So you're ready to move in with your man, then. That lovely, considerate chap, the romantic rogue who takes you out for dinner and buys you flowers, your tough but gentle-hearted rock. But things are about to change in your relationship. Anyone will tell you that moving in with a man is rather different to simply dating one; all the sweetness and light and testosterone can often appear to have faded when faced with the farting slob in front of the television. It may be a shock to find his bad habits emerge all too soon in this new atmosphere of comfort and joy. I hope this article provides you with some advance preparation for the life that is to come.
The first thing to understand is that the male, naturally considered to be the hunter-gatherer, may take on particular habits when returning home from work. Take note of where he approaches first when entering the abode (for many, this is the general area of fridge/beer, then a comfortable chair within typing range of the PC or TV remote control). This area is the centre of the male's home life. As soon as he is comfortable, you may note how he adapts without thought to his local environment. Men can go out in arctic storms in just a t-shirt and thong, but cannot bear to be in temperatures above 4° without a chilling force-5 draught. Scientists are at a loss to explain why this is, but it may come from an archaic need to keep certain parts of his anatomy cool. He will begin to remove articles of clothing, starting with the coat, moving onto shoes and socks and eventually (in extreme cases) stripping down towards underwear and beyond. Apart from the unwanted visual spectacle, a side effect can be that piles of socks begin to accumulate with such speed that by the end of the week they are forming their own factions and starting arms races. Unfortunately, ladies, there is no known cure for this. Just be glad that the underpants are not joining in.
Another side effect of this personal space is that piles of junk will begin to accumulate in the area. Lighter fluid, minidisks, overspilling ashtrays, photos, books, bottle tops and letters will gradually begin to take over his space. The key is: never attempt to tidy this up. For men, the word 'tidy' is synonymous with 'hide'. Men know that the important CD or unpaid bill is in the fourteenth pile from the right wedged between the sound card and the map of the Slovakian road system, and they can go to it instantly. As soon as you so much as throw away a fag-butt, he will know that his filing system has been disrupted and phone you incessantly at work demanding to know where you put said item. Instead of tidying his space, quietly suggest that he sort through it or you will remove all sexual privileges. Before you know it, bang! He's not only cleared it but bought you dinner into the bargain. Result.
Note also that your collections of CDs, DVDs, books and so on should be kept very much separate. With a few exceptions, most men attach a certain kudos to their collections of these items and it could severely disrupt the relationship if the man's mates come round and find that he has a Le'Anne Rimes album or My Best Friend's Wedding lurking amongst the obscure stuff they normally watch. As far as the man is concerned, he would rather try to pay for British National Party membership in euros. Seriously.
Men love spending hours in the kitchen making beautiful ingredients taste of whatever the bonfire couldn't burn. This is a primeval skill, hence the popularity of barbecues. What they can't do is wash up on a regular basis. Men will leave washing-up for days on end on the basis that 'we haven't run out of plates yet', and the fact that plughole species have evolved through fifteen generations since the last wash-up cuts no ice. It's best to treat the man like the child he is in this circumstance: for example, grounding him from the pub or not letting him play his Playstation. Eventually, he will talk about getting a dishwasher for the kitchen. Don't get offended when he says it will 'make your life easier, eh?' Just smile in false gratitude, safe in the knowledge that he will load and unload it far more often than he does any job which actually involves getting his hands wet.
Teabags can cause problems, too. Oh, such an innocuous object, the teabag, until you find one drying on the sink. The theory goes that mould is encouraged by damp; therefore, the drier a teabag is when finally placed into the bin, the less cheerleading from the sidelines mould will receive. This is true, if faintly disgusting, after a few hours. The way to deal with this is by a game of 'chicken'. Will the man get rid of the teabag before you can't bear its presence any more? Or will you throw it away in a fit of pique and risk incurring his grumbling wrath next time you make him clean the bin out? On simple tests like this, great relationships are formed1.
Men often return from pubs with various eccentric foods, the donor kebab being the favourite. After a night out with the lads, it is inconceivable not to come home without a pita bread stuffed with listeria, the hottest chillies known to mankind and some strange red sauce, often also bearing some cold soggy chips considerately bought as a peace offering. The theory is that the chips will pacify you and the alcohol will neutralise the ill-effects of any food poisoning bacteria. You may be upset about the state he's in. Do not get angry. Do not rage. Simply complete your morning ablutions before he gets up and laugh to yourself as he finds the combination is twice as hot on the way out2, safe in the knowledge that he will continue to inflict this upon himself3 until the day he dies.
Often the bedroom and sleeping arrangements can cause most consternation amongst new co-habitees. For a start, he may feel he needs more than the one small drawer and three coathangers you have allocated him, psychologically leading to the inevitable conclusion that he begins to use the floor for both dirty and clean laundry. He is unlikely to take responsibility for sorting out the mess, as you have taken all the storage space. Even deciding which side of the bed to sleep on may be an issue. Both partners are likely to have a preferred side; the woman nearest to the wall for greater security, the man furthest from the alarm clock. The man may also, particularly in the initial stages, insist on bringing to bed a moth-eaten old teddy bear by the name of something like 'Pookie' or 'Bluebell' that he has had since the age of two. Don't be put off by this; he is merely deconstructing his hard masculine exterior and presenting a more childlike, human image to you at a vulnerable time. At least, that's what he'll tell you when he comes home teary-eyed from the pub (see above).
It may also come as a surprise to both partners to find that the other snores. With practice, it may come as a surprise to the neighbours that you both can do it to 'your tune' in perfect harmony at four in the morning (an especially good trick on campsites). It is far more fun, though, to search the internet for all kinds of torture devices designed to be wedged down the man's throat/tonsils; they work by the simple principle that if the man is too uncomfortable to fall asleep, he cannot snore. Or argue back the next day. Or defend himself from nagging. All in all, then, a sound purchase.
In terms of the bathroom, men tend to come in two categories; those that spend too long in it, and those that don't spend long enough. Which of these categories your man falls into will be clear by the time you move in, if not by the end of the first date. The following rules will apply in either case:
- The toilet seat remains in an upward position, unless it is required. This is, quite simply, because men are too lazy to put the seat down after every use; you may find, however, that the man will attempt to justify this stance with the argument that 'I need to use it more often than you'. Expect as much chivalry on this matter as you would from Attila the Hun finding a virgin nun after six months away from Mrs Hun.
- Mythological 'bathroom fairies' do all the cleaning. Regardless of the man's age, this is just how bathrooms work. Even on discovering you with your head round the u-bend with a brush, the man will assume that you have dropped a coin or contact lens in the pan and are trying to retrieve it. Rather like the tooth fairy, the bathroom fairy will retrieve any empty shampoo or shower gel bottles and replace them with full ones. This is just How It Works.
- Men value left-over shaving scum higher than any treasure and will leave it round the edge of the sink to be collected later.
Spare Room, Shed or Cellar
Every man secretly yearns for a shed or cellar, but until that day the spare room generally suffices (or in the absence of a spare room, the 'personal space' detailed above or the kitchen will suffice). Men need a project, whether brewing beer, turning wood or making rockets. From the female point of view, this is good on the one hand as the materials key to the project tend to be kept out of the way, but bad in that the project space becomes a male-only area. Be prepared for the man's friends to come around and spend hours with your man in the shed, your only contact being occasional text messages asking for more beer to placed by the door. Never take an interest or try to become involved yourself. Does the man ever come over when you're flicking through Bride magazine and try to be helpful in your choice of bridesmaid's colours? No. So leave this part of the man's life well alone, even if you do worry that he frequently rushes to his shed with a new magazine (he's unlikely to have the courage to buy anything unsavoury). And feign delight when he finally unveils that scale model of the West Coast line to you; he's probably put a little model of you at the station where you met. Bless.
Men also hoard things. The amount of hoarding is directly proportionate to the amount of time spent together (known as Bloke's Law of Accumulation) and ultimately, in the case of most couples who have bought a house together, results in an attic full of deckchairs, PC soundcards, 1974 VW Beetle carburettors, adaptors, inexplicable fluffy things and old speakers. Generations of illuminated scientists have tried to throw their particular light on this subject, but as yet to no avail. Just try to ensure he gets boxes once in a while to put it all in.
As you can see, it is worth getting to know your man before you consider anything so permanent as marriage. The hot dates may soon begin to dry up as the lovely youthful body begins to swell up under pressure of beer and the etiquette melts away with wind-breaking comfort. You may begin to wonder why you got together with the man in the first place. This, unfortunately, is the curious and singularly human disease known to all simply as 'love'.