Lockdown Love: 'Why I Put My Boyfriend On 'Probation' Before Moving in With Him Permanently'
Words by Shawna Healey, 22, from Bridgend
I met my boyfriend on Tinder just a few weeks after my 16th birthday.
While many are skeptical about childhood sweethearts, George and I are about to celebrate our sixth anniversary in April and are going stronger than ever.
The secret to our success? Trying before you buy.
You see, before I committed to moving in with him permanently, I put my boyfriend on probation.
Back in the early days of teenage romance, we were forced to go long-distance when George left our ex-mining town in Bridgend, South Wales for university in Staffordshire to study engineering. Two years later, I left for Manchester to study geography.
It was hard, but we made an effort to see each other most weekends and threw ourselves into student life - when he came to visit we'd go clubbing together, go bowling with mutual friends and go out for food when we could afford it.
Then, at the end of 2019, George took up a job as an electronic engineer technician in Wakefield, West Yorkshire. It was even further to travel, but we agreed to continue our long-distance relationship until my student tenancy run out in July, before deciding on next steps.
In the meantime, I planned to save as much money as possible with my part-time job at the local crazy golf course.
By the third week of March in 2020, my university had transitioned to online learning due to rising coronavirus cases in the city.
I was about to board a train to visit George from Manchester Victoria station when I received a call. Due to tighter budgets, I was no longer employed at the company.
Anxiety washed over me. Like most students, after paying rent and buying clothes, I was burning through my student loan, and relied on the extra few quid a month to pay for the nice things, such as Spotify premium and Amazon Prime, that I'd become used too.
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With this news ringing in my ears I got on the train, unsure when - or if - I'd be coming back.
It's fair to say I was nervous. We'd never spent more than a week together before lockdown hit - in fact, we'd spent more time apart than in each other's company - and I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at his tiny two-bedroom flat.
George reassured me that he would help with money, but I cringed at the idea of not being financially independent. I hated the idea of having to explain my spending, which was usually on clothes and takeaways.
We both come from divorced and dysfunctional families, and were a little commitment-shy. Plus, like most students who've lived in house shares, we both experienced messy and unclean houses, and worried we'd end up in a similar situation. Who would do the bins? The dishes? Cleaning the bathroom and hoovering the floors?
And so I decided to treat my extended stay with George as a practice run.
I would stay there to finish my final-year dissertation, before deciding whether to fully move in with him or return to Manchester.
It was the perfect opportunity to experience what it was like living together without making a life-changing commitment.
Thankfully, my worries were unfounded. Between us, we quickly figured out what chores we prefer to do - he cooks, I wash the dishes. He mops, I hoover. He takes the bins out, I do the bathroom. And if one of us pays for takeaway, then the other goes and collects it.
It was far from perfect; the grim news of rising covid cases meant I constantly worried about family members contracting the virus, and I felt anxious being so far away from home. Luckily, it turned out living with George was the calm and stability I didn't realise I needed.
Things I'd previously dreaded - sleeping together every night, having someone to go to the shops with, and doing the most mundane things like washing the dishes or cleaning the kitchen - became part of my new normal so quickly I couldn't remember life without them.
Sure, my abundance of clothes that circulates around the flat and often left on the floor baffles George, and his superhuman ability to put things not in the bin annoys me immensely.
And yes, it's difficult when I'm working from home and my boyfriend spends 40 hours a week in the office, I think I should be doing more.
But 11 months later, I can't imagine living apart. I've found a part-time job at a local pub while I complete my studies. We've bought an aquarium and adopted some fish. And, I'm pleased to say, George has passed his probation.
Featured Image Credit: Shawna Healey
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