I’ve been living with a good friend of mine for almost two years and, of course, a large portion of that time has been spent in lockdown due to the ongoing global pandemic. A lot of people have had difficulty maintaining relationships with the people they live with during lockdowns, I’ve heard married couples are getting divorced and housemates are having to spend time apart because they are sick of seeing one another. So, of course, the question is: how has the ongoing global catastrophe affected my relationship with my house friend?
Well, I’d be lying if I suggested that there had been any kind of tension whatsoever, because, if anything, the two of us have just become even more happy and relaxed around one another. It’s a shame that this hasn’t quite been the case with everybody, but then I suppose it does give me cause to be proud of my relationship with my house friend. Since our dynamic doesn’t seem to be standard, I thought I’d make a blog post about why I think our relationship is as healthy as it is.
Not taking things personally
Sometimes my house friend comes home, says hello, then goes straight to her bedroom and I don’t see her again other than, perhaps, to say goodnight. Maybe someone in that situation might think to themselves “Oh no, why do they not want to be around me?” but I know in this situation that it’s not that she doesn’t want to spend to me, it’s that she does want to spend time on her own – a need we all have. How could I possibly be offended at that? Space is important to everybody.
Never being entitled
Good friends give each other emotional support and I have sat and listened to things that upset or annoy my house friend many times – just as she has sat and listened to things that upset or annoy me. However, it would be wrong of either of us to think that we can count on the other to provide emotional support 100% of the time – everybody has their limits and it’s not always possible to take on negative energy. So if we ever need to talk to the other about something, we always say “is it okay to talk about something negative?” Neither of us are entitled to the emotional support from the other – we both provide it often, but we both know that we can say no.
If either of us think that we have annoyed the other one, or if either of us just think that the other seems a bit grumpy or unhappy, we just ask “Are you okay? Have I done anything to upset you?” and then we express what the issue is or, much more likely, reassure the other that there is no issue. To be honest, because we are so open with one another and neither of us are ever afraid to raise anything, I’d never interpret something as passive aggressive, or thing that she was ever holding something against me. We both trust each other to be up front about about potential issues and therefore live with much greater peace of mind.
Doing nice things together (when we want to)
It’s easy to think “I live with this person and see them every day, therefore I don’t need to make special plans with them” but it’s important to continue to have fun positive experiences with the people you live with. Both of us are always coming up with nice things that we can do together, while at the same time understanding that we won’t always have the energy to do such things and that it’s okay to change plans at the last minute if the other isn’t feeling up to it.
Many of the things I’ve already mentioned are boundaries, but they deserve their own point. My house friend dislikes physical contact or people being too close to her, so I avoid physical contact whenever possible and make sure I don’t stand too close. Perfectly reasonable – again it ties into not taking things personally. Someone might say “why would you be uncomfortable with me being so close? We’ve lived together happily for two years now, this is ridiculous!” but that’s not the right away to see things. The fact is that everybody has unique needs and boundaries and it’s important not to try and bend them to meet your own needs or expectations.
Bonus Point: Sense of humour
A good portion of every day is spent talking absolute nonsense. My house friend and I have almost developed characters that we slip into, or sometimes we pretend to be really nasty and toxic towards each other, which makes us both laugh. We have a similar sense of humour and are good at making each other laugh, so it is fun for us to spend time together. I guess this isn’t really something you can control, since it’s more a matter of chemistry. Although, by making fun of toxic behaviour (particularly toxic behaviour that both of us have previously encountered in others), we are inherently condemning it and passively reassuring the other that we won’t display those same toxic traits ourselves.
There’s probably a lot more to it beyond these few points, because human relationships are complex, many faceted things, but I wanted to write an overview because these are the same principals I try to apply to every relationship in my life. Essentially, I think it comes down to empathy and respect – with these at the heart of a relationship, it’s sure to be a good one.