Dear Carolyn: My boyfriend and I have been together for three years and moved in together a year ago. I really do love him, but living with him has been driving me crazy and I don't know if I'm reasonable or being a jerk.
I grew up in a family where everyone had their own things. My sister and I shared a bathroom, but I had a different shampoo and she would never use mine and I would never use hers. There were always snacks in the cupboard that were specifically for kids' lunches — my parents would never eat them — and I would never eat anything I knew my parents had bought specifically for themselves. We only ever shared personal items with permission: You would always ask first.
My boyfriend is an only child and everything they had was shared. He and his parents used the same shampoo, soap, toothpaste. If he needed to borrow a shirt, he could just grab one from his dad's closet.
And this has carried over to our living together. If he runs out of soap? He uses mine. If he has no clean socks? He borrows mine (and stretches them out!) If he's hungry, he eats whatever he can find — even if it's something I purchased specifically to take to work. He needs change for the laundry? He'll go into my wallet and take some. All without asking.
We've talked about this, and his attitude is: "What's mine is yours and what's yours is mine and everything in the house is shared." This sounds unreasonable to me, and I don't think it has to be this way just because you share space.
Is he right? Am I being unreasonable?
— Respect My Things Please
Respect My Things Please: “[H]is attitude is … everything in the house is shared”?
And that’s it? He’s right, conversation over?
Why does his ethic take complete precedence over yours?
It doesn’t matter whose household-of-origin culture is the “reasonable” one. (Mine falls between yours and his, full disclosure.) What matters is that you have yours and he has his and they’re not dovetailing naturally into a culture you can both embrace as “ours” — and neither of you seems to be trying.
People who love each other and hope for a low-conflict future together (which I heartily recommend) will be eager to reconcile these differences. For example: He learns to ask for things not clearly communal, you lighten up about soap, you both learn where you draw the line between reasonable accommodations of each other’s way of living, and soul-sucking ones.
But that’s only if you both stop thinking your way is the righteous path, and better than trying to:
●work things out;
●see what’s good about the other’s culture;
●respect each other’s limits;
●understand and articulate where you won’t budge.
To your credit, at least you’re (a wee bit) willing to hear you’re in the wrong. As described, however, he sounds too entitled to consider anything except that he’s 100 percent right. Not a trait that breeds great roommates.
He might not be the guy worth adapting to, but, unless you intend to live alone, do rethink your hard lines around your stuff. No one wants to live in mortal fear of making the wrong kind of toast.