My philosophy on life is often in the extremes.
When my partner and I discussed her moving into my 230-square foot efficiency apartment after five months of dating, we chose to throw caution to the wind, sort through the hang-ups and just see what happened.
Since the move-in, I've learned a lot about the opposite sex, my relationship to them and human interaction in general.
Living with a lover will mature most people, but living with a lover in 230-square feet will mature anybody.
So, here are the five ways I turned living with my SO into growth for our relationship:
1. Only keep what is essential.
Living in 230 square feet by myself over the past year has been difficult enough, but I enjoy a Spartan lifestyle.
With a small, twin-sized bed and no dressers (I used a suitcase for clean clothes), I used to enjoy living and working with only the essentials.
When another human (especially a female) is added to a 230-square foot apartment, essentialism becomes even more important. Suddenly, both she and I were letting go of clothing, sentimental items and everything else that wasn't essential to our survival.
Living an essentialist lifestyle is challenging and rewarding. We live in a consumer culture, so material possessions mean a lot, but they often aren't worthwhile.
As a male, I found it slightly easier to shed possessions than she did, but she has climbed aboard the essentialist train. We are full steam ahead.
2. Be clear in relationship goals.
Next month, my partner and I are going on a tour of Iceland. Then, we are headed on a three-month road trip, and we'll be camping in a 4Runner.
We're doing all of this while also focusing on operating our individual businesses. These are our priorities.
The clearer we've become in these relationship goals, the easier it became for us to forego a hot tub, comfortable couch or dishwasher. All of these things are luxuries we neither need nor care to have.
It's been easier for us to focus on these goals when moving in together.
3. Communicate needs clearly.
Without clear, concise communication, any couple is doomed to failure.
This is even more true in a small space. Sometimes she has boundaries and desires that I don't even understand, but I have to respect.
How was I supposed to know women wear skin masks to get rid of wrinkles under their eyes? This is one of her needs, and there is no room for me to complain or argue.
Clear communication has logistical value in a small space, but it fosters closer connection as well. When one person makes his or her feelings and needs known, it is easier for the other partner to empathize and support.
4. Pick your battles.
Learning to pick battles is a key step in reaching maturity. Most of the things people find to complain about aren't worth their time or energy.
Within the confines of a tiny home, picking battles is even more important. My partner loves to nest, and this means new pillows, new sheets, extra sheets, pillows we don't use, etc.
Begrudgingly, I always cave. With other things, she does the same for me.
5. Maintain discipline around time.
I've heard of couples who move in together and have trouble adjusting to the new routine.
Suddenly, two people who spent a few hours a week together now spend every waking moment with each other. In my case, it's even more intense.
She literally sits next to me, and given that I work from home, there is no end to the potential distractions between us.
Maintaining a disciplined schedule and leaving room for fun will help couples stay both productive and connected. It might be difficult at first, but schedule dates with your partner as if you still lived in a different space.