SPOILER ALERT: living with your significant other changes your relationship. This doesn't automatically mean it changes for the worse, it just means that it will have new adventures, obstacles, and challenges. Living together can intensify arguments, force you to see yourself differently, and deeply analyze a relationship that you thought you already knew. Zev and I just hit the year mark of living together (and three years of dating) and looking back I've realized how much we have grown - together and individually. When I realized how much we have learned and how far we have come in a year, I wanted to open up and share my experience with you guys. Although our story is different from everyone else's, I do think that most relationships change once a couple lives together. 

Last June, Zev and I moved to Nashville together - first and brand new city after college, first job for him, starting grad school for me. To say the least, this transition was one of the hardest I have had in my life. We made the decision out of excitement and anticipation, and didn't truly understand the rollercoaster it could take us on until we were riding it. A few months in, we were struggling to transition into our new way of living. Although it was a mess at times, we trusted each other and the process and now we are stronger than ever. I've gained so much respect for healthy relationships, raw communication, and how far patience and kindness can take you. I want to share some things that have helped us strengthen our relationship throughout our first year of living together. Zev is my best friend, which makes living with him SO fun, but I've looked back on the harder times we've had living together to round up the best tips I can give. Keep in mind I am young, and that I am no expert on this topic... but I'm hoping my experience can help you guys get to know me more and possibly help you with a similar situation! Please reach out if you relate to this post, I'd love to hear from you! Read on to see how we keep our relationship  lively and loving...

1. Allow for one another to have their own space - this is so extremely important when living with your girlfriend or boyfriend. Yes, you live together now. But that does not mean you have to be next to each other or talk to each other every moment you are both home. Get comfortable with your boyfriend watching his own show on Netflix in the living room while you chat with your friend on the phone in the bedroom or take a bath. And don't take it personally when your S.O. asks for personal space. It's very hard to be happy as a couple when you can't recharge and take care of yourself in the ways that you like. MY TIP: communicate about it. Want to spend the night binging your own show on your laptop? Let your S.O. know so that they don't think you are ignoring them or are upset about something else. If you are with the right person they will allow for this space and respect you.

2. Do nice things for each other - after living with Zev for one year I have realized how important it is to truly like your S.O. When you are dating but not living together it's easy to see your partner in a constant good light and ignore small things that annoy you. When you live together you are faced with each other's imperfections and tendencies, and if you truly like each other's company it makes it a lot easier. I have found that the best way to honor your friendship and adoration for each other is to do things for one another. If you partner is tired, make dinner for them. If they are sick, bring them advil in bed and go to sleep early with them. If they are running late for work ask what you can do to help them. THESE MOMENTS ARE INVALUABLE. Doing small things for each other will constantly remind you of why you are with the other person, why you can count on them, and why you just straight up like them. 

3. Get out of the house/apartment - living together is so much fun, but it can quickly become monotonous and routine when you are caught up in the bustle of work and/or school. It doesn't have to be all the time or even every week, but it's so important to see each other and be in each other's presence outside of where you live. If you can't afford a nice dinner out or can't find the time for a weekend away, spontaneously go grab an ice cream cone for dessert, grab tickets to a cheap concert, or take a walk around the neighborhood at dusk. Seeing your partner in the outside world, even if it's something casual, will make them feel stranger again for a moment and these experiences can help keep your relationship feeling novel and interesting.

4. Listen to each other and keep your end of the bargain - I can't stress this one enough. I have learned (the hard way) that if you constantly forget to do something your S.O. asks you it will first annoy the other person, but then eventually it will make them feel like you don't listen to them. If your partner asks you to put your dishes in the dish washer after eating do your best to remember to do so even if it's not important to you. They are probably asking for a reason (they might like things more organized than you, they might get anxiety from a mess, etc.). Swallow your pride on the small things and make an effort to make your home comfortable for the other person. Creating small changes will make living together so much more enjoyable, and more often than not you'll realize the small changes help you become a better person as well. 

5. Find things to do together, and do them often - living with Zev is so freaking fun. We have Netflix shows we binge watch together, cook meals, listen to music, have family snuggles on the couch with our chocolate lab, and so much more. We genuinely love doing these things together, which makes us crave being in our space together. Once you find things you love doing together, honor them. Say no to other plans for movie nights in. Put your phone down when you are watching your favorite tv-show. It seems trivial, but taking these things seriously will boost your connection.

6. Be terrifyingly open and honest with each other - this one can be really hard, I know. When you live with your S.O. you can't exactly escape uncomfortable situations like you used to be able to. If you get in an argument you will be sleeping together and waking up together, which makes the stakes a lot higher when things get tough. Despite this, the most important thing I have learned this year is that it is always worth it to be upfront with your partner. Whatever you are going through, even if it is scary or uncomfortable, will be so much easier to handle if you are honest with your partner. Conversations that allow you and your S.O. to speak honestly about your concerns, fears and hopes will bring you so much closer than you could imagine. Avoiding hard topics or hiding from deep emotions will come back around to haunt you and will most likely manifest in a huge fight down the road. 

7. Challenge each other while supporting each other - starting my graduate program the same year I moved in with Zev was incredibly difficult. Being in a mental health counseling program, my days were long and extremely emotional. I oftentimes felt too exhausted to work on our relationship. Although this made the first few months of living together really tough, Zev STUCK with me through it all and patiently allowed me to experience what I needed to with school while always letting me know he was there for me. I will never forget the continuous support he showed me during this time, and if I had not received this support, we probably would not be still living together. On the flip side, if your partner is seemingly slacking in an area they usual flourish, push them to get motivated or make a change. If you do this in the right way they will cherish your ability to keep them in check. Don't be afraid to (kindly) challenge your partner to do better. Because you know them and you know what they are capable of. Push them to be their best, but be there for them if they fall along the way :)