Jessica Ashley facebook twitter babble voices pinterest is a single mama in the city, super-savvy editor, writer, video host and shameless shoe whore.
read more »
Mama Needs New Shoes
Subscribe to Sassafrass by RSS or Email
Follow by RSS feed


Follow by email to have Sassafrass' blog updates delivered to your inbox:

Mama Likey

This area does not yet contain any content.
Search Sassafrass

Moving in together: The sobbing, the sexy, the not-so-pretty true stuff

I am resisting the urge to call attention to all that has been unsaid here in the last month because so much has unfolded in my life offline. There should be no explanations or apologies or worries about when I last checked in. I am mother to one and he knows exactly (or mostly-exactly) what I have been up to, even when the activities are not archived here. So enough of that. No guilt. 

I am not sure what I expected when I moved in to this place, both the home and the new arrangement with the Not Boyfriend. I was thrilled and exhausted and a little scared. But the swell of love and all that this new home represented pushed me past the long hours cleaning out the damn basement and packing box after box after box. 

I think I knew it would be hard and different. Change always is. But I wasn't aware that the transition would take this long and feel like so much work.

I say that carefully because relationships are sensitive and there are other people living in this place with me. But really, this is not about them. It is about me and my own challenges in settling into a new bedroom, my own office, a fresh identity.

A week or so and many tears into living here, a friend reminded me that I am not just under the stress of moving, but that I am also grieving the loss of what I left. That struck a chord, a loud and pitchy chord. 

I was the captain of my last ship. Even when it was lonely or frustrating or the bookshelf was massively heavy for one person to push around alone, I was the person in charge of figuring it out. And I did. I may have called in supports or cried then, too. I might have just left the bookshelf in the middle of the room for a few days (/weeks). But I chose the course. I led us through it. 

In this new place, every decision is group decision, a battle of wills and power and I-know-bests. Or at least that is how it felt, especially at first. The Not Boyfriend and I had both always been the alphas in relationships and we'd both lived on our own for a long time. And while I love his strength and independence and decisiveness and fierceness, and while I think he loves all those bits of me, these shared characteristics are both our greatest power and our biggest fights. 

What comforter set to buy, where to hang that picture, whether or not to use dryer sheets when doing laundry, where every effing thing in the kitchen should be placed -- the decisions and opinions and little arguments grew swelled, if not in actual conflict then inside our heads. The details of making a home quickly felt arduous. I wanted it to be fun. 

I see, even a few weeks later, that some of this back and forth is necessary. Maybe we have to do this to find a comfortable middle ground. As we tried desperately to mend one argument, I burst into tears.

"Please," I begged. "Just let me pick out the fucking comforter. I will do a good job. I promise. But I cannot spend another four hours hunting through websites to find one we agree on. Just let me make this call."

He smiled, pulled me close, agreed.

I haven't purchased the comforter yet. But that moment keeps coming to mind as I push back the urge to rage because the brand new towels in the guest bathroom have blue spots on them after one washing (and drying - yes, with fabric softener sheets) or to totally reorganize the pantry or to just leave the Christmas decorations spread out on the floor to be packed into plastic bins and hauled off to storage. 

Being a captain now, rather than the captain, means releasing the wheel, if only sometimes, if only for a while. I was happy to turn over control for cooking dinner and scheduling cleaning ladies and cleaning the car. But that is not enough. Not nearly enough.

This is a joyous, big thing we are doing here. And it means so much is changing, so much beyond tough stuff. 

Change is hard, I used to tell a sad or teary E when the divorce was brand new. But it is also good. Let's find a way to move through the hard part and focus on the good.

And so, while we work out the dynamic between us, while we deep breathe through putting 400 family photos on pristine walls, while we stand in line at Target to buy another round of guest towels, I am turning my energy toward the good.

My son is so happy. He loves being here. He loves that our neighborhood is packed full of his friends and classmates. He absolutely adores the room he designed. He's so happy the Not Boyfriend is right here, too.

We have had lots of laughs and alone moments. There is some wondrousness to not having the pressure of visitation hours, not having to cram in dinners out and quality time and romps in the bedroom to the hours when my son is not at home. Having most evenings together means we've spent hours laughing at the whiners on seasons-old Project Runway and sipping coffee in between conference calls and meeting in the middle of the massive bed we now share. No clocks ticking, no sad goodbyes until next weekend. 

We are two blocks from school. Walking E each morning and picking him up every evening without a 15- to 45-minute commute each way has significantly boosted our quality of life. 

A heated garage. It doesn't even take a polar vortexed -15-degree snap to make me relief-sigh every time I slide on to a normal-temperature driver's seat.

I have headquarters. My office space used to be a desk tucked into a nook off the dining room. This was fine. But now. Now, I have a whole room where I woman my business. And there is a pink rug just to prove it is all mine. Once the boxes are all unpacked, it will be fabulous. 

There is someone to help. When I ask for it. No more leaving bookshelves in centers of rooms. 

Our lease is long, our love is strong. This man I have been battling is a wonderful, hilarious, whipsmart, loving man. We will get through this hard part of the change in part because we have plenty of time to get there. We also have a really big apartment, which is helpful until then. 

Practice partnering. I suppose I've never really partnered in a relationship, something I didn't realize until the Not Boyfriend first asked me to move in and I had to say "maybe later." The reason I held off was to deal with some of the remaining junk from those past relationships so I could come to this new place with my new love ready and fresh and free to partner with him on this big adventure. While I get better at sharing - the power, the bathroom, the bed, the decisions, the wheel of the whole giant ship - it helps to remember that it is all practice, all moving forward. This - living together - is like 12-15 hours of full-immersion practice. 

For now, I have a comforter set to buy. One thing at a time, I guess. One little compromise, one shift, one release, one more moment with my hands off the wheel.

« Sorry, Charlie. It's just a Valentine | Main | Farewell, 2013 »

Reader Comments (8)

I love you. It will get easier, in some ways, but let me just say - after only three years of living with my amazing husband, I *still* refold the towels after he puts them away. He does the laundry so I never complain. Bite my tongue, yes. Refold the towels when he's not looking, yes. And we may or may not argue about where the dishes go in our kitchen and how to stock the pantry.

Luckily, he knows my need for controlling those things has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with ME. And I let him have the garage all to himself because we all need a space to call our own.

Good luck, lady. Take a few deep breaths and know that this will be something you will both look back on and smile. Oh, and please do share which comforter you finally end up buying.

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSondra

My heart completely swelled when I read this. <3 I have no real advice but I can definitely imagine what you're going through.

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAmy

Speaking as an ex-chef and main cook in the house, you gotta let him handle the kitchen! You take care of the towels and comforters. Stay out of a cook's way and you will benefit.

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichie G

Speaking as an ex-chef and main cook in the house, you gotta let him handle the kitchen! You take care of the towels and comforters. Stay out of a cook's way and you will benefit.

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRichie G

Another great one Jessica, and I found myself nodding a lot in recognition, intrigued that what you describe in your first months of formal cohabiting is something that can still ring true, years later (after you've bickered about dryer sheets and comforters dozens and dozens of times, each time thinking "why are we still bickering about this stuff?") My sister used to have a note on her refrigerator that she said saved her marriage. It was simply "Pick your battles." It is a reminder that it ain't worth it for the "you never screw the cap on tight" habits/annoyances to matter so much that they tear at the fabric of your relationship. Still, it can be those alpha differences and minor annoying differences that build and build. I think it was scary, but productive, when I sat down once with my husband (against his will, mind you) and said we should have a "safe zone" discussion of the top 5 things that the other person is doing that are driving us mad, and see if there is any room for change or greater tolerance. Somethings we had no idea were driving the other to drink. Some things we defended/refused to change/rationalized. Some things we said "I can stop doing that, sorry" and we did. Luckily, other stuff sorted itself out well. What great luck that I love to cook (using every pot and pan/making messes/don't stop me!) and he loves to do dishes. Actually loves it. He whistles while he washes. I'm lousy at getting the laundry from the washer to the dryer or folded; he's great. He's lousy at seeing dirt/dust so I handle those. Now that I've cut back on full time work, I took on the greater share of childcare/homework/kid stuff. "Does it feel egalitarian or do we need to adjust?" we sometimes ask ourselves, trying to get it right. I still cry in guilty tears that I'm not contributing enough financially now where I used to be the primary breadwinner. He feels guilty he's not helping enough with our kid. We share the frustrations, but also the appreciation and the guilt. And like my sis said, we try to pick our battles. It makes me crazy that he doesn't see/clean dust bunny tumble weeds...but in the big picture, I'm not going to fight about that one. Where I'm holding my breath for you guys is the emotionally charged zone around parenting...because that one is so fraught with feelings and potentially loaded comments if you're upset about how to teach, discipline, guide, etc. But it sounds like you are both amazing people, and I sense you'll figure it out!

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterDiana Dull Akers

You are all wonderful for sharing your good advice, kind words and support. I need it. Now please share your Macy's coupons for comforter purchases. <3

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica Ashley/Sassafrass

I've been married 12 years and we STILL don't see eye to eye on all the cohabitation decisions- It does get easier, though, as I'm sure you know. Keep doing life together and you learn over time to choose your battles. So many of the things that drove me crazy when we first moved in together seem laughable now, even though they're still happening!

January 14, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

reading this post really put into words my own fears of life changing decisions and what it really means to physically share space and lives. and i realized that i too have always been THE captain in past relationships and that change is hard and hard work.

January 27, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterpaula

PostPost a New Comment

Enter your information below to add a new comment.

My response is on my own website »
Author Email (optional):
Author URL (optional):
Some HTML allowed: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <code> <em> <i> <strike> <strong>