In the transition to adult life, it's easy to focus on the concrete things: job, money, apartment, etc. But under the surface, more abstract changes are developing, including the most complex aspect of them all -- relationships.
Navigating post-college love life is a whole different ballgame, whether you're single, in a relationship or somewhere in between. And things can really get crazy when matters of the heart (e.g., your relationship) combine with the practical (e.g., where you live).
For most 20-somethings, moving in with a significant other is most likely a new concept, and the decision to do so can feel like a true plunge into adulthood.
But for me and my boyfriend, it was much less momentous, considering we were living together just one month into our relationship.
OK, it was after only one week … and on the first day … and even before that.
You may have guessed it: I fell in love with my roommate.
Tim was one of five guys I lived with during my junior and senior years of college. I was the only girl in the house, a la the Fox sitcom "New Girl." As anyone who has ever seen a romantic comedy could have predicted, I fell for one of them.
Because of the, well, unique way our relationship began, Tim and I skipped a bunch of steps. But then it came time to leave our college bubble — and the ability to skip all of our day's obligations to cuddle or have a spontaneous wild night on a Tuesday — behind.
When we both ended up in Baltimore, it was obvious that we were going to keep living together. After already doing so for two years, finding separate apartments in a new city seemed ridiculous, logistically and financially.
Plus, we smugly thought we had it all down pat.
But, of course, living together in the "adult" world is much different than living together in a college house with four other friends.
Most important, there is the realization that it's really just the two of us. Especially for someone in a new city with few friends, it's a stark difference from being no more than a 10-minute walk away from all of them. It takes some time and some trial and error to adjust, but it's ultimately been the best thing that has happened to my relationship.
Living with a significant other provides a partner with whom to navigate a new city, and the new struggle of adulthood. We were able to cook dinner in a kitchen untainted by college grime. I supported him through his frustrating search for employment; he was there for me when I was distressed about my weird night-shift hours.
It may not be as comfortable and carefree as before, but it has the potential to be much more intimate and meaningful.
And, of course, everything remains fluid. In this transformative time, it's naive to think a relationship will stay stagnant.
For example, Tim and I now live with two of our college friends again, and adjusting to not being alone is a bit of a struggle. But it's all about going with the flow, and letting things fall into place.
Ellen Fishel's column appears regularly in b.