Living together is not always easy but finding the right property to share and having your own space will certainly help create a happy household, says Christina Collison.

Apparently, Sunday is #NationalBoyfriendDay. I’m raising my eyebrows even as I say it. I’m not big on awareness days. There are too many for my liking, and some of them (like this one) just seem daft to me. I’m actually slightly surprised to find myself writing about one.

Maybe it’s because it’s made me think about boyfriends and living together. I’ve lived with three men in my life in three different homes (i.e., not all at the same time). I married two of them. We had some good times, but it’s not always plain sailing to live with one person under the same roof permanently.

It’s often said that if you want to find out what a person is really like, live with them first (or give them a slow internet connection, and you’ll really see their true colours).

The pandemic has brought new challenges where living together is concerned. Previously, couples were getting up and going to work… going their own separate ways for most of the day, only seeing each other in the evenings. Most people had time away from each other. Then came the pandemic, during which many were stuck in each other’s pockets day and night. No wonder one law firm logged a 122 per cent increase in divorce enquiries between July and October last year. Citizens Advice Bureau also reported an increase in online searches for ending a relationship.

Living and working together

Fortunately, our relationship was fine. My husband and I are used to spending most of our time together, as we both work from home. We were already used to doing what many couples wouldn’t want to endure: being together pretty much all of the time.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have our niggles. Sometimes, I despair of his ability to hoard just about every item you can think of. He gets fed up with my inability to fully close a drawer. I don’t much care for his tendency to leave the washing up because ‘it’ll still be there in the morning’. He doesn’t like me getting wound up when my laptop decides to crash on a deadline.

We’re both only human, of course, and there are times when we get on each other’s nerves. Fortunately, those are few and far between. But the one thing that works well for us is the layout of our house. We have three bedrooms and a basement as well as a lounge and dining room. This means we can both have our own space when we need it. I use the dining room as a makeshift gym where I have my weights and cross-trainer. The basement works well as an office. We have a spare room upstairs with another desk and computer for privacy calls or general peace and quiet. We’re even fortunate enough to have two bathrooms (which is apparently the key to a long-term relationship).

Think about space

If you’re thinking of buying a property with someone else, think about what sort of space you’ll need. If you’re buying a flat, see if you can afford one with two bedrooms rather than being restricted to one.

If you are about to buy a place where space will be limited, try to be considerate. Don’t leave your dirty undies on the floor; be clean, and try to store as many items away as you can. Declutter as much as possible. Be firm about anything you don’t need or like. Get rid of it.

Don’t invest in any large items without talking to your partner first. A massive TV screen or a huge L-shaped sofa that will completely consume the lounge should be discussed by the two of you.

Even when you’re in the same room, give each other space from time to time. Put your headphones on if you need to, and if you can see that your partner is watching a TV show that you’re not into, let them watch it rather than talking over it just because it’s not your thing.

A place to recharge

If you can find a property with a garden or some form of outdoor space, that’s going to massively benefit you both. Your garden can be a quiet place where you sit together or where you spend time alone when you need to regroup and recharge.

Finally, when it comes to having guests over, make sure you’re both happy with how often and how many people you entertain.

Try to make your home a place where you can thrive together, rather than surviving together. Remember, it’s OK to not spend every spare moment in each other’s company.

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