5 Rules for Peaceful Cohabitation

One year ago today, I woke up to a living room that looked like this:

Cluttered Kitchen

Fortunately, it’s considerably less cluttered today:


Yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of Tara moving in. We were well aware of the date, and periodically throughout the day would recall where we were and what we were doing one year earlier. April 14, 2012 was an exciting day, and marked a new adventure for us both. Other than my kids, who are with me every other week, I hadn’t lived with anybody in more than 5 years. I was worried that might be a difficult adjustment, but I told Tara this morning, “Living with you is a breeze. It always felt natural and easy. Every day is fun!” It truly has been a great year, and the best is still to come: when we wake up five months from today, we’ll be husband and wife. Wow.

While it has been fun and easy, there are certain lessons I have learned over the past year about living with your partner, a few eye-opening rules, if you will. I wrote about some of those changes a week after she’d moved in, but that was just the sudden shock of suddenly having another person there. I’ve long since gotten used to having eight different bottles of shampoo and lotions in the shower. Now that the dust has settled, I thought I’d talk about them. Speaking of dust…

5 Rules for Peaceful Cohabitation

  1. When you are asked “to dust,” do not commit the cardinal sin of actually using a duster. This one threw me for a loop. We were cleaning the house, a task that Tara takes very seriously, and she asked me to dust. So naturally, I grabbed the duster from the garage. This is an implement designed for one specific purpose – to dust. It’s right there in the name. So imagine my surprise when she said, “No, no, no. Not with that.” She insisted I use furniture polish and a rag instead. Something about the duster just pushing the dust around. I don’t care if it pushes the dust around – as long as it pushes it off the surface I’m dusting, y’know? In my mind, this is akin to her asking me to make toast and saying, but don’t use the toaster. 
  2. Get used to clean sheets and towels once a week, at least. This is one of the better aspects of Cohabitating-In-Sin. I will admit, in my bachelor days, the sheets only got changed once every lunar cycle or so. My thought process was, “Full moon already? Must be time to strip the bed again!” But I like having clean sheets. Feels so good to crawl into bed with them. As for the towels, I didn’t wait a month to change them, but – ahem – they still hung on the rack longer than they had any business doing.
  3. When it comes to the thermostat, learn to compromise. It seems like men and women are always at odds with their body temperatures. There are times when I’m sitting on the couch in shorts and fanning myself, while Tara is wrapped in a blanket up to her chin and shivering. Other times I’ll catch her stealthily kicking up the heat a few degrees when she thinks I’m not paying attention, but that’s okay: I turn it down a few degrees when I think she isn’t paying attention. As a general rule, the house is usually a couple of degrees warmer than I’d prefer, but a couple of degrees cooler than she’d like. Which, I suppose, is fair.
  4. Egg shells don’t go in the trash can, silly! One day shortly after Tara moved in, I reached for the carton of eggs, and discovered broken shells in there. Some of them contained yolk. “Honey!” I said. “The store sold us defective eggs!” Only we didn’t actually buy them that way: turns out when Tara cracks open an egg, she sticks the shell back in the carton and puts the whole thing in the fridge. To this day I have no idea why, but it’s just one of those little quirks I’ve gotten used to. She probably thinks it odd that I dump used cooking oil into a jar and store it under the sink, and we both marvel over the fact that she only uses the bottom white portion of green onions, while I use the long green stalk. Which brings me to the last one…
  5. There is no right or wrong. But she’s always right. I say this sincerely, minus any sarcasm. If there’s one big lesson I’ve learned over the past year, it’s to never question Tara when it comes to…umm, anything. Because anytime she says something that I disagree with or suggest an alternate method to, when all is said and done she’s always right in the end. It’s uncanny. If I were a baseball player, I’d have a perfect batting average: 0.000. Which is why I didn’t really question the whole “don’t dust with a duster” thing (at least not out loud). She’s probably right. In fact, I just now posed that question to Google – “Should you use a duster to dust?” – and got this result: feather dusters tend to scatter dust back into the air. See what I mean?
These eggs are defective!
These eggs are defective!

Truly, I love living with her. Even though she sometimes tickles me mercilessly and flicks water on me after showering and gives me grief over my dusting skills. Not a day goes by where we don’t make each other laugh at least once, and we celebrate our many similarities while embracing our differences. Plus, we talk. About anything and everything, and we never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. No topic is off limits, and there is no right or wrong answer. I believe these things are key to happily-ever-after (or at least until the lease expires).

Happy Co-Habitating, Living-in-Sin, Having-the-Time-of-My-Life Anniversary, darling!


Published by Mark Petruska

I'm a professional writer and editor living my best life in south central Wisconsin.

19 thoughts on “5 Rules for Peaceful Cohabitation

  1. well, it would make it easier-throwing out the carton with the egg shells rather than having just egg shells in the trash a little at a time Just don’t put them in the disposer.


  2. Awwww…this tugged at my heartstrings! What a great entry!

    I love that you two are so in sync with each other…it brings huge smiles to my face more than you will ever know. Thank you for making my daughter so incredibly happy.

    As for the 5 rules…you are spot-on!

    *Sigh* She totally cracks me up and I love that she gets some of it from me!


  3. I’d not lived with anyone (apart from my son) for close to two years before my current fella moved in back in January. He moved from Texas to Upstate NY.. I repeat, in January. The poor dear. He’s adjusting to the weather. I’m adjusting to him.

    #1 Dusting. Yup, Tara’s right. #2 Clean Sheets. I still only change ours once a month. #3 Theromostat. I read an article awhile back stating that on average women DO have a lower body temperature than men. If we say we’re cold, WE ARE! #4 As for the egg shells.. depends on the carton. I reuse my cardboard egg cartons or recycle them. Only the styrofoam ones should be tossed.. sans empty eggshells which should be going in the compost pile if you have one. 🙂 And #5, way to cover your own bum when Tara reads this!


    1. So there’s a scientific correlation between body temperature and gender? Ahh…that explains so much! By and large, I have always sweated it out while the women in my life have been cold. At least I know I’m not a freak now.

      #5…yeah, that’s a good strategy, huh? But it’s also true!


  4. Egg shells in the carton?! That is weird. Sorry Tara. But yes to the weekly sheet changing and dusting. As far as the thermostat goes I am the one that just turns if OFF. I hate wasting (read: paying for) electricity. Id rather throw on a blanket or go to the mall (to cool off in their A/C!)


    1. The thermostat would NEVER be off if we lived in Arizona. I mean, I complain when the temperature rises above 75F. I’d probably die there, and please don’t say “it’s a dry heat.” Doesn’t matter!


  5. “When it comes to the thermostat, learn to compromise.”

    Yes, now that I know to be VERY true because my mother and father were the same way. He (like me) loved it cold, while my mother wanted it warm. I always say that if I ever meet someone and cohabitate, he better like it cold too because I know several men who can’t stand cold. They would much rather it be hot. UGH!

    “Get used to clean sheets and towels once a week, at least.”

    That’s a given. But you know, I know several people who change their bed sheets and towels a FEW TIMES a week?!?! OMG…they must do laundry every other day.

    “Plus, we talk. About anything and everything, and we never have to worry about saying the wrong thing. No topic is off limits.”

    That is so excellent, Mark, because talking/communicating is so important in a relationship.


    1. Changing those linens once a week is perfectly adequate in my book, Ron! (Says the guy who used to change them once a month, at best).

      Most guys I know like it cold, so fingers crossed that your Mr. Right isn’t a Mr. Fright when it comes to lowering the thermostat!


  6. She right about the dusting. Lavish her with praise for her brilliance. Helps make the woman more malleable to adjust to something to do your way on something really important you want. It is also strategic to admit how much better she is than you at washing, ironing and cleaning the bathroom and kitchen.


    1. LOL. I’ve admitted all these things to her already, but that was an unnecessary step: she already knew that! This probably explains why I have not done a load of laundry in more than a year. She’s just so damn good at it! 🙂


  7. I have to reply once more. I really didn’t find it odd that egg shells were kept in the egg carton once you cracked them open. It’s funny how we just assume everybody does it the way we do and then find out they don’t and we’re the weird ones…LOL

    Such is life!


    1. I knew you were responsible because I found the same thing up there in your fridge, lol. Tara and I were talking about this yesterday: it really is interesting how whatever you grew up with is the “norm.” Like placing a napkin on your lap while eating. Tara grew up doing this, while it was never a rule enforced in our house. As a result, I usually keep mine next to my plate, unless we’re dining out. (Don’t worry, I almost never use it as a makeshift bandana).


  8. I remember when Tara moved in last year & the pics you posted of your rooms with the plants in laundry baskets. Sure looks better now. I use a Swiffer duster to dust now because it’s electronically charged & picks up all the dust, not just pushes it around. I love the way I don’t have to move every single items to do the dusting now like I used to when I used polish & a rag. I’m getting older & lazier & lucky I’m de-cluttering so I don’t have that many objects to move now anyway.


      1. Also on the temperature – hubby & I have it lucky because we both like it cool. If we need to be warmer we pull a blanket onto our laps. Got into this habit when Bandit was a baby because he would not get up without a blanket otherwise his feet would slip through the space between couch & foot rest.


  9. See, Mark, you are catching on! I, for one, had faith in your realizing who’s always right–always the other person! And dusters! Really–not the one in the garage? Well, I’ll be!
    Sorry to have been away so much recently. We leave for Ecuador two weeks from today, and I’ve been kind of busy. I promise a new post tomorrow. It’s only been almost a month or more–way more!


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