Dating Couple: “It is so hard to say goodnight! You hang up first!”
Engaged Couple: “I can’t wait until we are together all the time!”
Honeymooning Couple: “I can’t get enough of you! I’ll be so sad when we can’t spend every waking hour together!”
Newlywed Couple: “You are always here! Can I get a few minutes to myself?!”
Not every experience is the same, but I imagine many married couples can remember the excitement and anticipation of getting through the wedding and then finally getting to live together – followed, of course, by inevitable frustrations.
“Do you know how to wash a dish?”
“This is a hamper. Love it. Embrace it. USE IT!”
“Why is it that every time I walk into the bathroom, you decide you need it at the exact same moment?”
“Yes, I’m being lazy. Can I be lazy in peace, or are you going to give me a lecture on why laziness is super bad?”
“I know you didn’t just hang your shirt on my side of the closet.”
“Why are there crumbs in this bed?!?!?!?!”
“It is after 11pm. All useful members of society are sleeping by now.”
“Why is the toilet paper facing the wrong way?”
“How many times do I have to tell you? Toilet paper is not the same as tissues!”
Learning to share a space with someone who does not see the world through the same color lenses takes some getting used to, a lot of grace, and a game plan. ~smile~ A game plan at least helps the process unfold more gently.
Sharing a space with your new bride or groom can be especially challenging when you are forced to share small quarters. However, a small apartment can also be the perfect cocoon for a loving connection to grow and flourish.
Consider the following five steps you can take to make the most of your first, tiny apartment! ~smile~
- Take Charge of the Clutter! I remember hearing a professional organizer on television tell a couple whose home was overloaded with junk that “you can’t make love in chaos.” I’m sure I didn’t get that quote exactly right, but the concept made an impact on me. Where you live, especially the bedroom, needs to have order. When order is not present, the couple’s relationship takes a toll. No one wants to live in a storage unit. Junk and trash piled a foot high leaves us feeling distressed and discombobulated. Your room should be an oasis and haven of rest. It should be a place you come to relax and let the pressures of life melt away. It should be a place conducive to sleep, unwinding, and romance. If you and your sweetie find that clutter is taking over your living space, consider downsizing. What can you sell? What can you give away? What do you really need? What can be stored away for later use? Is renting a storage locker a worthwhile investment? Even if you cannot completely de-clutter your home, go to great lengths to keep your bedroom clean, fresh, organized, and tranquil. Less is more!
- Define Mutual Corners! No matter how much you love each other, it is a good idea to have some alone time too. A little time away with a book, a movie, or out in the garage with some tools is good for a relationship. We need time to think, unwind, and pour ourselves into something that relaxes the mind. When you move into your new place, discuss which spaces will be your mutual corners – that is, the spaces you will retreat to when you need to think, recharge, and be alone. One of you may choose the office while the other may choose the back porch. If your space is extremely small, you each can choose a chair or corner of the room to be your “special” place. ~smile~ No matter how big or small, define a portion of your domicile as “my place.” During conflicts, stressful times, and crazy days when you just want a minute to collect your thoughts, your own space will be needed. After your retreat, you and your new spouse can come back together and reconnect.
- Have a Plan for Your Space! Instead of placing items around your home without purposeful consideration, have a specific plan for each room of your house. If each room has a unique function, you can organize your belongings accordingly. Will the extra bedroom be a guest room, an office, or a nursery? Will the living room be for entertaining others, working, studying, or personal relaxation? After you decide, lay out furniture and decorate each room with the necessary elements. Having an organized and functional living space will help you both breathe easier, andwill hopefully cause you both to utilize the same spaces more often. (e.g., both eating at the kitchen table, both watching TV together in the “TV” room, both sleeping in the bedroom, etc.)
- Practice the Art of Compromise! When your space is small, you will have ample opportunity to compromise. This is a great time to think through what is truly important to you in your relationship. If she wants the lamp on the right side of the couch instead of the left, is that really a problem? If he wants certain dishes stacked in one cabinet and others placed in a different cabinet, will it negatively impact your life that much? When Eric complies with my requests, especially when I know he’d prefer something different, I feel loved. It shows me that he considers preserving our relationship more important than controlling every detail. You will be giving and taking throughout your entire marriage. While you are crammed together in a shoebox, learn all you can about selflessly giving and finding workable solutions that suit you both. Compromising is less exhausting than fighting. ~smile~
- Don’t Rush this Precious Time! Don’t wish it away. It may be cramped, but when will you and your sweetie ever have another stage of life like this one? Your relationship is new. You have so much to learn. There is such a capacity for growth and fun! You can be silly together and have no one think less of you for it. ~smile~ You can enjoy freedoms you won’t have when you are parents – and won’t have the energy for when you’re empty nesters. ~smile~ Sure, the space is small, but your forced togetherness can help you create a beautiful connection if you choose to embrace it instead of complain about it. A small apartment filled with love and affection beats a cold and lonely mansion.
You may begin your marriage in a five-hundred square foot garage apartment, a rented farm house, or in a home of your own. Whatever living space you have when you marry, make the most of it. Treat it like a love nest. Take an extra few minutes to straighten up, organize, and put away. Though not an obvious fact, the state of your home will impact your relationship. I guess that makes the housework seem a bit more bearable. ~smile~
What tricks will you and your sweetie use to make the most of your first living space?