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Territorial Rites

By Mink Stole | Posted 4/5/2006

Three weeks ago, Jake, my lovely, wonderful boyfriend, moved into my apartment. Weíve been together for two years, and he was spending so many nights a week with me it seemed ridiculous for him to pay rent on an apartment he was just using to store clothes. Iím crazy about him, but since heís been living here I feel like Iím crazy period. Heís pretty good about most things, like sharing housework, but itís the tiny things that get on my nerves. Like not putting the lid back on the toothpaste and leaving whiskers in the sink after shaving. Also, his things take up a lot of room, and instead of feeling all cozy Iím feeling crowded, and itís really hard not to complain about it. I always thought if you really loved someone these things shouldnít bother you, but they do. Am I just incredibly petty? Or do I maybe not love him as much as I thought? I donít want to ask him to move back out, but Iím afraid heíll want to if I start bitching constantly. How do I deal with this?

In a Tight Spot

What you are experiencing isnít a loss of love, IATS, but a loss of territorial domination. Before Jake moved in, whenever he was in your home he was a guestówelcomed, wanted, and invited. The minute he gave up his apartment and moved in, your roles changed and the rules changed. Youíve gone from gracious hostess to resentful sink wiper because heís gone from part-time bed partner to full-time alien invader. Heís no longer there just when you want him; heís there all the time. You donít get to offer anymore because he gets to take. He has rights; he has stuff. For anyone with any kind of territorial issues, this is a huge adjustment, and itís a major reason people who decide to live together often choose to find a new home instead of sharing one or anotherís already established place.

If finding a new place isnít an option, just give yourself some time; youíll get used to it. Remember, this is a big change for him, too. Heís no longer sole master of his domain either and is getting used to his own loss of autonomy. Donít nag, but do talk about it with him, because these issues donít resolve by themselves. Start by asking him what he needs to feel more at home. Then tell him to wipe out the sinkóan unreplaced toothpaste cap you can maybe live with, but whiskers in the sink is just gross.


Iím 27 years old, and for the last two years of college my roommate Sharon and I were both dating guys we expected to marry. As couples, the four of us spent a huge amount of time together and were all very close. When we graduated Sharon and I moved to different cities, and, as it turned out, neither of us married our college sweethearts. We kept in touch for a while, but then she married someone else and had a couple of kids, and I got a good but demanding job. Without having anything really in common anymore, we kind of let each other go except for Christmas cards. A few months ago Sharonís former college beau moved to my new hometown and looked me up. We met for dinner, ďfor old timesí sake,Ē and had such a great time we decided to do it again. And then again, and, well, to make a long story short and sweet, weíve fallen in love and are planning to get married. Itís wonderful, but I feel just slightly weird about it. Should I call Sharon to tell her? Should he? Am I breaking any kind of donít-date-your-girlfriendís-exes rule? Whatís the right way to handle this?

Former Roommate Rhonda

Thereís a kind of sell-by date when it comes to ex-roommatesí ex-boyfriends, FRR, so while itís absolutely against the rules to date a roomieís recent ex, especially one who might have broken her heart, in general the prohibition expires the day she marries somebody else. A rare exception might be if, in spite of her current circumstances, she regularly confides in you that she still carries a torch for the ex and hopes for a reconciliation. As thatís not the case here, youíre off the hook and in the clear.

This doesnít mean there isnít a potentially awkward phone call in your future, however, because the bonds of former-roomies-still-on-good-if-no-longer-intimate-terms do suggest that Sharon should hear about your engagement directly from you instead of reading about it in the alumni newsletter. In a best-case scenario, sheís a reasonably happy, well-adjusted woman who will, after taking a moment or two to adjust to the news, be genuinely happy for you. The worst case? Sheíd accuse you of treachery and cut you out of her life forever. Well, she could shoot you both and then turn the gun on herself, but weíll assume sheís sane. However she takes it, though, remember your romance is not about her; itís about you and your beloved. You are giving her information, not asking her permission.

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