So you are finally moving in together. Congratulations! But apart from sharing your house, you're also going to be sharing a bedroom. That can be a tricky transition, but there are ways to make it easier on both of you.
You've shared a house with your family when you were a kid, as well as with roommates as an adult, but you've always had your own space — that one room you could call your own. But when you shack up with someone else, that room is now "owned" by two people. It's a big adjustment when you have to share that personal space with someone else.
Buy a New Bed or Mattress to Start Fresh
The bedroom space shouldn't feel like it belongs to one person, especially if one of you is moving into the other's place. Even if you are going to a new place, carting one of your old beds will give one person a little more sense of ownership.
The bed is the most intimate part of your bedroom. It's where you'll laugh, cry, make love, tell each other ridiculous stories from your past, fart, fall sick — a lot of your life's big and small moments are going to happen there. Make it a fresh start; if not the whole bed itself, then at least get a new mattress. Don't be stingy with this purchase and choose the right mattress for you.
Get Some Alone Time in the Bedroom
Grab chunks of time alone in your bedroom to make the room feel like it belongs to you. While you know it's "ours" and you treat it that way, it's also important to know it's "mine" so you can truly be yourself in it.
One of the cornerstones of easing the transition of living together is giving each other plenty of space. That extends to the bedroom. Ideally, you should have another room, like a study or home office, where one of you can retire to without the other, but high rents might not make that an option. In any case, give each other some alone time in the bedroom. As Doctor Nerdlove says:
Living together doesn't mean that you have to be together 24-7, nor does it mean that you magically no longer require time on your own. Both of you should make a point to carve out your own space, especially if it means giving you some much-needed personal time.
Just be polite and ask your significant other to give you some time in the room, but explain clearly that you just want some space and it has nothing to do with your relationship — you don't want to make a mountain out of a molehill because of the other person assuming things you don't intend.
Forget Ground Rules, Enjoy Each Other's Quirks
Every blog post on this subject talks about how you need to set up some ground rules: "Don't put your wet towel on the bed." "No eating without a plate or a tray." You know what? Forget about them.
Ground rules infringe upon that sense of ownership you want to feel about this space. If you can't be yourself in your own bedroom, where are you supposed to do that? Instead, learn to enjoy each other's quirks and mistakes. Communicate your problem, avoid communication mistakes, and you'll find that it's usually not a big deal.
Case in point, my wife and I had the "wet towel on the bed" problem, which apparently is a common issue with many couples if the number of web search results are a reflection of society. But what would once be irksome has now turned into a joke we laugh about. Throwing a wet towel on the bed is part of who that person is, and the whole situation about it is a part of who we are as a couple.
Get Separate Wardrobes
If you have moved into a bedroom with enough closet space for both of you, congratulations Mr and Mrs Gates. For most people, it's going to be an issue to fit all your clothes into one closet, but your bedroom is where you need those clothes since that's where you get dressed.
Now, there are ways to organise a lot of clothing in small closets. You can also track what you wear and throw the rest out to know what should make it to your limited wardrobe. But these aren't always practical; you both might want to keep all your old clothes, after all.
The easy solution is to purchase a wardrobe set for the partner with fewer clothes. Moveline's guide for couples moving in together notes:
Sara says the only real issue was trying to fit their clothes into the closet of their one-bedroom apartment. Brad wanted to keep most of his old clothes and was upset there wasn't space. The couple went to Ikea and purchased a large wardrobe set to create another closet that's just for Brad.
"It was expensive, but it was worth it for us to have our own space," says Sara. "Not all apartments can fit a huge closet, but it was good solution for us."
Sharing a space is all about compromise and communication. Instead of simply telling your partner to get rid of things, explain why you think they won't fit and ask how they want to deal with it. If it turns out they want to keep it, offer suggestions about how to find space with a bit of reorganization or creative storage solutions.
If a new closet is going to take up too much space you can't afford, you can even look at sharing one space in the main closet. For example, my wife uses the closet for her clothes while I use a dresser (lined front to back for easy clothes identification). But my jackets and anything else that needs to be on a hanger is in one small part of the closet which we both share.
Make Space and Plenty of Outlets for Gadgets
You both have smartphones, tablets, e-readers, laptops, maybe even smartwatches — the modern couple's bedroom has a whole bunch of electronics and invariably, never enough outlets.
Get a couple of bedside tables and enough electrical outlets on both sides — at least three, so you can charge or plug in your device to use. Why is this important? Because if you don't, there will be cords snaking from one side of the bed to the other, and without bedside tables, those gadgets are going to lie between your two pillows at night. You could even break out the toolkit and turn your nightstand into a charging station.
Compromise for Together Time, But Also Enjoy "Parallel Play"
While we've talked a lot about individual ownership, it's a shared space after all, so there will be compromises — and they're worth it to get that time together. If you both don't agree on the ideal temperature for the room, go for the compromise midpoint. Sure, neither of you will be completely comfortable, but neither will be be completely uncomfortable either.
If you have a TV in your bedroom, you know this scenario well. One of you wants to watch Homeland and the other wants to watch The Big Bang Theory. What do you do? As far as possible, compromise and watch a show you both enjoy. Actor Kunal Nayyar has a different solution though: he just bought two TVs and fitted the second one at an angle, so he gets to watch his shows while his wife watches her's. And he reckons that's the secret to a happy marriage, so it might be worth it. While you might not have enough space or money for a second TV, you can always turn to your laptop or tablet to get your fix.
This type of arrangement is what Eric talked about when he explained the idea of parallel play:
Another strategy for keeping the peace, particularly if you're low on physical space, is to embrace the concept of parallel play. To oversimplify and apply it entirely inappropriately to adults, the idea involves simply being in the same room as your partner, either performing the same activity (such as browsing online) or different casual activities without necessarily interacting directly.
It may sound counter-intuitive, but just because you're not talking with your partner doesn't mean you're not communicating. Becoming comfortable near your partner without necessarily participating in their current activity can help you both get that "me time" you need while still bonding.
Parallel play is a great way to spend more time with each other in the bedroom and get that sense of ownership.
Hopefully, these tips will help you merge homes and bedrooms without going crazy. But that aside, you know what's best for the bedroom? Parallel play — nudge, nudge, wink, wink, a nod's as good as a wink to a blind bat.