5 Things I Learnt From Being A Couple Living With Another Couple
The Debrief: What I saw as the perfect place for us to start shacking up together as grown ups, was someone else's perfect Pinterest board - purchased with my rent money.
Illustration by Assa Ariyoshi
The likelihood of getting your own place in London is pretty much non-existent for plenty of couples - with rental costs skyrocketing upto a whopping £1,160 a month and buying a place all but out of the question. Which is why more and more 20-something couples are teaming up and sharing together, which is what myself and my boyfriend did until recently. Sounds like a genius idea, you say? Not quite.
Fed up with having to hide all our favourite mugs and labelling our food, my boyfriend and I decided to leave our Zone 1 fun house of ten people and go it alone, but when another couple from the house said they were thinking of doing the same we thought it could be the perfect solution. We could double our money and find a place that was bigger, better and both live out our fantasies of buying lovely furniture and not fearing someone would steal our shoes whenever we left them out. Our weekends would be clearly be spent eating brunch together and chatting, rather than cleaning up puke trying to sort out our hangovers from the latest mental houseparty.
We found the perfect unfurnished East London flat, complete with dining room, living room and separate kitchen as well as loads of light, lots of space and a bloody dishwasher! However, what my boyfriend and I had seen as the perfect place to start shacking up together as grown ups, was in reality someone else’s privately purchased Pinterest board. No matter how hard you try, you either take the role of guest or host - and only one couple can win. Like a really middle-class, Etsy sponsored Hunger Games, if you will.
This is what I learnt from the two years I spent living in double couple trouble:
1. Make sure you move in on the same day otherwise you’re screwed:
Never be on holiday on moving in day, otherwise the flat you all went out to pick and pay for equally automatically belongs to them and whilst that automatically means they have had sex in all the rooms before you have had time to unpack anything.
It also means you will immediately be assigned spaces in cupboards and the fridge that you will never ever be able to reach if you’re as short as I am and there will be post-it notes EVERYWHERE telling you where they keep everything.
2. Don’t live with people who hate TV:
Even if you’ve shared a big house with someone for two years, entering small flat territory needs ground rules. I love TV and I also love microwaves, however, after being told that ‘we aren’t a television couple’ the TV was hidden away every time I left the room and for some reason the microwave was thrown away, which was time consuming and just very irritating.
3. Modesty is a luxury:
Moving in late had a long-lasting effect on our relationship as friends but it also affected our shower time. Deeming the bathroom to be too dark, the thickened modesty panel from our bathroom window was peeled off resulting in a naked shadow puppet show for anyone who happened to be standing at the bus stop across the road if you dared to shower in the evening or morning with the bathroom light on. Apparently that window is well known in the area, and definitely is to a friend who happily watched my boyfriend while she waited for the 73 home.
4. Furniture is a battle ground:
The immediate thought I had when moving into the new place was ‘great! I can bring my furniture to London and it will be fantastic and no one will damage anything', as I assumed our friends would do too. I realised how wrong I was when I was given a coffee table for Christmas that we had to have a house meeting about the fact that I didn’t consult them on buying more furniture and had to apologise for its presence in our flat and promise not to buy anymore.
When it came to us leaving though, everything became theirs and the custody battle for various items is ongoing.
5. Be prepared to arrive home in the middle of sex or a screaming match:
The beauty of living with your boyfriend/girlfriend is that you can come home and have sex whenever you want but with a little awareness of who lives with you if they aren’t joining in. All too often I was met with socks on the floor, pants on the stairs and the sound of a very quickly slammed bedroom door or full-on groping in the kitchen. Now I have no problem with housemate sex, but couples who think the place is theirs tend to forget about the possibility of visitors. The same goes for arguments. I'm certainly no angel, but I did try and keep ours arguments private. Especially after spending many an hour trapped in our bedroom whilst our loving housemates would scream at each other around the house.
After almost two years of fighting over furniture being moved, hidden or thrown away, generally being made to feel like a guest at home and waaay too many passive aggressive emails it just like nonsense that four people who were good friends were like weird strangers. We decided to move out and sat down over dinner to tell them and for some odd reason they seem shocked and actually sad. However when it came to moving out they were pretty damn hot on checking everything we packed up and I sadly parted ways with some fabulous knives and very expensive shelves which somehow become theirs.
The saddest thing is that the whole experience basically ended our friendship and despite offers to come and see our new place, which was five minutes away (I would give up the house but NOT my location) they were resistant and we haven’t seen much of them since aside from signing the divorce papers (closing the joint bank account) and a couple of parties. I have left behind stray housemates before but this felt depressing as we had spent so much time together and did have some good times there too.
I’m not saying that this is the reality for everyone, but be wary about living with couples you think are on the same wavelength when it comes to houses. Because if they really are the home-making type, there's every chance they would rather make a home with your rent money but without you in it.
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