6 Lessons I've Learned From Living With An Engaged Couple

It might be weird, but I genuinely love being the third wheel. I love seeing my friends happy (obviously), and hanging out with them and their significant others has always been fun for me. And although I know this might sound even weirder, I've been living with my friend and her fiancé for the past month — and it's actually been fun, too. More importantly, though, I've learned some very valuable lessons living with an engaged couple, and the reasons why may surprise you.

I've always been the perpetually single girl, mostly out of choice: I highly value my independence and freedom. But unlike some perpetually single people, I actually love hanging out with couples. I find a sense of peace in it. So when I graduated college a couple of weeks ago and found myself with both limited funds and limited living arrangement options, I jumped an offer my engaged friend made me: She offered for me to come and take up the spare bedroom in the house she shared with her fiancé rent free for a month or two. To make this easier, I'll call my friend and her BAE Pam and Jim — she'd love this, knowing her obsession with The Office.

Now, Jim and Pam are one of those couples that most people would love to hate. They basically fell in love on their first date, took things slow, moved in together, and now are engaged. They own a house; they both have good relationships with their families; and they both have full-time jobs. Oh, and they're like adorably in love.

Like any new life experience, I've found myself learning a lot from living with them — both about relationships, and about myself. Here are some of takeaways.

1. Compromise Is Key

Pam and Jim compromise on a lot of things — and they do it well. Living with them really shows how important compromise is in relationships. They have a lot on their plates: They have opposite work schedules; Pam is in school as well as working; they're planning a wedding; and so on. But this also means they both have to give and take in order to make it all work. Take the fact that I'm currently living with them, for example — Jim was totally willing to allow Pam's friend (aka, me) to move in for free for an undetermined amount of time because it was really important to her. Inviting someone into your home and surrendering up part of your living space isn't an easy sacrifice to make.

2. Your Weekends Change

Living the couple life doesn't have to be as domestic as Jim and Pam's. But when you own a house, you take pride in it, and your Saturdays might change from bar hoping to grocery shopping and lawn mowing. Working together to get it all done makes your home a pleasant place to be.

3. Coordination Is Everything

Jobs, school, gym, errands, family and wedding planning can get pretty hectic. Knowing who's going to make dinner and send in the bills on certain days is pretty important. Pam and Jim are pretty awesome at it, but it shows that this is a joint effort between both parties.

4. Traditional Gender Roles Aren't Necessarily A Bad Thing, As Long As Everyone Is Down With Them

Let's talk about gender roles for a second, because they're everywhere. I just got a degree in women's studies, so it's probably not surprising that I'm not really into traditional gender roles; Jim and Pam, on the other hand, are pretty old school. Pam does most of the cooking and cleaning; she's also "jokingly" pushing to have children after they get married, while Jim jokes that she'll have to be the one to wake up when they cry in the middle of the night. Jim, meanwhile, has his gun collection, takes care of the yardwork, and has a room with a sign that says "Jim's Man Cave." My initial reaction to seeing these kinds of traditional gender roles in action from people my own age is to get a little annoyed; at the same time, though, it's interesting — it works for them, and Pam says she wouldn't have it any other way. As long as everyone is on board with it — that is, no one is being forced into specific gender roles when they don't want to be — then it's all good.

5. Love, Man

Yeah, they're busy, and they have to give up a lot to make each other happy. Jim gives up two hours on a Saturday to go to a "pre-marriage counselor" because Pam works with the guy and told him she'd sign up. Pam often leaves parties early because Jim had a long day at work. But it's clear why they do it: They're crazy in love. They always hug each other when they get home at the end of the day like they haven't seen each other in years. For them, every sacrifice is worth it. They've both told me how lucky they feel to have the other. Also, they have spontaneous Nerf gun battles in the living room every so often, and it's kind of the best.

6. I Might Not Settle Down

I think the main thing I've learned from living with Jim and Pam is that I may never want to settle down. It's a huge commitment when "your life" becomes "our life." Moving in with someone, getting engaged, starting a family... These aren't ways to fix a relationship. Your relationship has to be strong as hell to begin with — just like Jim and Pam's is. They're one of the most communicative, functional couples I've ever known, and it still gets hard for them sometimes. And even as awesome as what they have is... it might not be what I ultimately need or want. And, more importantly, it's fine if it's not.

We can't force things if they're not what we really want, and we shouldn't just commit to things just because it's "the thing to do." Although "our life" works incredibly well for Jim and Pam, me? I need "my life" right now. During my time living with them, I've learned both to admire what they have, as well as appreciate and love my own freedom even more. And those are perhaps the biggest lessons to take away from the experience.

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