Living with someone can be a logistic nightmare, and you can never really tell what you are in for, even if you move in with a great friend. There’s an entirely different dynamic at work – one that neither of you have explored before – and if you manage to click on one more level it creates a deep bond of trust and respect that very few things can compare to.
Having had the good fortune of sharing a home with a long-time friend for a while, I can honestly say that are certain things that you can only understand if you’ve spent a lot of time cooped up in the same apartment with someone you know well. There are too many little details to cover in a single article, but here are ten of the most memorable things that stay with you and change you.
1. Moving in together is an adventure you’ll fondly remember for the rest of your days
Moving in with a friend is a huge lifestyle change, and even if you are both easy to get along with and do things by the book, there can still be a lot of stress involved. However, as they say, the strongest steel is forged in the hottest fire. A little bit of adversity is what will ultimately help you become a more capable, mature and responsible person, and the things you and your roommate had to go through will always have a special place in a corner of your mind.
2. Going your separate ways is almost like a divorce
This might sound a bit over the top, but when you really think about it, you see that it makes a lot of sense. You go over a few basic steps in both divorce and when moving out:
- There’s an emotional mix of excitement and sadness
- You go over detailed list of your stuff and try to split it up fairly
- You feel anxious because you know you’ll have to get used to a new roommate all over again
- The prospect of living alone makes you a little anxious
- It’s an end of an era, and you feel compelled to go out with a bang
The whole situation is stressful – much less than divorce, but still – everything feels weird and there is plenty of uncertainty in your mind, but you can’t wait to give your new life shot. Luckily, you’ll have Skype to help you get through that initial shock.
3. It’s hard when no one gets your random TV show references
There’s nothing I loved more than to have someone laugh at my incredibly obscure reference, or at my attempts at a joke that borrowed themes from several shows that no one seems to watch. My roommate and I had a penchant for quality British television, but, for some inexplicable reason, no one else knew anything about them.
Oh sure, they’ve all heard of “that doctor guy, the one with the blue phone booth,” but I gave up trying to explain it to them after my fiftieth consecutive joke fell flat. I guess we all have some guilty pleasures, but it’s no fun when you can’t share it with someone.
4. People can be vastly different, yet complement each other’s characters perfectly
I would’ve never thought it possible, but I actually managed to get along great with a musician. It may not seem like much, but even though I have a creative mind and enjoy art, I never really thought about music in terms other than music that I like and music that I don’t like, party music and relaxing music. However, it turns out that you can dissect a song quite thoroughly and talk for hours about scales, genres and so on.
My roommate taught me quite a few things like that and he was great at haggling, while I, in turn, helped him learn his way around a computer, how not to turn all your white laundry pink and generally dealt with minor fixes around the home. A grumpy techy and a laid-back artist sound like a pairing straight out of a comedy show, but you find that you can help each other out in areas that the other one is not really good at. You’d be surprised how easily you can get used to someone after living with them for a while.
5. There is now a permanent yardstick based on which all future cohabitants will be measured
The bad thing about hitting it off and getting used to living with someone is that it’s easy to get set in your ways. This means that you’ll have a certain way of doing things and anyone that comes to live with you afterwards is going to have habits that will annoy you, simply because they’re different then what you’re used to.
If your roommate liked to keep everything squeaky clean and never really asked for help unless you offered it yourself, it’s easy to think that someone who likes to make a list of chores and assign everyone something is actually a difficult and bossy person. You end up saying things like, “Well, so and so never gave me grief about the little stuff, and we got along just fine for years.”
6. You really get to know a person when you’ve both hit financial rock bottom
Being fresh out of college, my friend and I had a substantial debt to pay. Even though we were lucky to get jobs that were interesting and paid well soon after finishing school, there were times when we had to really buckle down. We’d burn through most of our money within a couple of weeks, and then subsist on cheap pasta, pastries and whatever was on sale for the rest of the month. It’s then that we both learned a lot about each other that we never knew about before.
First of all, my friend took charge by doing some research and suggesting that we should take a new route – start saving up and consolidate student loans. I’ve never found the guy to be the financial savvy type before, or one to take matters into his own hands come to think of it, but when he presented me with tons of details and showed a willingness to do what it takes, I knew that this was something he had in him all along.
He just never had the chance to take the initiative before, because he never had someone else depend on him. The fact that we weren’t screaming at each other all day and complaining showed me that some people give their very best when they are at their worst.
7. Even years down the road, you can get your point across with a single look
A side-effect of spending a good part of each day with someone is that you gain a near telepathic ability to communicate without uttering a single word. It’s usually when you’re with a bunch of other friends that this ability truly shines – someone says something awkward or tries too desperately to be funny, and you just shoot a sideways glance at your friend, whose eyes are already rolling. It’s these priceless little moments that you end up missing the most.
8. You bore everyone to death with your roommate stories at every get-together
After a few years, there will be tons of little disasters, funny moments, heated or dangerous situations that only seem funny after a bunch of time has passed. It’s quite natural to want to reminisce once you meet up with an old friend who you shared all these exciting moments with, and quite few boring ones as well, but those around you won’t really appreciate it. Others will often feel excluded during your long-winded stories of what life was like back in the day, but you just won’t be able to help yourself.
9. You catch yourself doing the same things that you used to tease your friend for
During the first few weeks of living together, I used to tease my friend about his unhealthy obsession with turning off all the lights in the apartment except the one that was absolutely necessary. It just seemed like something a secluded vampire hermit would do, but I recently caught myself running around my home and switching off lights because the TV provided more than enough light and there was no need to waste electricity.
I remembered my friend, let out a few mumbled cuss words and laughed. On the other hand, I heard that he now puts butter in every meal and double checks all the doors and windows as a safety precaution before going to bed, so some of my annoying habits must have rubbed off on him too, and worked out well for him.
10. No matter how hard you screw up, you’ll always have one number you can call
In the end, the most rewarding thing about living with a friend is that once you’ve earned a deeper level of trust and respect, you know that there will always be someone who feels like its their duty to help you out when you’re in need – no matter how much trouble you’re in or how insignificant a problem may seem to someone else.
I can count my good friends on the fingers of one hand, but if push came to shove and I needed to talk to someone at three in the morning or needed to bury a body, I know who’d answer the phone and remember to bring work gloves so we wouldn’t get blisters while digging.
I’m sure anyone who’s been in a similar situation will agree when I say that even though there is a certain sense of freedom you get when living on your own or with a partner, living with a true friend really opens your eyes to a lot of things. You learn a lot, not only about the other person, but about yourself and people in general as well. Just don’t let the nostalgia get to you, and stop teasing your ex-roommate about those dishes she broke when she was drunk or that weird girl he brought home from the club one night.