It seems counterintuitive that living with my boyfriend would make me a more independent person, but that’s exactly what it has done. Last year, when I was considering what it would be like to live together, I assumed that cohabitation would make my boyfriend and I codependent. And honestly, I’m so thankful that it hasn’t.
I moved in with my boyfriend immediately after I graduated from Skidmore College. We had three weeks to turn his parents’ basement apartment in Brooklyn into our new home before I left to spend six weeks studying publishing at Columbia University. We packed all my belongings into an excessively large U-Haul and trekked the four hours to NYC. Our first stop? IKEA.
During those first three weeks of living together, we painted, grouted, tiled, built furniture, installed appliances, and drained our bank accounts. It was stressful. There were boxes everywhere, our new mattress was propped against the wall, and we spent every night on an air mattress in our cramped living room. My boyfriend was basically the only person I had seen in almost a month, and I was going a little stir crazy. But I had just moved to a new city and outside of my boyfriend and his family, I didn’t really have anyone else I knew well enough to hang out with. “You should spend some time with friends,” my boyfriend suggested after I spent the third consecutive day sitting on the couch being grumpy and refusing to help with the apartment (he lovingly put up with my bad attitude). But I didn’t have any friends. I knew I would make friends at Columbia, but for that first month, I was in a rut.
After a few days of being childish, I realized I needed to make a change. I was a “real life grown up” now and I needed to start acting like it. So, I changed out of my ratty paint-covered clothing, grabbed my purse, and marched myself out the door. For the first time in my life, I felt myself needing “me time.”
I’ve always been a people person – being alone bores me – I’d much rather be constantly surrounded by friends than have to deal with alone time. But this summer I learned to appreciate being alone. Whenever I felt myself getting stir crazy or overwhelmed with pent-up energy, I would leave the apartment (and my boyfriend) to go do something by myself. I’d get coffee, go window shopping, sit outside and read a book, or call my loved ones for much needed updates.
I learned more about me time in those first three weeks living with my boyfriend than I did in all four years of college. I finally feel comfortable not being constantly surrounded by friends, and that’s a big deal. Living with my boyfriend has been really great – I’ve learned a lot about him and what it takes for our relationship to stay as wonderful as it is – but equally importantly, I’ve learned how to value time spent alone.