The saying "young and dumb" would accurately describe my 18-year-old self's decision to move in with my then 20-year-old boyfriend. I had just graduated high school, was desperate to get away from my hometown, and madly in love with my boyfriend. I wanted us to start building our life together.
I chose to go to Towson University because he went there. I could have dormed, but I thought it would be better to have a place to live permanently. (I didn't really have much of a home to begin with, so the thought of having to find somewhere to live during breaks seemed daunting)
My boyfriend was desperate to get out of his parents' house and so we decided to move in together. We both planned on paying for our rent, electric and groceries with our rebate checks from financial aid. I had budgeted every last penny—he did not. We moved in and the first year was magical. I was living with my best friend and the love of my life. I finally felt like I had a home and a family. I consistently had someone supporting me in all my endeavors. I never realized how much I hated sleeping alone until we moved in together.
But after that one-year mark, things slowly started to change. I got a part-time job to help supplement the rebate check—but he did not. So while I would spend my evenings and weekends balancing school and work, he would sit at home, smoke weed, and watch TV.
I would come home to a messy apartment every single night. And no matter how much I tried to talk to him about having balance in the relationship— was always the one initiating grocery shopping, meal planning, cleaning up the apartment, etc—nothing ever changed. Only when I truly lost my sh*t did things change, but the change would only last for a few days, maybe a week if I was lucky. My role began to feel like that of a parent, not a partner. I constantly had to remind him that he needed to save his money to pay rent and not buy some exclusive collectible. I didn't care that he wanted some exclusive collectible, it was that he was forgetting rent was the priority. I slowly began to resent him.
Then came the issue of my social life. I had chosen to opt out of dorming (the main way to meet people in college), and I had no interest in joining a sorority. My next option was joining clubs. He would encourage me to join, but when it was time for me to go, he would become sad and upset that I wouldn't be spending that time with him. So I ended up not going.
By the end of our second year living together, my life had three main focuses: work, school, and making sure he was taking care of himself mentally, financially and otherwise. I was no longer a partner, I was a parent. I was constantly reminding him to take his medications, make certain doctors' appointments, eat his meals, etc.
You might be asking why I did all of this? If I didn't, my life would have been more of a hell than it already was. If he didn't take his medication, I knew that there was a high chance that he would become manic, stay up all night, spend money he didn't have, and then I would end up having to pay more in rent.
My life became a vicious cycle of me trying to make everything less intense. Mind you, I was also battling my own mental illness and personal problems while doing all of this in my early 20s. That relationship ended a little bit over a year ago, after five years of being together and three of those spent living together.
After we broke up, we had to live together for four months and that might have honestly been the worst part of it all.
But I have spent this last year reflecting on our relationship, and now, as a 22-year-old woman, I cannot understand why I thought it was a good idea to move in with someone. Moving in with someone is similar to getting married and I don't think many 18-year-olds are ready to get married. I still struggle to make friends and I know that's because I wasn't active on campus my first three years there, and the only person I can blame that on is myself.
When the relationship ended, I was forced to find myself because my identity had become making sure he was stable, we were financially stable, and that I was just barely functioning. I had lost my personal identity. I had lost my freedom. I had lost potential friendships. I had lost so much time that I don't think I can ever get back. If I could go back, I would do it all differently. But I have gained a perspective on dating, mental illness, finances, commitment, and what genuine love looks like; and I can use this experience to help me make better decisions in the future.