Handling Living in between Two Places in a Relationship

Who Stays Where, When, and Why

I was at the stage of a relationship where I was spending most of my time at my boyfriend’s apartment. We had been dating for almost three years and it happened naturally. I simply found myself spending more and more time at his place.

There were obvious reasons why it happened. There was the issue of space and privacy. I shared an apartment with three roommates while my boyfriend lived with his dog in his own place.

And there was the issue of location. I was in the middle of my evening MBA program while working full time. The commute to my neighborhood was not ideal. Things got dicier at night. I only took the train in the early morning due to the number of shootings that occurred near it at other times of the day. Leaving class at 9pm meant a very long bus ride or taking the train and then transferring to the bus. Coming home was stressful and exhausting. His place was easier to get to from school; it was simply a shorter bus ride into a neighborhood that had fewer problems.

But these reasons weren’t consciously on mind. We were simply getting used to another’s company on a day to day basis. We liked being around one another, even first thing in the morning and last thing at night.

Decisions Around A Drawer of My Own

Couple On Kitchen

While our relationship was going in good places, the stress of living between two places was rising. I had to be strategic about the clothing I was going to wear, the books I would need, and even the food I ate. I constantly had to think ahead: what was I going to need for the next few days? It was a 20-30 minute drive from his place to mine, not to mention the parking situation.

I began perpetually carrying around a blue bag that contained a few pairs of clothing for the week and my phone charger. I remember how nervous I was about asking to keep a toothbrush and comb and having my own drawer for clothing. But these were the practicalities of our living situation. Clean teeth, tamed hair (sorta) and not wearing clothes twice in a row to work have real impacts on your mental and physical health.

However, some of these caused their own issues. Having a drawer of clothing meant that I had to find a way to clean that clothing. No one does my laundry for me! Therefore, there was sometimes a lot of carrying of dirty clothes around town.

On the textbook side, I had a lot of online textbooks which made it easier as long as I had my iPad. However, I did have to be conscious of where my computer was just in case I had to write papers.

Food was a real bee in my bonnet. Buying a gallon of milk became foolish. I would use a tiny portion of it in my morning tea. I tried to convince my roommates to use it so at least the milk wouldn’t spoil but they didn’t use it enough. I started only buying food and drink on an as-needed basis, very French, I suppose. The boyfriend would stock things I liked to eat in the fridge, which helped extensively.

Negotiating Roommates Feelings

I interviewed several other women about their experiences in this liminal stage of their relationships.

In an interview with Samantha (not her real name), she told me, “I actually pretty much lived over at his place for 2ish years… and I didn’t mind that both my places were kinda like closets. My first roommate was kinda annoyed by it, but my second roommate didn’t really care.” For her, she explained, “the hardest part to navigate was making sure to spend time with my…roommate so she wouldn’t feel alone.” I asked how she tried to handle the situation and she told me, “I tried to make sure at least once a week that we had spent quality time together…I wish I had been better at balancing my roommate’s needs and that crazy falling in love phase. I am sad we kinda grew apart.”

Samantha also mentioned her concerns about his roommates and their view of her. She said, “I wish I has also been less of a scaredy cat when it came to his roommates. I was always scared they didn’t like me and I didn’t feel comfortable whenever they were home. I wasted a lot of mental energy over nothing.”

Happy mixed race couple making smoothies, using blender

Making Decisions for Financial Reasons

Brenda had a more cautionary tale. Sometimes the in-between stage is necessary to figure out oneself and your relationship with your significant other. Brenda moved in with her ex-boyfriend after four months for financial reasons. I asked her about the mechanics of her situation and she told me, “He would drive me to school in the morning (we lived about 15 minutes from us) and I would shower and grab more clothing there. We mainly hung out during the evening. Food wise, we were fast food people. I would buy groceries and then they would spoil them because I was never home. I saved a ton of money on toilet paper, that’s for sure.”

I asked her what she wished she had done differently. She explained that she wished she hadn’t moved in with him for financial reasons. Her advice to folks in a similar situation was ““(H)ave a handle of their [situation] before moving in with someone that quickly. It definitely impacted our relationship and it made me feel like trash. He was a good guy though, but it definitely took a toll on us.” While living in between is a cause of stress, moving in too early or without resolving issues might cause different stresses.

Moving In For Keeps

Like everything with relationships, negotiating this in-between stage is tricky and dependent on the dynamics of the relationship. Dealing with practicalities of daily life, feelings of roommates and financial decisions are important in the success of relationships.

For me, I had a happy ending. After about a year, my then boyfriend, now husband, asked me to move in permanently. It was a godsend. One it meant that he felt strongly about our relationship. And two, I wouldn’t have to carry around dirty clothing anymore.

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Handling Living in between Two Places in a Relationship

About The Author
- Elisa Shoenberger is an academic out of academia. She has a BA in Latin American History from the University of Chicago, a MA in Latin American, Caribbean and Iberian Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and an MBA from Loyola University Chicago. She is an oral historian, writing a book on women in the arts in Chicago. She is a reader for the Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal. Most recently, she is the co-editor and co-founder of the Antelope Magazine.