Learning to Manage Conflict When Living With Your Significant Other

Moving in with your significant other is a huge decision and major step in any romantic relationship. (Before making the decision, check out these tips from my fellow bloggers, who explain questions to consider, splitting finances, and rules to live by). The move itself, albeit stressful, can be the most fun part! From packing up belongings to unpacking and decorating your new place together, it’s sure to bring a few sentimental moments amidst the stress. But, what happens when you’re a few months in and things aren’t all sunshine and daisies? The trick is to be proactive and learn to manage conflict areas before they become problems.

First of all, having a few bumps on the road is normal. Whether you’ve ever had a roommate or not, every move takes adjustment. Moving in with your partner adds extra pressure that doesn’t necessarily exist when moving in with a friend or stranger, so make note of that and do your best to ignore it. Even if you think you know everything about your SO, you’re likely to learn a few things once you live in the same place and it always takes a little while to understand your roommate’s lifestyle habits.

Unhappy Couple Standing Back To Back At HomeAfter you’ve spent a few months getting used to the new living arrangement, however, arguments and bickering are likely to come up. In my experience, it can be hard to separate your relationship from the dirty dishes in the sink or a long day at work if you don’t have time to decompress (since you’re constantly together!). Here are my tips to reduce conflict and truly make the best of living with your significant other.

Most importantly: Be your own person

Playeer with basketball ballMoving in together makes it VERY easy to spend all of your waking time together. While this can be a lot of fun, and may work for many couples, try to make a conscious effort to be your own person outside of your relationship. Develop hobbies that YOU enjoy, even if they don’t interest your SO. Make friends at work, your gym, or local hangout and spend some one-on-one time with them. The key here is to feel fulfilled with your SO, but also without them. By making sure to maintain your own identity, you set yourself up for a little extra happiness, and likely more interesting conversation with your SO when you get home at the end of the day.

Define rules for cleanliness

Girl asking partner to throw big bag of garbage outA major cause of friction can be cleanliness. Opposites attract, which can be cute in many cases…but when one partner is a neat freak and the other is a little slobby, it can lead to frustration very quickly. Perhaps you didn’t notice or mind when HIS place was a mess (because you didn’t live there), but now it drives you crazy that he leaves his dirty clothes on the bathroom floor of YOUR place together. Or maybe he did not complain about your long hair all over the sink when it was at YOUR place, but now he’s worried about clogged drains and plumber bills. Instead of turning passive-aggressive or worse try defining some rules or goals for cleanliness. Some different situations to consider are: goals for when it’s just the two of you, goals for when you have dinner or overnight guests, and goals for when you leave for vacations.

For example, when it’s just the two of you, perhaps it’s okay to have clothes on the bathroom floor and smudges on the kitchen counters. However, when guests come or when you leave for a few days, set expectations for chores to be completed ahead of time and have fun completing them together.

If I’ve learned anything from living with my SO, it’s that neither of us is a mind-reader. Spelling everything out and communicating is the key!

Plan meals ahead

Cute couple preparing food togetherAnother cause of conflict can be the cooking schedule. If one partner shoulders most of the responsibility, they may feel frustrated or taken advantage of. Much like cleanliness, communication is the key. Talk it through with your SO and decide who should generally be responsible for tasks like grocery shopping, cooking meals, and cleaning up/doing dishes. Deviations from the schedule will happen, but knowing you’re working together can make a huge difference.

Planning your meals ahead of time (i.e. writing down your dinner plans for the week on Sunday afternoon) can eliminate the need to make frustrating split-decisions on what to cook or where to go for food. It’s will also save you some money!

Find your personal space

Smiling woman sitting on floor at home with cell phoneEven if you’re in a small apartment, try to find some space for yourself. Whether it’s going to the bedroom to read alone for a while each night or putting in headphones when you cook dinner, define some personal space in your apartment and take advantage of it when you need some solo time to recharge.

Keep in mind that you are a team now so put in the effort every day.  Learn to make your SO happy without neglecting yourself. And keep those lines of communication open!

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Author My First Apartment

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Sarah is a dog lover and advocate for conversation & laughing at your own jokes. Since finishing her college career in communications, she began working (and living) in Atlanta. After living in a few different apartments over the last few years, she's ready to share experiences. Stay tuned for adventures, tips and advice!

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