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Things have changed. Suddenly, or at least it seems sudden, I’m not looking for a flat to rent. We are looking for a house to buy. Together. It’s still made more complicated by disability and my lack of work, but it’s within sight. It feels sudden because for 5 years of our relationship housing was something we dealt with separately. For 5 years I tried to find somewhere appropriate to live, with the assumption I’d be there on my own. C moved between rented rooms, his own flat, here, and his family. Then the pandemic happened and he was here with me, sacrificing months of rent money to make sure I wouldn’t be on my own during lockdowns. For almost two years we were bubbled, making a go of being a “household” and learning just how much we could get on each others’ nerves but also just how well we worked as a cohabiting couple. It was that, the pandemic. Those two fraught, surreal years that now comprise a quarter of our relationship and felt like a matter of weeks and an eternity all at once.

Then more things happened, rather quickly: I inherited some money when my beloved grandmother died, which pushed me out of qualifying for housing benefit and made the prospect of getting a rented flat a lot more difficult; C got a better-paid job; my mum sold her old house and pledged the profits to me for housing. Suddenly the two years of cloudy pandemic uncertainty cleared, and we realised we’d jumped over that “together but separate homes” stage, realised we’d already been doing that for 7 years. In that time many couples have long since moved in together, and I have had many moments of upset and frustration in that time about my access needs and the horribly punitive benefits system stopping us doing it sooner. But those things fell into place, almost without us realising what picture they were creating, and soon without really having any formal conversation about it we were discussing “our home” as a real thing that was actually going to happen. Is happening.

I don’t know what kept me from truly believing it, but I didn’t think this would happen to me even over the last several years of this relationship. Somewhere in my mind I felt a certainty that I would be in a state of permanent failure-to-launch, that the brain-and-body maladies would keep me stuck living in this flat full of 20 year old ghosts, or worse – sent to live in another depressing poky bedsit in a rundown block attended by disinterested and patronising support workers. That’s where my mind kept going in the years I was looking for housing, that I would be stuck there again in a situation worse than remaining here (where I can still see scenes of violence and fear play out like holograms in every room). In all honesty, I just didn’t think about the future because I didn’t know if I was going to have one. I definitely didn’t think it would involve someone else, and there are a lot of feelings to sort through still – some “normal”, and some from the darkest recesses of my brain. It’s funny how even positive things can stir up harmful emotions when you’ve accustomed yourself to feeling undeserving. I’ve spent much of the last 6 months telling myself that I am worthy of this, that I’m not unconsciously pressuring (or hypnotising, or bewitching) C into wanting to live with me, and that he’s a grown up who can make his own decisions however illogical I find them. He wants to live with me. He wants to own a house with me. We want our life together.