All New York real estate savants know that the two-month stretch from May to June is "peak season." Wide-eyed interns flock to the city, gearing up to spend three sleepless months working in investment banking or plucking away at a start-up. Newly minted graduates looking to put down roots in the Big Apple swipe through StreetEasy like a dating app. Everyone is looking for housing, which means demand is high and prices are inflated. It was this conundrum that led my partner to move in with me — temporarily — this past summer.
My partner knew his lease was up in July, but like many people are prone to do, put off doing anything about it until the very last minute. Real estate in this city moves so incredibly fast that you need to start looking for a place two to three months in advance. I, on the other hand, was elated. After two years of him living with four friends in a glorified dormitory in the Murray Hill neighborhood of New York, my partner was finally going to move into a quieter (and hopefully cleaner) apartment with a close friend. But when he began taking stock of his options in June, my partner quickly realized that brokers were trying to sell him on half the space for double the price. Not one to get ripped off, he vowed to find a solution.
The answer came in the form of his cousin, who had just gotten married the summer before and was looking to buy a house outside of the city. She had been living in a sizable two-bedroom apartment in the East Village for the past eight years because it was rent-controlled — the two sweetest words a New Yorker can ever utter. The only problem was, she wasn't looking to move out until mid-September at the earliest.
"I'll just move in with you," my partner said to me while absentmindedly watching a soccer highlights reel. "It'll be fun! Three months is nothing." I smiled at his nonchalance. My partner and I have been dating for over three years, and during that time, we've shared almost everything: a Shakespeare class, AirPods, gluten-free pasta. But my tiny studio apartment would be a different story. Not only am I very particular about my space — every object has a specific home — but it is literally only one room. Where would we go in the event of an argument, or if one of us were to need some space? The bathroom?
Then my partner whispered the three words that would haunt me for the next three months. "It's a test," he said. "You know, for when we move in together." My stomach lurched. For as long as I can remember, I've been an extremely nervous test-taker. I'm also an Aries, which means I'm innately competitive, especially with myself. We had been planning on moving in together the next summer after my lease is up in 2020. What would happen if I failed the test? Would I go on to the flunk the class, or rather, or relationship?
I love my partner, and I wasn't about to let him couch-surf for three months. So, I reluctantly agreed. A few weeks later, my partner drove a U-Haul truck to my building and unloaded his boxes. I had cleared a small space for him in my closet, and a few baskets for his foldables (my apartment is so tiny that I don't have space for a dresser). At first, watching his belongings clutter up my space made me want to kick him curbside. It's only temporary, I reminded myself, before swallowing my pride and helping him unpack.
The first week was by far the hardest. Every little thing he did irritated me — the way he incorrectly folded my towels, the half-empty water bottles he left everywhere, the fact that he never remembered to refold the bathmat. But I didn't voice my frustrations because I was so dead set on acing his so-called relationship test with flying colors.
After accidentally falling in the toilet one night because the seat was still up, I woke my partner up in a fury. "We need to talk," I told him, trying to keep my voice level. We sat up in bed, and I confessed how stressed out his little "test" comment had made me. He listened intently and asked about the steps that he could take to be more respectful of my space. As I listed them out, a wave of relief washed over me. We were communicating. We were acting like two grown adults.
After that conversation, everything got a little bit easier. My partner and I settled into a routine. He would come back from work very late at night, and we'd read together before going to sleep. Some days, we'd cook dinner together and watch CNN. We learned to negotiate who would get ready for work first in the mornings, and who would be the one to turn off all the lights before bed. I was surprised by how quickly I grew accustomed to his presence, and how much I enjoyed having someone to come home to — especially after challenging days. One evening, after spending the entire day in the hospital with my grandmother after an unexpected surgery, I returned home to find him sitting on the couch and collapsed into his arms. I fancy myself a very independent person, but at that moment, it felt good to be vulnerable, to allow myself to depend on him.
Three months flew by, and before I knew it, it was September. He and his new roommate began picking out Star Wars posters for their living room and planning their housewarming party. I didn't realize just how much I'd miss him until the morning before he left. After stumbling out of bed to make my usual pot of coffee, I grimaced upon the realization that I had run out of milk the morning prior. But when I opened up the fridge, I saw that my partner had thoughtfully replaced it with a new carton. It was a small gesture, but it touched me. I poured myself a cup and then went and sat on the edge of the bed.
"Are you crying?" He asked, rubbing his face. My eyes must have been glistening. "I'm excited to live with you next year," I told him. "I think we passed the test."
Relationships aren't linear — they ebb and flow. There's no checklist, no Google map, no benchmark that will tell you when you're supposed to hit certain milestones. There's no one right way or time to move in with your partner, to get engaged, to say, "I love you." But moving in with my partner for three months served as a good reminder that sometimes, we're ready to take big risks in our relationships, even when they scare us. Love is not a jingle; it's a power ballad. And just because you don't know all the words by heart, doesn't mean you won't one day. In the meantime, I'll be humming along.