If you have children, then dating can be a little difficult—especially when the person you’re with doesn’t. Obviously you’re first priority is your children, and that can cause issues in the relationship if you’re partner doesn’t understand how time-consuming parenting is. Even if you’ve made it past the dating stage and have decided to move in together, there are going to be obstacles to overcome. In today’s post I’ll share a little about what I’ve learned to help make the transition of moving in together go more smoothly.
It’s a Huge Commitment with Many Potential Challenges
First realize how much of a transition it’s really going to be for them. They’ve never had the same kind of responsibilities as you. If they don’t have much experience with children, then they really have no idea what kind of world you actually live in. 🙂 Never assume they do, and never assume issues aren’t going to arise. Sure, they might think they understand, and have even tried to convey this to you, but close proximity can easily add a lot of surprises to their life. Things can work out beautifully (or not), but you have to prepare properly. Below are some simple things you can do to help in the very beginning of the move-in process.
They Will Need Their Own Space
One of the most important things you can do from the get-go is make sure that there is a place in the house or apartment / condo they can retreat to. Someplace they can call their own. To retreat from your kids, and even you. If you’ve made the decision to move in together, then make it be something big enough to provide this space. Their own room to retreat to would be the most ideal, but I know this isn’t reasonable financially for most of us (including me). So if this isn’t an option, you can easily compensate by letting them feel like the bedroom you guys share is this space. Make sure its set up right for them. Have access to the things that normal people do in their own space, like television and internet. You might even make it feel like a mini-apartment. In my own situation, I fixed our bedroom up exactly how she liked it. Even though she moved in with me and I already had the bedroom a certain way, I told her to rearrange it anyway she felt necessary. We added a flat screen for her and some extra cable channels that she liked. We also got a bigger bed, changed the sheets and comforter, and put different lighting in the room. I upgraded the speed of my internet and made sure there was a good signal in there for her.
I could have been annoyed with doing all the extra work, but I knew she needed to feel like it was her space just as it was mine. Of course I had input into everything, but I didn’t shoot down her ideas even though it required me to give a little extra. She has retreated there many times since, and she genuinely feels it’s her get-away.
I also had a talk with the kids and let them know that the master bedroom was off limits from now on (they had a habit of barging in to get to the master bathroom to grab towels for the pool). I let them know they could freely go anywhere else in the house but there, because this was now dad’s and the girlfriend’s personal space.
Make Clear, but Fair Boundaries for this Space
Let your partner know that you have provided this space as their retreat, but not to the exclusion of you. My girlfriend would tell me ahead of time when she needed this space, but it was understood that I could also come and go when I pleased. I was respectful enough to give her that space alone when she really needed it, but that’s something you’ll intuitively know or he / she can just tell you. But remember, you don’t want to set something up that completely closes you out. The main purpose is to provide them with spot to feel comfortable when things get too overwhelming. Maybe the children are running around and being loud. Maybe they have some friends over and it gets really crazy. You might be used to these things, but if your partner doesn’t have much experience with kids, they certainly won’t be. It might even be a little shock for them.
You might feel that all this is unnecessary because they’ve made the decision to become part of the family, and that’s important too. They ought to incorporate some of their daily routines into yours and your children’s schedules if you’re making a life together, but there’s nothing wrong with them needing some of the life they’ve formerly enjoyed without children so they’re not overwhelmed all at once—not just outside of the home, but inside as well.
Other Things I Did
I also let her make small changes to the master bathroom and gave her plenty of her own closet space. I am lucky in one respect. I have two walk-in closets, one small one and one larger one. Before she moved in, I used the large one for storage area and my safe. She told me she was content with the smaller walk-in closet, but I insisted she take the big one and I moved the safe and all my stuff into the smaller walk-in closet. It was a little cramped for me, but I know she appreciated this because she currently uses the bigger walk-in closet for both her clothes and art supplies. There’s actually enough space for her to set up a painting area if she so desires, and she has mentioned that she might. The important thing is I was able to provide another personal area for her that the kids wouldn’t have access to. It’s her space. If isn’t doesn’t work out long term, no biggie. I’ll just retrieve all that space. (If you’re a woman moving a man in, make sure he feels this away about the garage or basement).
I also cleared a spot in the pantry and let her know any food she really liked could be placed there and the kids and I wouldn’t touch it. That way if she went shopping for anything special she didn’t have to feel like the kids would devour it before she had a chance to enjoy it. That works both ways, and she knows what the kids like to regularly have. But giving her that space for her food gave her a little something extra.
Finally, I allowed her to put new frames and pictures up anywhere in the house she saw fit. I let her know that this was okay as long as there was no clutter. I like a lot of open space in the living room, but she could decorate the walls and even the kitchen the way she wanted. I later learned this was just as important to her as having her own space to retreat to, even though she didn’t initially tell me this.
Some Added Bonuses
I have done a few other little things which might be going overboard, but she appreciated it nonetheless. I installed an extra lock on the bedroom door that could be locked from the outside. Since she liked to keep her important documents, laptop and art supplies in the bedroom and closet (my daughter loves to open new art supplies) I decided to make them extra secure. This let my girlfriend know that even when she was at work with our opposite schedules, her stuff would be secure and safe. And even though I explained to the kids the master bedroom was off limits, they can conveniently forget, so taking this extra step just added extra security.
The next decision was all hers, but I thought it was a good idea. She brought a dog that she’s close to into the home, so we cleared a spot in the bedroom for an extra crate (the dog’s personal space away from the kids) and even put a food and water bowl in the corner. At first I didn’t like the idea of dog food or water being lapped all over the bedroom carpet, but she found the proper mat and setup that actually fit the bedroom furniture. So all good. Now she and her dog can retreat together. 🙂
Why this Works for Both of Us
There’s just a lot of little things you can do to make your partner feel more comfortable, and that will make for a happier and better overall relationship. There’s always a risk moving in together, and sometimes the little things can make all the difference for making both of you comfortable. So prepare ahead of time and you’ll have done something to give the relationship a much better chance when living in the same, confined space with kids.
What I’ve done works for me because I haven’t made any major permanent changes to the house. I wouldn’t do that unless we had already lived together for a while and I knew it was going to work out for the long haul. So all the simple things I did provided a lot of extra security for her without too much sacrifice on my part. It was a win-win for both of us.
Feel free to share any additional ideas you come up with.