Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

Girlfriend Wants Her Own Room in Shared Apartment

DEAR HARRIETTE: My partner and I have decided to move in together. We have been dating for five years and think it is time we share an apartment. Last week, we started looking online at apartments in Philadelphia. As we were putting in the criteria -- such as location, number of bedrooms, etc. -- I was totally blindsided when my partner wanted to find a two-bedroom place.

I assumed that because we were moving in together, there would be no need to pay for an extra bedroom. My partner's response was that the extra bedroom would be for her. Basically, she wants to move in together, but have separate bedrooms. I was completely shocked at this, and it made me realize that she and I are on different pages when it comes to moving in together. Do you think it’s abnormal for a couple to move in together, yet have their own bedrooms? -- Should We Live Together?, Philadelphia

DEAR SHOULD WE LIVE TOGETHER?: There is no blueprint for how couples should live together. What is important is for the two of you to understand your desires and needs and to agree on the plan. Find out why your partner wants to have her own room. Does she want it as an office, a place to chill or specifically as her bedroom? Talk about what “living together” means to you, and ask her to explain to you what it means to her. Essentially, the two of you need to be clear about what this step means for your relationship.

One of the challenges that couples face when they decide to move in together comes when they aren’t clear about what this step says about their bond. Get clear before you sign that lease.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I have a younger brother of whom I have always been very protective. Recently, he asked me about getting a tattoo. I personally have two tattoos, so I’m guessing this was why he came to me. For some reason, I really do not want him to get a tattoo. I can’t figure out why, because I’m clearly not against having them. I told him whatever he decides to get, it should mean something and should not be distracting to other people.

He sent me some of his ideas, and I hated all of them. I have tried steering him away from getting a tattoo by saying I regret getting mine. Am I being unreasonable for trying to convince my brother not to get a tattoo? Do you have any other recommendations I could try to change his mind? -- Don't Get a Tattoo, Dallas

DEAR DON’T GET A TATTOO: It doesn’t work to be a hypocrite, as it is confusing for you and for your brother. It would be better for you to be honest with him and tell him that your gut says he shouldn’t get a tattoo yet -- even though you aren’t sure why. Your ambivalence is honest, and he will see that. Further, you do not have to like his tattoo choices, but you can ask him to explain why he likes particular designs. Having him articulate his views is smart. Remind him, too, that putting them in discreet places is helpful since he wouldn’t want tattoos to stand in his way as he builds his life and work.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)