So, this is something I’ve struggled with for about a year and I’m sure some of you may experience similar if your SO is in university or can’t afford to live alone and has a housemate of the gender you are.
A little note: Vic (his housemate) identified as female when they met and moved in, but has preferred to use they/them pronouns for a few months. To make things clearer in this article, when referring to Vic alone, “they”/“them” will be in red and the plural version, talking about Vic and Z together, will stay in black. Vic has not expressed whether they consider themselves female or agender, so both will be used together.
Z and Vic met at university in late 2015, as they were in a couple of the same classes. They both lived in halls of residence during the first year, which is sharing an “apartment” with 6 – 8 others, but they weren’t in the same building. Around January 2016, everyone had to start looking for other accommodation and housemates to split the bills with, but Z hadn’t really made any friends, except for knowing Vic a little. We talked about it and he didn’t know what he was going to do, so I encouraged him to ask them if they would like to be housemates. Apparently, they had spoken to their mum about asking him, so it worked out well and I think they put a deposit on a house within a month or two.
I love hearing about Z’s day, but listening to him talk about looking around houses with another female/agender person was really difficult. I was happy for them both, but it was bittersweet because we wished we could visit places that could potentially be our first home, yet this was something he got to do with Vic instead. I knew he wanted it to be us, but he didn’t say much about feeling that way because he had a lot of other things to focus on, so I felt like I was being over-sensitive to it.
Main Situation and Helpful Realisation:
They moved in, they got along well and he visited me for a couple of days every 3 – 4 weeks. I knew I was jealous, but I also knew nothing would ever happen between them because I trust Z completely, so I couldn’t figure out why it bothered me as much as it did. I tried to explain it to Z, but he didn’t understand because I couldn’t tell him why it was so hard for me to get used to. He seemed to get stressed, as though I was expecting him to distance himself from Vic and never spend time with them, but I tried to make it clear that I had no problem with them hanging out and I didn’t have anything against Vic.
As a couple, we communicate a fair amount about any issues we have, both relevant and irrelevant to our relationship. However, quite a few misunderstandings were caused because I was unable to articulate what made me so uncomfortable with it.
Z and Vic needed to move to a cheaper place for their final year at university (Sept 2017 – 2018), so Z found another house and they will have two other housemates. I realised that this didn’t bother me in the same way as his current living situation, so it made me think about the specifics:
Would I feel this way if he’d been living with a guy?
Will I feel this way when they have other housemates?
No – which confirms that it’s nothing personal about Vic.
When I realised the above, it became clear that it was because the gender dynamic in their house is the same as in our relationship. Z living with anyone other than me was definitely going to be emotional, but I had no problem with the idea of him living with two female/agender people or Vic and another guy. The issue was that he was living 1-to-1 with a female/agender person and we had often talked about how we wished the only person (particularly “female”) he needed to live with was me, so I could identify with that dynamic more than I could if he was living alone with a guy or with more than one person.
Coming To Terms:
Understanding the reason behind my discomfort was key in learning how to accept it. It bothered me so much that I couldn’t come to terms with it until I could discuss it properly with Z and have his reassurance, but that wasn’t possible unless I was able to help him see my side, which could only happen if I had an explanation for why I was so uncomfortable.
I know it seems like a complicated way of saying I just wasn’t comfortable with him living with a “girl”, but it’s actually the fact that he was living alone with someone whose gender, on paper, would fit me too. For example, “a young man and woman live in this house” would be the same with us, whereas “a young man and two women” or “two young men and two women” wouldn’t be something I could relate to.
Lesson I’ve Learned:
If something is niggling at you and you’re not sure why, take the time to think about similar scenarios with different details. Think about it like an allergy test; the same situation, but you change one “ingredient” at a time until you whittle it down and figure out what specific part is making you unhappy or jealous.
Sometimes, we really need to vent to our SO, but it can be a struggle for both of you if you’re not sure why you feel the way you do. Don’t bottle your emotions up, but do try to understand them first yourself, so that you can then work through them together more effectively.