Photo credit: Noel Walker Photography
I’ve blogged a few times about how great my roommate is, and most people who know us have commented on how much we seem like a married couple. So I’ve been processing for a couple of months now how roommate-life is (and isn’t) like married life.
In Part 1, I talked about how having a close roommate is like having a spouse. And in Part 2 (this post), I’m talking about how it’s very much not like having a spouse.
When people first meet Nicole and me, they chuckle and make jokes about how we seem married. But when they really get to know us, it’s way obvious that we aren’t.
On the surface
Of course, there are the glaring differences between us and married couples. Obviously, we don’t have sex, children, a joint bank account, or the same room. We don’t know how much money the other makes, we lay claim to (some of the) food in the fridge, and we’re not on each other’s car insurance policies.
So there’s that, but there’s also the dynamic of us both being women. My life at 33 years old with a woman looks way different than I always imagined it would look with a husband by now.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s great to be doing life with another woman. We can go into the same dressing rooms (even try on the same clothes), we share lipstick and shoes, and we talk freely about bras and times of the month and other womany-things.
But it’s not what I expect from life with a husband someday. For instance:
- Nicole is super perceptive and sensitive to my moods; sometimes she notices that I’m annoyed at something before I do. For some reason, I expect a man to be less sensitive, and I kind of look forward to that, actually.
- Nicole has a certain way she wants everything in the kitchen; it never occurred to me before I moved in with her that my kitchen when I was a grown up would be anything other than the way I want it. Because isn’t a woman supposed to grow up, obtain her own kitchen stuff, and organize it however she wants? I have yet to do that because I live with another woman.
Here’s a real-life example of what it’s like when two women are trying to communicate:
- Me: When you get home before I do, it makes me feel loved when you leave the lights on for me.
- Nicole: So it makes you feel loved when we waste electricity?
- Me: I’m just saying it makes me feel loved. I can’t justify it, and I don’t have a reason. It just does.
- Nicole: So if I ever get home before you and don’t turn on the light, does that mean I’m not loving you?
- Me: <facepalm>
And we’ve had many conversations, I’m sure, in which she was the one facepalming.
In the middle
Beyond the surface, though, is that our relationship is temporary.
Even at almost four years, I’m not the longest roommate Nicole has had; but she’s by far the longest roommate (other than family) that I’ve had. You’d think that, after living with her for more than twice the time of any other roommate, I’d be settling into the idea that we’re going to be together a while. But I find myself constantly preparing for when we move out, and our temporary-ness totally affects the way we make decisions and relate to each other.
- When we make a big purchase together (TV or furniture or whatever), we talk about who is going to get it when we move out.
- We each have our very specific ideas of how we would like to decorate our living room; but since they’re so different, we just don’t decorate – because what’s the point of working through that particular conflict when we plan to have our own separate homes someday?
- Whenever we get into a fight, there’s always the possibility that we can shove it under the rug until we move out. There’s also the possibility that we can just move out and not have to deal with each other again. Not saying that’s healthy, but it wouldn’t exactly be divorce, either. (NOTE: Nicole asked me to clarify here that we never have thrown this idea around or at each other in an argument.)
- “When we don’t live together anymore,” is a constant topic of discussion. Whether we move apart because one of us gets married or the other one lives overseas – whatever the reason, we plan to someday not live together.
I think there’s something super awesome about this concept – one that (godly, healthly) marriages don’t get to experience. You see, married people will be married only until one of them dies. Jesus tells us in the Bible that in heaven, people will not be married to each other; rather, we all as the church will be married to Jesus.
But Nicole and I are “sisters in Christ” (a phrase used by Christians to describe how we relate to each other) now. We’ll be sisters in Christ until we die, whether we become old spinsters together or not. And we’ll continue to be sisters when we’re both in heaven.
Married people can’t look forward to their marriages continuing in heaven, but Nicole and I can look forward to our sisterhood in Christ continuing into eternity – and thus we get to experience a little bit of heaven on earth, just by committing to love each other each moment now.
In the deep, deep part
I’ve been listening to a marriage podcast (The Rugged Marriage) lately, and they talk extensively about verses like Ephesians 5:22-33 where biblical marriage is laid out. Over and over and over in the Bible, we see that marriage is meant to be an example of how Jesus woos and wins His bride, the Church. (This idea has been fleshed out many times by people more qualified than I. See this article for starters.)
Because the Bible takes marriage so seriously, it says things like, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ love the church and gave himself up for her” (Ephesians 5:25), “the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church” (Ephesians 5:23), and, “Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:22).
But, guess what? The Bible never says anything about roommate relationships. Neither of us is called to be the leader, like a husband is. And neither of us is called to be the submitter, like a wife is. Instead, we only have the verses that talk about how Christians are supposed to interact with one another, in order to inform our relationship. When I read the Bible, I see
- Matthew 22:39 — “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
- Romans 12:9-10 — “Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”
- Ephesians 5:21 —“submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.”
Therefore, because we are sisters in Christ, we’re called by God to love each other as sisters, lead each other to Jesus, AND submit to each other in Christ.
Did you catch that? We are each the leader in our relationship; we are called to lead in sacrifice, in repentance, in encouraging each other to look to Jesus. And we are each the submitter; we are called to submit to each other as fellow believers, and to submit to Jesus as our only husband.
This is hard, guys. It’s HARD! I’m a strong, independent woman who is a manager at work and the oldest of 7 kids. I’m bossy, I’m organizey, I’m list-y, and I don’t like it when people question my decisions or words. Nicole is a strong, independent woman who has relied on herself most of her life to get where she is. She doesn’t like being known as “that person who is Charity’s roommate,” she hates it when I help her with her life plans, and she loves to ask questions. She can’t stand it when I come home in “work mode” and try to manage her like an employee, and I constantly have to fight the urge to manipulate her to get what I want.
In this sense, roommate life is extremely more difficult than marriage (I think) because:
- God tells us to unconditionally pour ourselves out for each other as sisters in Christ; yet He does not call us to remain together as long as we both shall live.
- He tells us to lead each other in repentance and reconciliation; yet He allows us none of the make-up sex.
- He tells us to sacrificially serve one another; yet He doesn’t promise that our lives will be joined together as one.
To be fair, these are things God tells all Christians to do with each other; but roommates go home to each other. It makes things much more intense than in other relationships – especially when the roommates do life together and run in the same social circles, like Nicole and I do.
Nicole and I can’t rely on each other to be the husbands we thought we’d have by now; we have to rely on our heavenly husband (Jesus) to fill that void. We can’t look to each other for permanence; we have to look to the eternal life Jesus provides us as His family. We can’t look to each other to lead or submit perfectly; we have to look to Jesus to show us how to do both of those things well – often at the same time.
So while the existence of our relationship, unlike with marriage, does not directly represent Christ and the Church, we get to experience the Gospel in ways that married people don’t. We get to learn every day how to love someone who we are not legally bound to, to whom we haven’t said vows (or carried for 9 months in our bodies), and with whom we will probably not live “’til death do we part.”
When I was first thinking about writing this post, I thought maybe I could talk about how roommate life is better than marriage. Or worse. Or just different. But it’s all of those things. Ultimately, the point is that because of each other, Nicole and I get more of Jesus – and isn’t that kind of the whole point of life (and this blog) anyway?
ICYMI: Part 1: how living with a roommate is kinda like marriage in a lot of ways.