Three's Company - The secret art living together
I've recently started living with a married man...
oh and his wife...
they're friends of mine - don't panic.
I wonder how many of you have taken the decision to live with friends or people from your church who are married.
I've noticed an increasing trend in recent years as more Christians are drawn towards living in community and realise that the early church were actually onto something beautiful when they lived together and shared everything they had together.
However, when it comes to a single person living with a couple it's bound to be more complicated than a group of individuals.
There is already a bond between the couple, a zim zum that is being cultivated; priorities and values which are shared between two married people. And where does a single person fit in if these people all decide to live in community?
Well... so far we've been managing over the last two months, with the added complication of my two children and the contents of my friends' flat which had to be emptied in advance of their upcoming travelling plans.
And as I look at other groups of friends that make it work and ask for advice here's a few things I've learnt if you are considering moving in with a couple.
1. Don't take offence
In any friendship or community people will get on your wick at some point. Someone will eat someone else's eggs, someone will get crumbs in someones butter, someone will use the limited broadband stream to download Last Kingdom while the other person is trying to send emails - all hypothetical examples of course!
But suprisingly we do actually have the power to choose what we get annoyed by or offended by.
Holding on to offence is like holding on to a debt which needs to be paid.
It will never be conducive to living in a Christ centred community.
So make a choice whether to confront it sensitively or set it down - don't carry it around.
2. Book in quality time
Although it's widely acknowledged that couples need quality time alone, so do friendships.
Everybody in the household probably needs an understanding of the friendship expectations and the quality time needed to maintain those relationships.
So make sure you are clear about your needs and expectations and make the appropriate amount of time to invest in each other.
3. Relish your singleness
If you are living with a couple or someone who is dating it can be easy to feel a sense of dissatisfaction with your single life. Weirdly you can end up feeling more lonely than when living on your own.
For this reason it's more important than ever to enjoy the benefits of being single.
Drinking beer in the bath whilst watching Netflix.
Dressing up without a care and going out for a date.
Getting a radical haircut or piercing without consulting anyone.
I mean... each to their own but you'll find your version of loving single life so drink it all in.
4. Be intentional with empathy and encouragement
One of the cool things about living together is that you're on hand when the life stuff happens. These are the moments when you can fully cry with someone but also bring hope and truth to them.
Christian communities reveal the Kingdom of God when friends can empathise with each other and also strengthen each other with encouragement.
I remember in the early days of being a single parent - crying into a pan of spaghetti bolognaise - and one of my friends simple said to me 'You've got this.' The power that comes from speaking truth with compassion and empathy can not be underestimated.
This isn't always as easy when you're living together -
How can you have empathy for someone who just left the milk out on the side all day? That's why we have to draw on God's goodness and allow his spirit to give us strength and compassion.
5. Generosity and boundaries
We all strive to be generous in our friendships but when you're living together and paying bills and buying food it can be hard to set the boundaries for who pays for what.
Don't be afraid to have tricky conversations where you set expectations and agree on things in advance.
It's much better to do this before an incident arrises and then you're reacting out of frustration or annoyance.
But also God may call you to step out of your boundaries, to shower generosity where it's not called for or asked for - just simply to be a blessing.
I've seen from my own experiences and those of other people that living with friends can be a great way to have community and company. Many of the things we might grieve about being single can be found in plutonic friendships where they are intimate and constant.
I pray that you find your tribe, whether you live with them or not, who will fill your life with empathy, love, takeaway dinners, glasses of wine, words of encouragement in the dark times and glasses of Prosecco in the good ones.