“I Moved In With My In-Laws—Here’s What It Was Like”
By Ashleigh Morley
“There’s no sugarcoating it—our intimacy took a nosedive.”
For 126 days last year, I lived with my in-laws. That’s 18 weeks, or approximately four months. But who’s keeping track?
We made the decision to move in down the hall from my husband’s childhood bedroom (the twin-size bed of his youth didn’t quite fit the bill) to save a little bit more money before closing on our first home. If you watch enough HGTV, our story doesn’t sound too absurd. And when you look at the numbers of millennials living with their parents (15 percent in the US in 2016, according to Pew Research Center), we start to sound downright cliche.
Making The Decision
I can’t speak for our contemporaries, but coming to this decision and then living through it was both easy and extremely taxing. On paper, moving in with Ryan’s parents helped soften the financial burden of this big, exciting life stage we were entering. It was a no-brainer. If you’ve ever bought a home, you know that between down payments, closing costs, and any up-front renovations, you’re looking at tens of thousands of dollars in bills. By living with Ryan’s parents for a few months before our closing date, we would save all of the money we normally spent on things like rent, utility bills, and groceries. Needless to say, this wasn’t the hard part of the living arrangement.
After going into contract on our first home in the ‘burbs of Long Island, we both knew saying goodbye to our perfect apartment in Astoria, Queens would be excruciating. And doing so to move in with Ryan’s parents felt like a second, even more devastating blow. It felt regressive. We would miss our favourite bars and restaurants, our proximity to friends, our favourite gyms, and, for me, my incredible 20-minute commute to work. Within a weekend, our entire world shifted, and we spent so much time wondering if we had made the right decision.
The first few weeks living with Ryan’s parents coasted along without incident. They had gone to great lengths to make sure we were comfortable—putting us up in a large room with ample closets, vacating one of the bathrooms so we had more space to ourselves, and setting up a television with a cable box in our room. My mother-in-law tailored her grocery list to include our preferences. Dinner was always ready when we came home from work and it was always delicious. I felt absolutely spoiled prepping my lunches for work with leftovers—throwing grilled chicken and vegetables on top of a salad was so much better than using whatever still had a respectable expiration date in the fridge back in our apartment. And for a week or two they even did our laundry, which honestly felt pretty awkward. I was more relieved than anything when that small perk fell to the wayside. Just thinking of my mother-in-law folding my unmentionables was one of the things that got a little too close for comfort.
It didn’t take long to fall into a rhythm. While Ryan watched baseball with his dad, I often sat in the kitchen and gossiped with my mother-in-law or talked about all the infinite ways we could redesign and renovate our new home. And Ryan’s parents were endlessly helpful when it came to navigating the unfamiliar waters of being in contract for a house and the minor frustrations that come with the territory.
Becoming Part Of The Family
My relationship with Ryan’s parents is as far from sitcom fodder as you can get because I genuinely enjoy spending time with them. With my parents living 900 miles away in Atlanta, Ryan’s family has become my own in the last six years.
About a month into living with them, my father-in-law had a routine doctor visit that turned into a last-minute triple bypass surgery. As a live-in member of the household, there was no question that I too would drop everything (including taking two last-minute personal days) to be at the hospital during the procedure and as he recovered.
Had Ryan and I still been living in Astoria I’m sure he would have gone to the hospital, but I can’t say with full certainty that I would go, too. I can hear Ryan’s mom telling me on the phone to not skip work and to stay in the city. I would have felt incredibly conflicted. But our new living arrangement made me even more a part of the family than I was before. It didn’t take a scary heart condition to forge this stronger bond with Ryan’s family—everything about living in close quarters with people for several months on end will have that effect.
The Down Side
I can’t lie, most of the living-with-the-in-laws arrangement was skewing well in our favour, but throughout the four months our marriage felt like it took the back seat. Sleeping less than 50 feet away from Ryan’s parents was just as un-sexy as it sounds. There’s no sugarcoating it, our intimacy took a nosedive. We went from having ample, ahem, “us time” to pretty much nil. When we were alone in the house we were like two teenagers so afraid of getting caught that things were… rushed. And not in a hot quickie sort of way. Needless to say, by the end of October we were really ready to move into our own space.
Aside from our sex life, other aspects of our relationship were affected by the change of address. Because our nighttime routine included dining with Ryan’s parents and then either watching TV with them or otherwise spending time with them, we weren’t having as much one-on-one time outside of the bedroom either. It felt like we didn’t have a spare moment to ourselves for four months.
And we didn’t feel fully free to be ourselves, either. The first few weeks we were definitely on our best behaviour—it was only natural. But after a while, it got a little exhausting. Suddenly, things that hadn’t bothered me during the first month or two—like when my last granola bar disappeared or being reminded to pull all of the cars into the driveway at 10 p.m.—drove me completely nuts. I, of course, internalized all of these things. I never wanted to seem ungrateful or like I was taking their generosity for granted. To this day, we know we couldn’t be thriving in our first home without their unwavering support, and their roof over our heads for those few months.
By the time we moved out of Ryan’s parent’s house and into our own home, we were ready and excited. It’s been awhile since I was an 18-year-old leaving my childhood home to go to college, but that’s probably the easiest thing to compare this to. In a similar way, we were moving on to a freeing yet daunting new adventure: home ownership.
Looking back on the experience, I’m so glad I lived with my in-laws for a few months and don’t regret it for a second. We were able to save enough money to do some important work on our home before moving in. And after 126 days of cohabitating with Ryan’s parents, my relationship with them is stronger than ever. I know I can count on them for anything, and they know we will return the favour in a heartbeat.
This article was originally featured on www.womenshealthmag.com