situation has changed, it is a lot less feasible to live on your own and then that on top of the fact that more and more people are living in cities rather than rural areas which also makes that price go up.
Dedeker: Also among Millennials, we've definitely seen that as a general trend, Millennials are waiting later and later to get married. We’re not at all. The divorce rate among Millennials is also significantly lower than it’s been in previous generations, previous decades.
However, they are looking at the fact that Millennials are much more likely to also have gone through an experience of cohabiting with a significant other before getting married either to that same significant other or to someone else. It is like while our parents’ generation may have gone through like the "starter marriage" and then to the next marriage, I feel it seems that among Millennials there's much more likely to be a chance of the "starter marriage" was that like first cohabiting experience.
Jase: Or the first several cohabitings?
Dedeker: Or the first several cohabitings. Outside of the legal ties that come with marriage, on the surface choosing to cohabit with a romantic partner, it carries a lot of overlap with the traditional image of marriage. You are figuring out the living space and sharing possessions and starting-
Emily: Starting marriage without the strings attached to a degree.
Jase: Without some of these things. Yes.
Emily: You don't have the financial and legal ramifications that you would if you were to sign a marriage certificate.
Jase: Not on the same way.
Emily: It's like marriage light a little bit maybe.
Dedeker: For some people it is like a marriage light. It is weird for me to look back and think about the partners that I lived with. I only technically have like two experiences of long-term cohabitation with significant others. It is funny for me to look back and think about if this was 30, 40, maybe even 50 years ago, maybe these would have been two different marriages that I would have had and then divorces, then I just shutter and then I can't get to sleep and I stop thinking about it.
Emily: Then you travel the world and get rid of all of your possessions and you’re like, “Nope, not doing that again.”
Jase: The reason why we felt like it was interesting to bring up this statistic about people cohabiting without being married are more likely to have lower income, that is an interesting thing to think about in that question because I feel like, correct me if I'm wrong, but I feel like if I went into a room of people from their 20s through their 30s, maybe 40s and said like, “Show of hands who has moved in with a romantic partner where saving money was a significant portion of that decision to do it?” I know my hand would go up and I feel like a lot of other people's would too. Do you guys feel like that makes some sense.
Emily: Jace, you and I each had our own studio apartments. I had my own for a six-month period and you were over at my place every day anyways. I was paying $1,300 for this freaking studio apartment in Studio City and I was like, “Why am I doing this when this person is already over here and we could get a way sweeter place and split it?” That's exactly what we did and it makes a lot of sense.
Dedeker: It does seem that with rising housing costs being ridiculous, both the cost of purchasing a home or renting a place that it makes sense that the pressure on that does increase. It does become more and more economical or it makes more and more sense to choose to split the cost of that either with a significant other or with a roommate as well.
Jase: That's the funny part is that I feel like when I say this about like, "saving money is a significant portion of your decision to move in with your romantic partner.” I feel like people get a little uncomfortable with that and they're like, I don't know if I want--
Dedeker: Maybe just certain people are getting uncomfortable with that.
Jase: Then you say like, “Why did you move in with a roommate that's a platonic roommate?” You ask the same question, everyone's like, “Of course, why else do you have roommates?” Not all haste. For most people think yes, of course. That's worth examining, like why- and it's stuff we talked about on this show a lot, attaching.
Emily: Money gets tricky with romance.
Jase: Yes. Especially when you attach meaning to it or you attach this idea that a decision can't be logical if there's also romance involved or it can't be practical or. Anyway, I just bring this up as try to be as honest as you can with yourself and ideally with your partner or your financial adviser or whoever is giving you advice on this.
Emily: My financial adviser. I have one.
Jase: That thing that exists.
Dedeker: The thing that everyone has.
Emily: No, but we'll definitely be talking more about that specific thing being honest with yourself regarding this question. Like why to move in at all as the show goes on.
Dedeker: That's a good segue to talk about-- When we were putting this episode together, we curated the talking points with the intention of these things ideally being applicable both to a more "platonic" living situation or roommate situation as well as being applicable to choosing to live with a romantic or a sexual partner. I would like to invite people as they listen to this episode to take the challenge to apply our favorite filter of the relationship anarchist / romanship filter when thinking about cohabitation situations. If you think about it--
Jase: Cohabitation situation. That's a good--
Emily: I like that.
Dedeker: I don't know if that’s even correct, but I like it.
Emily: No, it's good.
Dedeker: Sounds like it could be Sesame Street song.
Jase: I was thinking about this schoolhouse rock.
Dedeker: A schoolhouse rock. Okay. All right. We’ll have to Workshop that one. Anyway, it's choosing to live with specifically a romantic or sexual partner that's so wrapped up in the relationship escalator and so wrapped up in this idea of this is just the next step on the path. For a lot of people it's been baked into this idea of that's just the next step on the path to maybe marriage or whatever comes next.
It is really interesting to apply the filter of thinking about, what are the behaviors that you would or could tolerate from a roommate but not from a romantic or a sexual partner and vice versa? What are the behaviors that you could or that you do tolerate from a romantic partner that you live with but maybe not from a roommate? We'll talk about this a little bit more, but I think that is interesting thought experiment to try on that can really change your perception of sharing a space with somebody.
Emily: We do tend to give our friends a little bit more of the benefit of the doubt at times than we do our partners. I know that I've done that in the past. It really truly is just okay to prioritize living with someone who's not a romantic partner if it is ultimately a better fit for you. That's a takeaway that we want people to know when they listen to this episode and understandably, people might be like, “Well, but I need to live with a romantic partner because that's going to move the relationship forward in a way that I want it to.”
However, if that's not serving both of you, then we urge you to maybe reconsider that and there are a bunch of reasons why. Okay, in terms of oh, yes, Dedeker.
Dedeker: I just wanted to jump in on that because there is this growing trend of couples or married couples who choose to be together, but live separately and that's great. I'm totally in support of that. That definitely comes from a place of privilege that not everybody has the ability to afford their own separate apartments totally but I also want to invite into the discussion the idea of maybe you can't afford to have two separate houses or whatever. You can still have roommates that are not each other. You can still find a way to negotiate this and just because you choose to have a roommate that's not your romantic partner doesn't necessarily mean that the relationship's failing or the two of you are not meant for each other romantically. That's my opinion.
Jase: I'm going to yes and this even a step further and say or even if you do end up saying gosh, finding good roommates is hard because obviously, that's fraught with parallel sometimes as well. Your romantic partner I know will get along with you this makes financial sense let's do it. I would actually argue to the- just admitting that and understanding the fact that we're doing this not because we have to in order for our relationship to be real or that this is something we always have to do or else it means we don't
love each other rather than attaching that meaning to it.
That if you were more honest about yes this is going to save us money, this is practical. By approaching it that way I actually think you could set yourself up for a better more romantic more fulfilling more communicative relationship that way. I'm throwing that out there, that's my hypothesis, my--
Emily: I like it.
Dedeker: We've tossed our soap boxes into the rain or some kind of metaphor.
Jase: I like that. We tossed our soap boxes into the rain [laughter].
Emily: Let's get into the actualistical part of this conversation. We have a couple. In the first list that we're going to talk about is are the questions to ask yourself and the conversations to have before moving in with someone- with a partner, with a friend, with a random person, anyone. The questions to ask include, do you get along with this person? Seeing this is tough because sometimes I've definitely heard people who I work with say well I put an ad out on Craigslist and I'm interviewing people to leave with me which seems really hard and intense, best of luck to you if that's what you're doing.
It might be challenging from one interaction to know I'm I actually going to get along with this person if I live with them. That's a very very fundamental thing that someone should ask themselves upon initially thinking can I live with this person? Do I get along with them? Then also another one is do you have conflicting work hours or schedules? Does someone work a nine to five and the other person work a night shift? Are you ever going to be able to sleep because one person is up all hours of the night and the other person is up during the day when one needs to sleep? Things like that. Do the schedules, are they hugely conflicting and therefore cause major disruption in our lives?
Dedeker: That's also a good conversation to have even if it's with someone that you're much more intimate with such as a romantic partner because I found definitely when sharing spaces with romantic partners, I will assume that I know this person's schedule in and out. I'm like yes, they work on this days and then they're usually home around this time but so many times it's not until your living with them that then you realize oh, wait there's this thing or wait, they actually get up at six in the morning to do this.
In the case of any time I'm sharing a space with someone it's like well, I need to have a private room in order to do client sessions. If it's not a private room, I need to kick them out. For some reason, these are always things that slip my mind or slip the other person's mind until we're actually in that space.
Jase: I can't even tell you how many times we've been in a space [laughs] and it's like oh, this place is nice. This will totally work. Then it's like Dedeker says, "I have a client coaching call at seven in the morning tomorrow" and I'm like oh, fuck, right.
Emily: Get out.
Jase: I need to go find someplace to be for an hour or two.
Emily: I need to wander the streets of Tokyo when nothing is open at 7:00 am.
Dedeker: As a vagabond.
Jase: Nothing opens before 11:00 am in Japan.
Emily: There you go.
Jase: A little bit of a tension.
Dedeker: To be fare Jase, we have and with my partner Alex as well ,we have definitely learned now that for instance if we're staying in a friend's place together or if we're booking an Airbnb together something that we'll okay, this is something we definitely need to lay attention to because we've found ourselves too many times not paying attention to that.
Jase: For us, it's now a regular part of our radar. It's talking about upcoming travel plans, where we're going to be staying and do we have separate work-space or some other way to get that space.
Dedeker: Can we have together a separate work-space?
Emily: Even just like--
Jase: I was going to say or like having a convenient other place to go during that time.
Emily: I often work at night for this show where my partner has to be in a different room from me. He has a nine to five so we have to work that out because often I will be working nights. That sometimes can be challenging. All of those things are a consideration. What are some other ways?
Jase: That's work hours and schedules and being very real about other parts of your schedule that might not be so obvious upfront. The third one here is about do you have conflicting social lives? This doesn't mean one of you is a Montague and one's a Capulet or something like that.
Dedeker: But it could mean that, can you imagine?
Jase: It could mean that.
Emily: We decided to leave together anyways [laughs].
Jase: One's a jet and one's a shark or something and you can't have your friends over at the same time or they stab each other.
Dedeker: Hate that.
Jase: I know, right? No, what we mean here is, for example, this again roommate, partner, friend whatever that one of you loves having people over. You love hosting, you love having people over, you want to have this open door policy of people can always come into my space and that's what I love my home to be. Then the other person could be someone who's like my home is my cave, my sanctuary away from people. This is the place I want to be and not deal with anyone. Obviously, those two might have a harder time being compatible.
That's something to talk about and to figure out ideally beforehand before all over sudden you've moved in and you thought you had this peaceful little apartment. Now all over sudden there's people over all the time and you're hating it. On the other side, you might be disappointed because you're always having to shush all of your friends that you want to have over because your roommate is-
Emily: Too super introvert.
Jase: -because your roommate's a loser and they don't want your friends over and they don't want to be bothered.
Dedeker: I'm going to speak up in defense of "losers" who are introverts because I see you sub-tweeting me right now, Jase.
Jase: I'm actually not. I feel like I'm usually the one who's more on the side of ugh, can we not all be so loud right now.
Emily: The only time when Dedeker has ever rained on my parade is when we were on tour and she really wanted to leave when I wanted to karaoke some more [laughs] but she had a good point because I was super hungover for the next day of our tour and I fell down a hill.
Jase: Yes. I remember that. I was there.
Dedeker: The moral of the story is, listen to Dedeker sometimes even if you think she's being silly and not social.
Jase: Do you have conflicting desires for your social lives? Yes, this is a good thing to think about and to address. Next one is is this person financially reliable? Yikes.
Emily: That's a big one but is very important one.
Dedeker: I want to dive into what counts as reliable because that may differ for different people what counts as being financially reliable.
Jase: I feel like in this context though, it is a little more clear cut. What that means is do you really evaluate that this person is financially reliable enough that they will pay their part of the rent or mortgage and utilities and other costs associated with living here? The truth of the matter is if you both sign a lease your roommate doesn't pay their rent you either have to pick up that slack and pay it yourself or take a hit to your credit and potentially have collections come after you because the lease agreement doesn't say they pay half you pay half it just says you both owe this amount of money. This is a very--
Emily: Has that ever happened to any of you?
Jase: I have picked up the slack for partners who couldn't pay rent sometimes.
Dedeker: I've picked up the slack and I'm sure I've been on the receiving end of someone picking up the slack for me for rent but it's never gone that far as in collections. Had some late rent payments for sure but--
Jase: Anyway, that is a serious thing to think about. I feel sometimes we assume oh, yes they're always going to pay their half of the rent but think about it, ask that question.
Dedeker: I think it's the kind of thing where it's not the- it's necessarily good or bad it's have the awareness that you may be in a situation where you've got to cover for someone else and I think it's good especially with a romantic partner, to have that conversation of what are we going to do in a situation where one of us can't pay their portion of the rent? Even if you're from the assumption of thinking oh, that's never going to happen but at least ask the question and talk about the feelings that come up around that and things like that. Another conversation to have is do your housekeeping styles mesh or are they in conflict? What's the level of cleanliness that you're comfortable with, that your partner's comfortable with? I feel like this can also be a good segue into a deeper conversation of like, what was the housekeeping style of your family of origin?" What feels the most comfortable to you? Again, I don't think that it's necessarily a case of, if one of you is a very clean tidy person.
If one of you is Marie Kondo and the other one of you is not Marie Kondo, the opposite of Marie Kondo I don't think that necessarily means you can never live together. It is going to be a deeper conversation of like, is there a compromise here? Personally, I lean more on the Marie Kondo side and I'm trying my best to let go of some of that and be more relaxed when things are out of place.
Emily: None of us would be able to put the dishes in the dishwasher as well as Jase.
Jase: Gosh. Yes. I don't know.
Dedeker: You're never going down that dishwasher thing Jase.
Jase: Gosh. I don't know. Let's move on from that. No. I do want to say though that this is something worth thinking about to that even if you both consider yourself to be relatively neat people, it's different when it's your clutter or your misplaced things compared to someone else's. Just think about it.
Dedeker: True, that.
Jase: What's the last one for this section?
Dedeker: Our last one, very important. I don't know how to phrase this into an actual question. This is kind of just more something to think about, a topic of conversation. It's about what's known as the inertia effect. Sometimes as we mentioned, living together especially with a romantic partner it's considered like the next step in intimacy. It's the next step on the relationship escalator and maybe it's the next step on the path toward getting married or raising a child together or owning property together or something like that.
I think it's important to bring some awareness into the conversation and examine are our reasons for living together, is that an influencing factor that we feel like this is just the next step or this is going to be the next step on a pathway to a particular goal. Another thing to bear in mind is just the fact that sometimes after you have chosen to move in with a romantic partner, it does make it exponentially more difficult to let go of that relationship if it's no longer serving you.
All the reasons we talked about previously on this show, it's fear of change and being comfortable in maintaining the status quo. It's all wrapped up into especially your living situation. If you've created a living situation that's comfortable for you but the relationship is sour or living with this particular partner is just not working out, it can just make it even more difficult to walk away from that relationship especially if it's like, we signed a lease or we are saving money and neither of us could afford to go somewhere else or whatever.
That's just something to bear in mind. It may seem unromantic to talk about it but I think it can be important to talk about that very plainly with a romantic partner like, if we're realizing this isn't working for us, either it's just not working for us to live together or our relationship is not working, serving us like how do we feel about that? How do we want to go about that?
That's a scary and vulnerable conversation to have but it can be so important to at least open the door to that conversation as opposed to waiting until everything's falling apart and your fighting over the Tupperware. I've been there to be talking about these things.
Emily: All right. Once you have asked yourselves those questions about, "Can I do this? Is this a good person to move in with me? Am I a good person to move in with?" Once all of that has happened you--
Dedeker: I'm sorry, I've never asked myself that question and that's [crosstalk] uncomfortable questions.
Emily: I'm sure you're like, "I'm amazing and I'm such a good roommate."
Dedeker: No. That's incorrect.
Emily: No? Okay. No, it's fine. Once that happens, you have some actionable steps that you can take for being a good roommate or for cohabiting with a significant other. The first one is to establish some sort of code of ethics within your household. What that means is probably sit down with your roommate or your significant other and have a really intentional discussion about your boundaries, about things that you are comfortable or not comfortable with in terms of running a household, being in a household together.
It's a time to compromise but also a time to potentially put some of this in writing. Maybe put it on your refrigerator. Maybe just have it in writing because that's better sometimes than just like nebulously saying something out loud and then forgetting about it later. I definitely encourage people to actually write out a code of ethics, if you will, for what your household is going to look like because then you can refer back to it as time goes on and then really be like, "Listen. I'm not okay with these things. Let's work on that a little bit here."
Jase: Even some sort of like a household radar I think would be a great way to do that.
Emily: I had of people asking me regarding that.
Jase: Even if you didn't do it as often but something like maybe every-
Emily: Every six months.
Jase: -every three months, every six months whatever will have a check in so that there is that opportunity to bring up things like, "Actually, it always kind of bugs me when coats get hung over the back of chairs. That's something that bothers me." That you get to bring it up before that point where you're throwing chairs across the room and being like, "These fucking jackets on the backs of chairs." It gives you the opportunity to talk about it first.
Dedeker: That is a point for Jase.
Emily: Do you not like jacket chairs? Is that a thing?
Dedeker: He doesn't like jacket chairs.
Jase: I do it sometimes too but it bugs me. I try to not do that.
Emily: Yes. I'm like I've seen you do that.
Dedeker: In case you've forgotten, we do include household like a standard topic to come back to with a monthly radar which I personally find really helpful anytime I am sharing a space with the partner to be able to- like you said Jase, to have that opportunity where I can bring stuff up in this kind of safe and less emotionally charged space instead of waiting until I'm pissed off the sixth time that I've had to pick up someone's socks or something like that.
Jase: All right. With all of these things we're going to talk about in this section, these would be good things to bring up in this and to continue that conversation about in case they change over time. This next one here is to respect each other's personal space. This is I think especially important to keep in mind if you are romantic or sexual partners because that's where we tend to forget the fact that we need personal space as well.
Just being respectful of that, giving each other that space. Maybe establishing some spaces even just from a decor perspective that each person has a place where they get to have more of the final say of how that's decorated. Even if it's just a half of a room. Whatever you can do for you, find some way to have that space and respect that space for each other.
Dedeker: Right. It doesn't have to be that you have to shell out for a 6-bedroom place so that you can each have a private office and a meditation room as much as that'd be freaking awesome.
Emily: That would be cool.
Dedeker: It could just be like this is my chair in the corner and this is where I go when I want to read and not be disturbed. It doesn't have to be purely like all these separate
rooms, but even just little things. Even if it feels ritualistic or codified to be able to find that personal space.
Jase: The next one is the fact that you're accountable for your own messes. This is true for both of you to keep in mind and to have these conversations about it because it can be tricky if you are doing things like preparing meals together or you're both having snacks on the couch watching a movie together or something like that. Establishing, how do we pick up these things? When do we pick up these things? Is one of you okay with waiting until the morning to do it? The other person is like, "I don't want to wake up to that we need to do it now."
Having those conversations as you go and understanding that someone isn't doing this necessarily to spite you but probably they just have a different way that they would do that or a different standard for that and looking at how can we both be responsible for our own messes?
Emily: When I was living alone in Shanghai for two months, I definitely felt as though my messes would be cleaned up more quickly than if I'm living with a partner just because I'm the only one accountable for them and I need to deal with them instead of letting like, we might use that pan tomorrow to do something. It can just stay there for a while and then I'll clean it if we decide to use it kind of thing. You are the only one who has to deal with it.
If you want a clean space then you have to actively deal with it. It is interesting just try to be as courteous as possible I think in these moments. If you're with a significant other or not, it is incredibly important to live like you are living on your own and be responsible for your own things.
Dedeker: I think it's also an interesting exercise. Again, I'm always going to bring it back to the deep dive into your past and the things that formed you and shaped you. I do think it is interesting to think about the home that you grew up in and just think about who cleaned up the dishes? Who did the laundry? Who was responsible for hanging the laundry on the line? Who was responsible for taking care of the dog? Just to think about, how do these things play out? How is that informed of the way that I approach my own space or I approach dividing chores with people that I live with? It's just more grist for the mill, it's just more interesting stuff to bring to the conversation. [crosstalk] You don't have to, jeez.
Emily: I like that.
Emily: Just the idea of hanging stuff on a line, it felt very like 1950 to me.
Emily: I was like, we live in America with giant driers.
Dedeker: Except for the fact of, we were poor growing up. In the summertime, we didn't want to just rack up the electric bill. You'd hang stuff on the line.
Emily: Dedeker, thank you for checking my privilege.
Emily: I appreciate that. You're absolutely right. The next one is going to be to respect the needs of separation and autonomy. We talked about this a little bit before, but just really allow for your own personal space and your alone time, and other plans with friends and people who are not your significant other or your roommate. If your roommate's a friend, you may want to do everything together. You may become this super tight duo but at times, it is good to do things outside of that relationship and really respect that time and not be jealous or upset when your partner wants to go off and have a night alone. That's super important.
Jase: I just want to second that. The importance, whether it's a friend or a romantic partner or whatever, even in a subtle way of not guilting the person for wanting to do something without you. Of not the, "Fine, I'll just be here by myself." Even if you think you mean it jokingly, that can be a really hard thing for another person.
Emily: Be like, "God, I feel guilty now because I'm leaving this person."
Jase: I've done that to people and I've had it done to me. When I realized that that was something that I was doing,-
Emily: Not cool, man.
Jase: -even when I didn't mean it or when I really needed it to be, but knowing how, sometimes, guilty or bad I would feel when someone would do that to me-- Really respect that time and encourage that time. Honestly, for me, now, especially with romantic partners, they want to go do something on their own, I'm like, "Definitely, you go do that. That's awesome."-
Emily: Get out of here.
Emily: I don't want to see you.
Jase: Because I know that the quality of the time that we spend together and their mood, and both of our well-being and our relationship, gets better when they do that and when I do that. I'm like, I tried to make an extra effort to be encouraging of that and supportive of that, rather than falling into that habit of like, "I'm by myself." Even if I might be a little bit like, "Dang, I did want to hang out tomorrow," still, just be like, "Definitely," because I know that in the long run, that's better for both of us.
Emily: That's great. The next one is to try to deal with issues quickly when they come up. Don't let them fester. Dedeker, you touched on this before with the hanging the code over the share thing. If it does irk you when somebody does something in a household capacity, bring it up. Don't just be really angry about it and then, all of a sudden, you blow up and say, "How dare you do this thing?" Just bring it up in the moment and be like, "Hey, I'm not super okay with you leaving dishes in the sink all night long for multiple days at a time. Do you think maybe you could just do a couple at a time or get them done right now?"
Jase: Or maybe plan a time to meet and talk about it to have them be like, "I don't know. I can't talk about that right now," or like, "I'm in the middle of something." To be like, "Let's set a time and have this conversation then." This idea of, "Let's work together to make this good for both of us," rather than, "You need to do a thing for me."
Emily: You're right. "You're a bad person, because you let the dishes sit."
Dedeker: The next one is-- I think this applies often to a situation when you're living with a platonic friend or someone who's not necessarily a significant other, but it could apply to that, as well. Especially if you're living with multiple roommates, not just one other person. Do your best to avoid gossiping or sharing the personal details of the person that you are sharing a living space with because to a certain extent, it's like, when we come into our homes, we do expect a certain modicum of privacy.
Sometimes, that's privacy that extends beyond just-- It's not like your privacy is only within the bounds of you closing the door to your room or something like that. The privacy also extends to your home. I think this relates to just respecting the privacy of home space in general. Just avoiding gossiping about who they brought home or what kind of argument they had with this person that you overheard or things like that.
Of course, it's like, if there's some situation where it's like, there's a conflict between you and your roommate and you're needing to get outside help or something that, then, yes, talk about it. Just for the sake of courtesy, it's good to just avoid spreading the details of someone's personal life because they are buying into this idea that home is also this private, safe space where they can expect that. Moving on to the next one, related to some stuff that we've talked about earlier, is, sit down either with your roommate or your nesting partner or a romantic partner, whoever, and have some intentional discussions about the home environment that you want.
What's the kind of feeling that you're looking for? What's the kind of decor that you're looking for? What's the level of sound that you're both comfortable with? I'm definitely someone where I'm like, even if I'm in party mode, I want the music to be super quiet. I've lived with people who are like, "As soon as I need to do chores, I blast that music up as high as I can." Talk about the level of sound that you want in your environment.
Again, about the cleanliness, create an action plan for how that environment will be created and also, maintained. That's things like whether it's, "Let's go together to go to IKEA and pick out silly, cheap things to decorate the place with," or it's, "Let's actually codify a way to divide chores for maintaining cleanliness. Find a way to collaborate with the person that you're living with with actionable steps, like specific things, in order to both create and maintain the kind of space that the two of you want to share.
Jase: The next one is also having intentional discussions about your schedules. This is a little different from what we talked about before, which is about, "What's your work schedule, what's your routine like?" This is more about, how are you going to schedule things like having people over, having sexual partners over, things like that.
Jase: Whether you're in a non-monogamous relationship or whether you're living with a platonic roommate and you're both dating people or maybe you're with a romantic partner and you have friends who you like to stay up late with sometimes. Anything that's outside of the normal routine, how do we communicate about this? How do we plan things in advance? How do we do this in a way that's respectful to each other? Some questions to ask that would come up with, either in non-monogamy or with the platonic roommate, is things like, "Is it okay for me to give a key to a romantic partner?"
That, to you, might be like, "Of course, I trust this partner. I'll give them a key." To your roommate, that might be like, "What the fuck is wrong with you? Why are you giving away keys to our place? I don't feel safe anymore." It could be something like, "Can my partner be here without me? If they spend the night and then, I leave for work, can they hang out for a while before they leave or are you not comfortable with that?" Just having those conversations beforehand, instead of it just being something that one or the other of you assumes.
Another one. [chuckles] I love this one, is, how much clothing does everyone need to wear when they're in the house? This one's not quite related to scheduling but related to having people over and things like that. It's like, how much clothing are you each expected to wear if you're going to have someone over? Does that, then, change the rules for how much clothing you need to wear or that your guests wear? Things like that. How loud can we have sex, at what hours? [chuckles] These are very real things.
Emily: Maybe not 4:00 AM? [laughs]
Jase: Yes, exactly. Maybe work out a way to communicate that of like, "It's fine if you have loud sex. Just try to let me know a little bit in advance and I will find somewhere else to be or put my headphones on, and be doing something else." Whatever it is, have those conversations.
Dedeker: Or, "Do whatever you want to do but put on some music so that it's--"
Emily: ...we're going to have sex again. [laughs]
Jase: Something like that of just to find a way for you to communicate about that. I think it's great to do beforehand, rather than when someone is over and you're trying to have this secretive conversation, [laughs] while the person that you're trying to figure this out on behalf of is there. Next one, the last one in this list of actionable things for being a good roommate and for cohabiting is, seriously, seriously, seriously. I'm going to say it three times. Seriously, seriously, seriously consider before you combine finances in a permanent way. For example, not cosigning for a credit card or a loan. If you do decide to open a joint bank account, to also maintain individual accounts. Don't have that become your only account or make one of your accounts into your mutual account, something like that. This is something that I know people do and you may still do, and you may already have done and that's done, but this is something that I am hearing this advice from more and more financial advisors, no matter how old you are and whether you're married or not, of really having some autonomy in your finances of not completely making these altogether, where neither of you have access to any of your own money without that directly pulling from an account that's taking money from the other person.
Dedeker: I just want to drop this into the conversation. I don't mean to be a bummer about it, but just wanted to bring to light the fact that financial abuse is a real thing that people experience. Often, it's wrapped up in many other forms of abuse or sometimes, it's a stand-alone thing. If you have a partner or someone who's insisting that you can't have an individual account or insisting that they be the one to take care of all the financial things or even limiting your access to your own independence, as far as your own finances go, that counts as financial abuse. That's just something to think about, as well, when having these conversations or evaluating what your situation is with the person that you live with.
Jase: Thank you for bringing that up.
Dedeker: We're going to talk briefly about particularly special considerations for people who are in special relationships. What I mean by that is just-
Dedeker: -anyone who's not in [chuckles] a monogamous relationship because so much of the advice out there about cohabiting with someone, is making that assumption that you're monogamous or maybe [sic] married. You're not having to navigate either of you leaving to go on dates or bringing other people over to have sex with them or whatever. A couple of things to bear in mind, specifically for people in non-monogamous relationships. We've talked about this on episodes before but specifically, the bed.
Jase: The bed.
Dedeker: THE BED, in caps.
Jase: Our bed.
Dedeker: It's a charged thing, the bed that you share with someone. There's definitely a lot of potential conflict that I've seen arise around how you feel about your partner sleeping with someone else in the bed that you share. Some people don't care, some people think it's hot, some people are really turned off by it. That's definitely going to be something, again, ideally, that you discuss before sharing a space with somebody, if you can. Or if you're already living with someone and you are choosing to open up or explore non-monogamy, have a conversation about it before it happens.
Some people, if they're able to have a guest room or a guest bed, sometimes, they find that's just the easiest solution. It's just like, "Whatever. Anyone new that we bring home, we sleep with them in the guest bed and then, we keep those spaces separate." Obviously, not everybody has access to a guest room or a guest bed. Sometimes, it does mean that you're going to have to negotiate, how do we make other people in our bed feel okay? Some people do make the decision of like, "We just don't bring anyone home to be in our bed," which works for some people but doesn't work for other people.
Jase: More often, that one doesn't become sustainable.
Dedeker: It does become hard to maintain for people, especially if people are seeking out more emotionally intense, long-term relationships. Some people just decide like, "Great, have sex with other people in our bed but just, please, change the sheets before I'm sleeping in it again." Or sometimes, it's about like, "I'm okay with people I don't know sleeping on my partner's side of the bed but not my side of the bed," or sometimes, people are like, "I don't care. Use my iPhone charger, use my chapstick.-
Dedeker: -I put condoms in the drawer for you, have fun." [chuckles] None of those are necessarily wrong or right or whatever. It's just really important to make sure that you give it the way and time, and space to talk about those things. It's also okay if that develops and changes over time as you get more comfortable with the concept or become more used to these things.
Jase: That one's definitely changed over time for me. When Emily and I were living together, that definitely changed a lot over time, too, as we got more used to it and just had ongoing conversations about that.
Emily: Absolutely. To piggyback off of that, the metamours or non-cohabiting partners that you have, just how they interact with the space that is yours, try to have conversations about that, as well, that is yours or your partner's. Because again, like Dedeker said, someone may be super okay with like, "Use my chapstick, use my condoms, use my phone charger, no probs." Others may be like, "That is a sacred space to me and I really have an issue with you coming in and infringing upon that space."
Again, just have a conversation regarding like, "Is it okay for a metamour or someone who comes into this space to use those things or is it not?" I have, at moments, seen people come into my space and use whatever, a blanket of mine or any-- I don't even know, I just threw that out there. Or drink my kombucha and I'm like,-
Emily: "Not cool," in that moment. It is something to think about, just having that conversation with your significant other in those moments.
Jase: I think an example of this that comes from some friends of mine, is about dishes, actually.
Dedeker: It would be, Jase.
Dedeker: ...about the dishes.
Jase: This isn't me, this is someone else. I'm sharing someone else's [chuckles] story.
Dedeker: It would make sense that it would resonate with you so much.
Emily: Then, would have to bring it up.
Jase: Here's what it is, is that, obviously, it's annoying when your partner leaves dishes in the sink but for this particular couple, that's like, "It's a little bit annoying but it happens, sometimes. It's not a big deal." However, if the other partner had spent the night the night before and then, there's dishes left over from them cooking together the next day, that feels extra-hurtful of like, "You had a person over in our space, used our stuff, and then, left it for me to clean up." That is a much bigger deal.
Emily: That would be not cool.
Jase: Then, if the exact the same amount of dishes were left but it was just your partner by themself that night, realizing that. For them, that's something where after one of them has a partner over, it's like, "Shoot, I better get up early this next morning and clean all these dishes," or like, "I better do this tonight because when my partner comes home, I don't want them to be upset by these dishes here." Just as an example. This could be anything, it could be about kombucha, like Emily mentioned. Just as-
Jase: -a real-life example.
Dedeker: I just want to remind people to, please, don't weaponize this discussion because I just don't want to see people turn it into like, "You're only allowed to use this pillow if you sit on the couch. You're only allowed to sit in this chair because that makes me safe if you only use this chair and this pillow or whatever." I'm just like, "Please, everybody, use some compassion here and some understanding."
Emily: Understanding is the name of the game and also, a meeting of the minds, in a sense. Just being like, "Hey, I would appreciate if X, Y, or Z happened," and if your partner is like, "Can we maybe have a little leeway on this, this, and that?" Then, being like, "Okay, that'll slide, no probs."
Jase: Then, it can change over time, like we talked about, right?
Jase: Hopefully, those things will change. Hopefully, they'll change in a direction of causing less stress for both of you and being able to relax on some things over time, but may take you a while to get there. Then, the last thing here, in terms of that, is just about hierarchy, about being aware of the fact that by living together, there is a hierarchy that's being established there, whether you are hierarchical or not. That that is something that, at least, other partners would perceive like, "This partner is more important than me," or maybe, "They get more say in your life than me," or just be aware of how that can affect your other relationships.
That, again, doesn't mean that's necessarily wrong, it just means that's an important conversation to have, that's an important thing to be aware of. Then also, just the logistics of that, that if you do live with a partner, the fact that if I do want to have someone over, my partner needs to either find somewhere else to be or they need to be okay with me having this partner over while they're here, that there is some logistics to figure out.
These are things that do require some very good communication all around from all the parties involved. I really urge people, I know I haven't always done a good job of this in the past, but of being very aware of that and making sure that your partners that you don't live with, don't feel that they're not taken as seriously or that they don't actually have access to you, unless it's convenient for this third party. Things like that. There's not a one-size-fits-all answer for that but it is something to be aware of and to try to be very conscious of that.
Dedeker: Gosh, we've covered a lot of ground here. I feel like there's such a wide variety and potential of so many different possible living situations. We don't want people to think that it's either a platonic roommate or a romantic partner. You could live with multiple romantic partners or multiple roommates or by yourself or spend part of the year living with one partner and then, by yourself. There's such a wide variety of ways and of course, we're not going to be the experts in every single possible situation. I can guarantee we'll get an email of someone being like, "My living situation is this. What do you suggest for that?"
Dedeker: Just bear that in mind and take these principles, and see how they fit with the situation that you, yourself, find yourself in. Ultimate takeaways that we want people to have is just to know that it's okay to choose to not live with a romantic partner if you don't make good roommates. You can still have a romantic and fulfilling relationship, even if you choose not to share a living space together. Or if you have chosen to live with a romantic partner or a significant other and you're realizing it's not working out, it's okay to change that, as well.
Again, it doesn't mean that you failed in some way or that your relationship is less serious, it just means that the two of you are trying to find a way for you each to have access to a home life that's going to make you feel the happiest and the most fulfilled. Ideally, that means that your relationship gets better as a result of that. I think ultimate, ultimate, ultimate takeaway, just talk about this stuff. Talk about it, talk about it a ton before it even happens, ideally. Just talk about it all the time, revisit it in your radars, and just do that.
Jase: That could be our tagline. It's like, "Multiamory Podcast, just talk about it". Just do it. Just actually talk about things. We would love to know about your experiences. We would like to hear, are there challenges that you're going through with the people that you're living with or are there things that you've really figured out this awesome way to organize the chore wheel, that everyone has so much fun doing them every week? We would love to hear these sorts of things and so would our other listeners. The best place that you can share your thoughts with those other listeners, is on this episode's discussion thread, in our private Facebook or discourse or discord forums.
You can get access to these groups and join our exclusive community by going to patreon.com/multiamory. In addition, you can share with us publicly on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. You can also email us at email@example.com. Leave us a voicemail at [sings] 678-MULTI-05 or you can leave us a voice message on Facebook. Multiamory is created and produced by Dedeker Winston, Emily Matlack, and me, Jase Lindgren. Our social media wizard is Will McMillan, our episodes are edited by Mauricio Balvanera. Our theme song is Forms I Know I Did, by Josh and Anand from the Fractal Cave EP. The full transcript is available on this episode's page on multiamory.com.