A couple weekends ago, Eric and I went shopping for new bedroom furniture and I was amazed at how easy it was. It doesn’t feel like that long ago that I was in tears after every trip to IKEA. I realized that it’s been a year this month since we moved in together, and it seemed like a good time to write a letter to my pre-living in sin self.
Dear April 2011 Rachel,
I know moving in with Eric is a huge change for you and it’s making you question a lot of things right now. You’re wondering, How different are things going to be? Does this mean we’re getting engaged soon? Why aren’t I better at saving money and why do I want to buy All The Things? Am I a good feminist? While I can’t tell you the answers to all of those questions, I can tell you a few things that might make the next year a little easier.
Don’t blame each other for the harder moments your life this year. This year, at different times, you’re both going to feel extremely frustrated that your life doesn’t look like you imagined it would at this point. And — sorry to be a downer! — but you’re both going to experience personal and professional disappointments this year. I know you’re going to want to place blame, and I get that the other person is a really easy target, but trust me when I say it’s never going to be the other’s fault; it’s either going to be the result of situations out of your control, or it’s going to be the result of your own choices. Sure, the little things might be the other’s fault, but the big stuff just isn’t. I know the other person is an easy target, but when you’re looking to blame someone — and oh, you will — just Shhhhh.
Vulnerability is going to be your third roommate. Every flaw you never wanted Eric to know about? Every weakness of Eric’s that you’ve blissfully ignored? Sorry, but those are all going to be exposed this year. Actually, most are going to be exposed the day of your first trip to IKEA together. You both have undesirable qualities — it’s OK; everyone does — but most of the people in your lives are used to them and know how to handle them by now. But this stranger you’ve chosen to share your life with? Is totally unaware. And the only thing worse than discovering — and hating — the other’s frailties is the fact that this makes your own weaknesses glaringly obvious. So get comfortable with that vulnerability; it’s going to be here for a little while.
You won’t have the chore thing totally figured out a year from now. And by “chore thing” I mean “modern feminism.” I know that how you guys split up the household chores is a big deal to you; you’re convinced that it will tell you everything about the life you two are going to have together.“What does it mean if I do more cooking?! NOW AM I GOING TO HAVE TO QUIT MY JOB AND START HAVING BABIES IN A YEAR?!?!??!” Well, frankly, in 2012, you still won’t know the answer to that. What you will know is that asking questions suits you. So ask questions, read everything you can on the topic, talk to your married friends, and figure out how you feel (not how you think you should feel). And talk to Eric about it! Seriously, some of the best conversations you two will have this year will be those about men’s and women’s roles and rights in our culture.
This is not a farm so…fuck “no one is going to buy the cow if you’re giving away the milk for free.” Yes, people are still using that expression in 2012. Yeah, I don’t get it either. I mean, yes I know women aren’t cows, you’re preaching to the choir. Look, I’ll keep it simple when it comes to this topic: you and Eric need to have a conversation right now about what moving in together means, and while you’re at it, you need to discuss your definitions of engagement and marriage. If you two aren’t on the same page, it’s better that you know that sooner rather than later, and if you are on the same page…well, it’s better that you know that sooner rather than later! So just talk about it! God knows how much you two like to hear the sound of your own voices…how you forgot to talk about it thus far is beyond me.
Go ahead and get two puppies. I know you guys are on the fence about this, but I can tell you now that two is the right choice. I’m not going to lie and tell you they aren’t going to be expensive or that they aren’t going to exhaust you — because holy shit, they are — but you guys will be glad you got two at the same time. They will adore each other, and you, and you two will adore each other more because of them. I was going to tell you to wait a few months before you get dogs — I know you both are excited but it couldn’t hurt to wait until later in the year to bring two extremely high-strung living beings into your home — but I’m actually going to redact that. I truly cannot imagine life right now with any dogs but the dogs you have chosen.
You can’t let everyone in. Yes, you should probably stop having sex with other people at this point, but that’s not what I’m talking about. Listen, the fact that you’re so trusting of everyone is really endearing, Rachel, but please just guard your relationship a little bit this year. I’m not saying you and Eric should live in some sort of bubble — that would be dangerous — but it’s OK to be private and not share every last detail of your relationship with anyone who asks. Protect what you have from people who don’t have your best interests at heart, and if someone has way too much to say about your relationship, you should question his or her motives, not the relationship. Ugh, I don’t even know why I’m telling you this; I know this is going to be the lesson you have to learn the hard way.
Living in sin feels a lot like summer camp. It takes a little while to get used to it, but before long, you’ll look back at the beginning and think, Why did I think this was so hard? This is awesome! A change to your living situation is never easy (forget camp; think about college!), but once you get used to it, you’ll fall in love with the new routine. In this case, that routine includes a lot of laughing at the dogs, cooking together, rocking out to 90s music, taking road trips, watching your shows, staying up all night talking…and pretty much always having a blast. Remember the “I’m so homesick, please come get me” letters you wrote your mom the first few days of camp? And then remember how you didn’t want to leave when she came and picked you up? Yep…living in sin is pretty much the same way. By the time you’re writing this letter, you’ll have crossed over to the “I don’t ever want to leave” side, and — good news! — you don’t have to.
April 2012 Rachel