9 Rules for Peaceful Cohabitation

From being more flexible to doing each other's dishes, these tips will make living together easier.

Couple Cuddling with Popcorn
(Image credit: Wendy Carrig/Taxi)

I'm still at this lovely little beach house with my pal Teddy Wayne — and though we've been together just about nonstop for nearly a week (minus my college reunion), we haven't killed each other yet! I was quite worried that spending a week living together might ruin our friendship. I fear I'm very difficult to live with: I sleep poorly a lot, and get cranky (and about 800 times more kooky) whenever I do. I also like a fair amount of alone time, which often disappoints or irritates the people I'm with.

So why are we surviving this? For one thing, he has never yet left the toilet seat up! (As he has pointed out to me two or three times now.)

More seriously, I've tried to figure out a few basic rules that are helping keep us sane and happy.

1. Know what you need — and believe that your needs are important. In the past, I've felt ashamed about the things I need (or want) to feel content — particularly about my desire to exercise every day, particularly because dudes I've dated (along with some friends) have derided me about my "obsession." But it's far from unhealthy; I'm not too skinny or too crazy about having a perfect body. But I feel so much more comfortable in my skin when I keep to my workout schedule; on top of the physical benefits, I really feel the psychological benefits. (It increases serotonin, mitigates depression, and helps you sleep — so that I truly notice when I skip a day.) I told Teddy before we came here that I spend an hour a day exercising — and warned him not to give me a hard time about it. He hasn't — and I've felt better about doing what I need to do because I announced my intentions earlier.

2. Be flexible. Yes, I know: I'm saying that right after talking about how rigid I am about my exercise schedule. But last night, when Teddy wanted to get dinner at a place that closed at 8:30 — and I wanted to go to another spot so I could spend the hour before sunset running on the beach — I decided to compromise.

3. Retain some independence. Don't do everything together. My going off to the reunion for the weekend has helped break up the week. But we've also been doing little things on our own during the days — he'll go down to the beach to sun himself while I stay here doing my work, or I'll go out on the porch to read at night while he watches Warren the Ape.

4. When he's getting on your nerves, be vocal and specific about what he should stop doing. On Friday — after a terrible night's sleep — I was in a foul temper: stressed about getting all my work done before doing the 150-minute drive to my alma mater, nervous about doing an unfamiliar tortuous drive by my unrested self, upset that I was going to be so tired for the first night of the reunion. I was so out of it that I was having trouble speaking properly ... and Teddy responded by interrupting my sentences before I could finish them, correcting me when I was wrong, and generally, it seemed, disagreeing with every point I was trying to make — if he hadn't already prevented me from making it! Admittedly, he also hadn't slept very well (it's so quiet around here that the BIRDS seem incredibly loud) and had a sore throat. But he was really getting on my nerves. "Look!" I finally yelled. "For the rest of the day, I need you to agree with everything I say or else leave me alone. Okay? I'm tired and I'm cranky and I don't want to hate you." He was very good and sweet about not reacting with anger or annoyance, but understanding — and it was good to communicate before we got beyond the point where we could do it (relatively) politely.

5. Get your sleep. When I'm well-rested, I'm all sunshine and smiles. When I'm not, a thundercloud hovers over my head, raining on everyone's parade and occasionally striking people with a thunderbolt. So I'm taking my 5-HTP.

6. Ask for feedback. But not too much. Today, I had to ask Teddy to stop talking to me when we were in different rooms because I can't hear him when that's the case. Then I thought, Maybe I'M doing something that's bugging HIM. So I asked if I was. "Nope," he said. "Except asking me for too much reassurance." I responded with disbelief, demanding examples. He mentioned the moment when we were talking about a friend of mine, whom he complimented on a certain quality; I immediately asked if I didn't have the same thing going for me. "Also," Teddy continued, "after you yelled at me on Friday, you kept asking if I was mad at you." Fair enough. And the thing about seeking too much validation is this: The only person who will ever sufficiently reassure you — and calm your anxieties and neuroses — is YOU.

7. Laugh a lot. Teddy is constantly cracking me up, and that makes everything better. If your dude just isn't that funny — and you aren't either — watch comedies together. Find a certain good line to make a running joke out of. Tease each other affectionately about your idiosyncrasies and oddities. Read The Onion together. Also, be able to recognize your little peccadilloes and poke a little fun at yourself.

8. Do each other's dishes once in a while. Teddy really wanted me to put this one in here. I did his dishes the first few nights — but he was very good about thanking me for it immediately and about picking up the slack on subsequent days. (Of course, you should also talk about it if you feel like a certain someone is neglecting his duties and not responding as mindfully as Teddy does.)

9. Take care of your mental health. Swallow those pills, see your shrink, do your meditation — whatever it takes to keep you relatively sane and on-kilter.

Lovelies, I'm sure there's a lot I've overlooked or left out. Would you weigh in, please?