The Cohabitants

I have a cozy office in our new abode where I’m moving on with my writing from one book to the next. It’s like trying to get pregnant. Mentally. Six months into our second place together, a rented house in the vast suburban dreamscape on the north side of town, my cohabitant and I have found our homey groove. Compatibility affirmed. Installation of the mancave complete. I have a dainty garden. We look out the window and see cars parked like cows between rows of middle world houses, clustered in driveways and alongside curbs, petroleum mooing. The dog, Poodle Pete, Peter Jo, Pedro is stick poor, and I’m walking him four times a day on cement sidewalks. He barks and we shoosh in a civilized reflex. Packed into these tiny geometric spaces, we all hear everything. I miss the forest cloister of my partner’s cabin, the colloquium of old trees, porcupines and coyotes where I spent three years and he nineteen. My huge fruitful garden. But our interior domain here in this human hive is much nicer than that funky cabin, and we aren’t isolated anymore. We have homo sapien neighbors. Lots of them.

Yes, after three years together I’m still calling him my cohabitant. We’re not roommates. Not husband and wife. We might call ourselves boyfriend and girlfriend, but our integration is deeper than those words imply. Getting into a relationship was different in my 60s than it was in my 20s. Now it’s more of a contract than a prayer. I’m not looking to another person for fulfillment. I don’t need a man to complete my life. I have a life. I’m not looking for security. I’ve got this. I’m looking for the frosting on the cake. Pleasure. When I hooked up with my husband in my 20s, I was adrift seeking a man to anchor me. Being with a man was the only template I had for how to proceed with my life. The animals went two by two onto the Ark. Having a man felt like a requirement, an accomplishment and a necessity.

In my mid 60s when I connected with Roger, I had been single for eleven years, had a home that I liked, a life I enjoyed, and I was feeling whole. After we discovered our chemistry, the big motivation for moving in together was the pandemic. We wanted to be in a close physical relationship, but we lived a hundred miles apart and Oregon was in lockdown with rules and protocols and masks. People were living in bubbles to stay safe. He had a pre-existing condition that made him vulnerable to the virus. So we had to be careful about puncturing our bubbles. It seemed like it might be easier and safer to just live together. Cohabitate. 

It was too early in our infatuation to make a lifetime commitment. We needed to test drive our tolerance for one another. But who would give up their place and merge into the other’s? When he stayed at my apartment in Portland, the answer to that question became obvious. I was living in a 6th floor studio in a new building. He was too big for the room, too big for the furniture, too big for the bed. He’s twice as big as me and sitting or standing, he needs a larger circumference of open space around him or things will get broken, spilled, and splattered. When I stayed at his place, I was romanced by the land. The natural beauty and wild animals all around the cabin intoxicated me with memories of my farm in Massachusetts. But my city apartment was a crate for him, limiting his movement, blocking his view, he was bumping into things, and he was uncomfortable. With his size comes momentum, pounds per square inch, muscle power, big hands, big legs, big feet. Bull in a China shop. He’s heavy. Not a fine furniture kind of guy. And he doesn’t care to be. He’s not an indoorsman, he’s an outdoorsman. He’d rather be on a boat fishing. So my place was a trap for him, and his place set me free. Done.  

Now it’s post pandemic, we were ousted from his cabin by age and circumstance, our options for where to live next were wide open, and our collaboration had to step up to the next level. Co-creation. Could we find a new location we could agree on? I leaned toward a modern apartment complex. He wanted a house with a garage. I found a place that I liked that was similar to my apartment in Portland with modern fixtures, new appliances, and a corporate landlord. Then he found a house with all that. In the suburbs. Then we had to move our stuff. Arrange our stuff. House our stuff. Edit our stuff. Purge our stuff. So tedious, but so necessary. The mind numbing hurdles of cohabitation. Normal. But not something we have done in unison before. Constant shared decision-making. For weeks. Negotiation and compromise. More financial transparency. New shared expenses. All that. Hideously dull. The minutia that can break a relationship. But it’s over. We made it. We passed the cohabitation test, and we are officially life partners. With a poodle. 

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4 thoughts on “The Cohabitants

  1. You give me hope. My SO and I live totally different lives and combining the two seems overwhelming. Not ruled out but very heavy, deep discussions. Most everything else works pretty well – moving in together will take lots of collaboration. Thank you for this post.

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Holly. Maybe you don’t need to move in together. If you must, I think it’s easier to move into a new place together than for one to move in with the other. Balance is the key. Keep your balance. Good luck.

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