Upon graduation, my partner and I both separately decided to move to Manhattan — he was starting a new job, and I was desperate to return to the vibrant city I had grown up in. As a creative, my plan at the time looked more like an abstract painting than a linear path: I aimed to freelance write and tutor English by day, while playing music to empty bars at night. Realizing that my chosen field(s) were perhaps not the most lucrative, and wrestling with the outrageously expensive cost of New York rent, I resolved to move back in with my parents.
My partner, on the other hand, had comfortably landed on his feet and moved into a four-bedroom apartment with three roommates. Since we were both struggling with our not-so-seamless transitions into adulthood, we took solace in each other's company —and have continued to do so ever since. It's not exactly a Sex and The City-esque fairytale, but it still feels pretty magical to me.
My partner and I typically spend about four nights a week together. Since he works much later than I do, on weekdays I tend to go to his place; on weekends, vice versa. Since we've accomplished this balance somewhat smoothly, I didn't think we would come across any issues when we set out to swap living spaces for a week to see if it would refresh our relationship.
We've reached an age where our coupled friends are discussing moving in together, but neither of us feel ready for that yet. So we thought that taking a walk in each other's shoes — or rather, sleeping in each other's beds for a week — would be a good first step. And while I felt anxious about living in an apartment where three guys shared one shower, and my partner felt nervous about constantly tip-toeing around my parents, we were both excited to see if braving this experiment would ultimately bring us closer together. There was just one rule: no sleepovers with each other for the week! So here's what happened when we swapped apartments.
The experiment began on a Sunday. I picked out and packed my work outfits for the first three days, planning to do a re-stock halfway through the week. The rest of packing was fairly easy, since I'm so used to staying at his place on weekdays: my phone charger, a hair straightener, some makeup products. Making myself at home wasn't as daunting as it seemed, as I had pretty much already done so (I keep a set of toiletries in the bathroom, a water bottle in the shared fridge, athleisure clothes in the closet, etc). Another big bonus was that I'm already friends with his roommates, the majority of whom I went to college with. In fact, I don't even think they realized anything out of the ordinary was happening! I settled in quite swimmingly.
My partner's bed is much comfier than mine (I think he has an incredible mattress pad? And/or possibly sheets?), and my first thought on this morning was that having the bed all to myself was undoubtedly phenomenal. This was, however, slightly overshadowed by the fact that I have a teeny tiny bladder and woke up desperately needing to use the bathroom. Unfortunately, there was but a single toilet at my disposal, and one of his roommates was taking what can only be described as an absurdly long shower. I almost peed my pants. Additionally, when I brought this up to my partner, he explained that his roommate was most likely masturbating — which did not exactly put me at ease. But it was good to know... and I'm planning on wearing flip-flops for future showers.
I definitely have "cool parents" — they both love and respect my partner, and treat me with the same level of autonomy that I would receive if I were living in my own apartment. They never expect me home at a certain time for dinner, or ask me where I am 24/7. We truly have found a wonderful balance as "roommates." Still, while my partner is used to seeing them on weekends when he sleeps over, he was very nervous about spending so much time with them without me there.
Luckily, he had been out of town over the weekend, and did not arrive at my house until very late at night, when both of my parents were already asleep. My partner did not sleep well on the first night, but a slight Sunday hangover and particularly chilling episode of Westworld might have been to blame. Unlike me, he had a pleasant bathroom experience on the first morning, as I fortunately have a bathroom to myself. He did, however, note that the temperature that I typically keep my shower on (a little past 110 degrees Fahrenheit), was way hotter than what his body is accustomed to and sent a bit of a shock to his system. But he also conceded that my apartment is way closer to the subway line that he takes to work, which saved him both time and the money he might have used taking an Uber to the office. Win some, lose some.
I still cannot believe that this happened for the very first time, because you literally can't make this stuff up. On day two, I was sitting in my partner's bedroom with the door wide open. I thought I saw some sort of movement in the living room, but when I looked back, there was nothing to be found — so I dismissed my suspicions. Minutes later, I came face-to-face with a mouse right smack dab in the middle of his kitchen. I screamed and locked myself in his bedroom, only leaving once to brush my teeth. All of my partner's roommates were already asleep, so I immediately texted my partner, who in turn sent a frantic message to his apartment GroupMe, letting everybody know. As it turns out, one of his roommates was already aware! The next morning, I ran out of there so fast that I swear I gave passersby whiplash. I was not looking forward to returning the next night.
My partner said that the hardest part of this experience had been dodging my parents. On the second night, when he returned home from work, he was exhausted and wanted to go straight to bed. Unfortunately, he felt weirdly pressured to sit down and watch CNN with my dad for about an hour, before sneaking off to my bedroom. The same went for the next morning: he tried to leave for work, but found my mother sitting in her robe, drinking a cup of coffee — and felt obligated to have a cup himself. He planned to arrive later and depart earlier the next day.
I avoided returning to my partner's apartment until late on the third night, because I was still scared of the mouse. My partner told me that his roommate had already called the exterminator last Friday, but I saw no proof of this. Thus, I decided to take a yoga class after work so that I could shower at the studio, and then got a late dinner with an old co-worker. I arrived at his place around 11:30 p.m., and immediately retreated to his bedroom. It was 88 degrees and humid, but his air conditioning unit is incredibly powerful, which I wholeheartedly appreciated. It remained nice and cool all night long. I also have to admit that it's really nice how close his apartment is to my office — a five minute Uber ride, or a 20 minute walk. I'll miss that when we swap back.
My partner was feeling unwell at work on the third day and decided to head back early and try to crash — meaning he successfully avoided both of my parents. Unfortunately, he caught a second wind of energy around 9 p.m. To his delight, he found that our fridge was properly stocked with cold bottles of water and a lot healthy snacks (he would like me to emphasize the word healthy). After nibbling a bit, he attempted to go to bed, but found that the air conditioning in my room was, in fact, broken. He slept with the window open all night, which was a little too noisy for his liking. After finding some NyQuil in my bathroom cabinet, he took two and passed out.
It was my mother's birthday on the fourth day, so I left work and went straight to the Brooklyn Academy of Music to see a flamenco show with her. It ended up going until 9:45 p.m., so we didn't eat dinner until 10 p.m. My mother mentioned what a joy it was having my partner around; in fact, she said she wishes she saw him more! I didn't get to my partner's apartment until midnight, but a couple of his roommates were still up, playing music and video games — which they continued to do until what felt like 3 a.m. I really like my partner's roommates, but it was very hard to fall asleep with the TV on. I woke up mildly hungover and groggy. But the guys seemed totally fine. I don't understand how people can still bounce back like that — I feel old.
My partner was home alone at my place for the majority of the night while I was out celebrating my mother's birthday with my parents, which he really enjoyed. He used the opportunity to take a refreshing and much-needed nap. But apparently, when my mother finally returned home after our dinner, the two of them stayed up and had a drink or two — rowdy! Part of me is suspicious that he did this purely for the story, but he insisted that was not the case. Neither of them would tell me what was discussed, which made me a little anxious. But I'm glad everybody was getting along!
I got back to my partner's apartment relatively early at night on the fifth day, and began to notice little things that hadn't stood out to me before. My partner is super clean, don't get me wrong: he vacuums, sweeps, and does all the dishes. But the level of low-key disorder in his room has started driving me nuts. To the naive eye, the room looks neat. But upon further investigation, a ton of stuff was just brushed off to the side, and swept under the rug or something equally as cliché. He has an entire drawer just stuffed with weird costume materials, as if he raided a Party City. I was so tempted to sit down and organize everything, but I didn't want to invade his privacy. I settled for the satisfaction of getting to make his bed every morning. At that point, I almost lost what little chill I had left.
When I brought up what I had noticed about the disarray in my partner's apartment over text, he countered and claimed that he had noticed the exact opposite about mine. He said that while I am incredibly neat, and like everything to look "aesthetically pleasing," underneath it all I'm kind of dirty. There was a ton of loose hair in clumps in my sink and on my floor (this is true — but I can't help that I shed!), and dust mites circulating around every corner. He found the underlying filth to be very gross, no matter how nicely I had assorted my pillows (which is very nicely). He said he'd even been tempted to clean up, just as I was.
By the sixth day, which was a Friday, I missed spending time with my partner. This experiment had been very revealing, hilarious, and at times disgusting, but at the end of the day, I love getting to wake up next to him. Since the sixth day was the start of the weekend, I knew that this feeling would increase ten-fold. I also longed for my own space. I think above all, I missed being able to wake up in the morning, walk over to my closet, and take my time choosing what to wear. I hated having to pick out my outfits in advance — too much planning ahead. Additionally, apologies for the generalization, but I must admit: living with guys is kind of gross. My partner's shower is pretty grimy and clogged up. The sink is overflowing with dirty dishes. The living room slightly reeks of liquor. I was ready to go home.
My partner was also sick of this experiment by Friday. He pointed out that my mother's birthday party was that night (she got two celebrations for her birthday this year) and that it would be so weird returning back to my apartment with my family, but without me after the party. He also felt kind of weird about the prospect of going out with friends and then returning to my apartment late at night, which I thought was understandable. He also really, really missed his bed — and I don't blame him, it's unbelievably soft. I can't even find the words to describe how soft it is.
Our Shared Experience:
OK, so we caved. We couldn't do it anymore — we missed each other too much! After spending all of Saturday together, we couldn't bear to say goodbye again at nightfall. The only trouble was, we were both so desperate to return back to our own beds, that we couldn't decide on where to spend the night. So, instead we compromised: using the Hotel Tonight app, we booked a last-minute, affordable hotel room, and took a much-needed mini staycation.
What We Learned
This experiment has been very telling. First of all, the sheer fact that my partner was willing to carry out this kooky experiment emphasized to me that he is indeed "ride or die," a true trooper, and a definite keeper. It also made me realize how secure we both are in our relationship: that I feel completely comfortable living with his roommates, and he feels this at ease around my parents.
After much discussion, my partner and I both agreed on several things. The first is that we have complementary living styles; I care more about tidiness, and he cares more about cleanliness, which lends itself well to splitting up responsibilities and household chores. The second is that we are definitely not ready to share a living space right now — we both still value and are learning how to take care of our own. And finally, our third major takeaway from this experiment is how much we truly care about each other — it was incredibly difficult being so close, yet so far. As a couple, our bond feels stronger than ever — and not even a vermin infestation could drive a wedge between us.