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"Don't you Drive Each Other Crazy!?" 8 RV Relationship Survival Tips

"Don't you drive each other crazy?!" "How do you not kill each other?!" "How do you manage to still like each other in a space that small???"    We get these questions a lot, and I'm here to shed some light on what works for us! Shockingly, I can't point to a single I can only point to one big argument in almost two years of tiny living, involving a sway bar, stabilizer jacks, and a gouge in the side of our brand new rig. (I mean.... who's to say where the fault even belonged on this one? Ah, hem...)  The argument lasted about an hour, and I am so grateful it happened early in our tiny living journey, as it taught us a few lessons that turned out to be invaluable. Sure, I love Matt. But I can honestly say that I still actually like him! And even more than when we sold the sticks and bricks house and started this tiny adventure! I'm calling that a win.

If you've spent time in an RV, whether it was a brand-new multi-million dollar Class A with heated marble flooring or a pop-up trailer with a mesh bedroom wall and a mini-fridge outside, you know that space is at a premium.  While the idea of roaming the country together with your family in a very tiny space is a romantic notion, the reality is a mixed bag of patience-covered flexibility and grace. I'm certainly no expert and have no family counseling credentials, but after almost two years of very tiny living, I'd love to share what works for us to keep the peace and joy inside our tiny home on wheels.  

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1. Over-communicate. This suggestion sounds boring and obvious, but I promise you-- it's the linchpin. RV families will soon realize that communication isn't just about how everyone is feeling... it's also about things like backing your home safely into a narrow spot in the middle of the night while freezing rain is falling. My old habits of expecting a partner to read my mind simply would not work in this lifestyle. When I'm backing the rig into a spot, Matt clearly tells me, "Hard to the passenger side. Back 4 inches, 3, 2, 1, stop."  Communication that is any less clear would result in me bashing into an electric pedestal.   When I'm expecting a conference call and Matt is watching a TV show, I clearly tell him, "I need it to be quiet in this room in six minutes."   You may be thinking, "What's the big deal with that?"  I have never in my life been so direct with what I need, because so much of this lifestyle requires exact measurement. I need Matt to know exactly how many peppers are needed for my recipe.... because we don't have room for extras. He needs me to know that the tanks are exactly 90% full because if they aren't emptied.... our small space would soon be.... miserable. Having a partner you trust with your exact true self and to communicate exactly how you feel and what you need is crucial to any successful home. When your home is on wheels and all that entails... the value of this over-communication doubles. 

2. Go Take a Hike. You can yell this directive first if you so desire, but getting outside and stretching your legs has been a sure-fire way to make the space seem larger once we return to the RV. Solo or together, there's something entirely renewing about finding a vast space to give you perspective... walking beside the ocean, or on a trail up a mountainside, or the battered sidewalk down to the 7-11 for popcicles. The total square footage of your rig, even for a weekend stay, is simply not enough space sometimes. When you also calculate in the great outdoors...... much better.

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3. What's mine is yours, and what's yours is mine.  Except for this right here.... it's mine.  Even in the smallest of spaces, it's nice to carve out some territory that is your own. Technically speaking, our rig is 100% shared space. However... each of us has floorspace and one cabinet on our side of the bed that is singularly our own.  My side occasionally has a mountain of clean laundry that can't seem to find a home on the same day it leaves the dryer.... and Matt's side is as sterile as a hospital floor.  My cabinet sometimes always is the place single socks and unopened mail go to die, and that's okay.  The space is mine. Without this tiny cabinet of rebellion, I would likely resist the system that works for us in the rest of the rig, where everything has its place to keep us sane and organized. Find your own cabinet, drawer, bit of floor space for your very own. Let every member of your family have one tiny domain that is under their personal control; it's nice knowing that it's yours to create your own brand of organized chaos if you desire.

4. Get a life! Like.... your OWN life!  Matt and I lived in 130 square feet for a year and a half before our RV upgrade last month to about 300 square feet. That's a lot of up-close time in another person's hula-hoop of personal space. It's natural to fall into a rhythm of one joined life. After all... when one of you gets a phone call in a space this small, let's be honest-- you both get the dang phone call. You both watch the show, or listen to the podcast, or meet the new couple next door. Unless you intentionally get yourself a hobby.... this is bound to happen! Matt has an electric scooter and loves to scoot around our RV parks, around town, and out to get our weekly batch of lottery tickets and gummy worms. He has his own friends he meets to play pool or grab dinner when we're in our hometown. Likewise, I have a VIP group of girlfriends I've had for 20+ years that I see whenever we're stationary long enough to see them, and a love for sticking the dog in a backpack and taking long walks while Matt is working. If we didn't have these hobbies and friends apart from each other, I fear we'd morph into one really boring person. Creating art, working out, maintaining relationships... they're all part of what makes you YOU: don't lose them!

5. Give each other space. This might not be physical space, because obviously, the slide-out is only going to slide so far. If Matt needs some time to zone out with a TV show I find particularly obnoxious (hypothetically speaking, of course....), that's a perfect time for me to get some work done on my laptop with earbuds in. (I am currently writing this post with earbuds in place and the blue glow of network news glaring on my screen.) It's okay to have complete down time, even when you're parked somewhere that is completely over-stimulating and there are one thousand sights to see just outside your door. Powering down and enjoying some silence is occasionally necessary, and a great indicator to your family that you need some space.

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6. Share the Weight.  There are lots of chores to consider when RVing. Getting your rig ready for travel means that the inside needs to be spotless and secure, and the outside needs to be buttoned up as well. Whether you're towing or driving your rig, there's a checklist to make sure you and your home get to their destination safely. If one person is completing this entire checklist.... well, frankly... that stinks.  Matt and I have polished a routine of my chores/his chores, but we wanted to make sure from the very beginning that both of us were completely capable of completing any task that needs to be done. I do most of the hitching/unhitching and driving, while Matt does most of the setup/breakdown and navigating. How boring would it be though, if it needed to be this way every time we traveled? That amount of pressure on one person would seemingly take the fun right out of travel days. Certainly every rig and every family is different, but having everyone pull some weight in same direction builds a sense of teamwork and ownership in the adventure. When our rig is rolling out of a campsite on the way to the next, we still give each other a high-five every time almost two years later! 

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7. It's the Little Things in a Little Space!  RV living, for full-timers or for weekend warriors, is about how to make the most efficient use of your time and space in a compact environment.  It really, really helps when your family members are on the same team working toward this goal. I'm a night owl and Matt is an early bird: this means that I occasionally watch TV with wireless earbuds instead of our much more enjoyable Bose Soundbar while Matt sleeps, or that he'll go into the bathroom or step out the door to handle 5am work calls while I sleep.  I walk the dog late at night and Matt walks him first thing in the morning, so I always make sure to hang up his leash in the spot Matt likes to retrieve it, even though I think it's dumb and unnecessary.  I turn down the brightness to 10% while reading an e-book, and Matt washes the big pots and pans while I'm cooking so our kitchen counter can accomodate the finished product when I'm through with making dinner. These aren't big things; they all fall under the whole 'be a considerate partner' thing in any relationship. But.... I PROMISE.... these things do become the big things in a small space. In any other living environment, you get up and close the door when your partner is being too noisy or their activity is too bright. You just pile the dishes in the sink or throw the leash in the mud room. Good luck trying that in an R-Pod or Basecamp! 

8. Just Say Yes!  RV travel is for the open-minded! Want to stop at this scenic overlook? Yep! Want to ditch this highway for the backroad to see the country's largest ball of yarn? Yep! Want to choose this destination and then I'll take a turn next? Yep!   I've traveled extensively for the past 20 years all around the world. My absolute most priceless memories have been the direct result of saying YES to even the most random and seemingly "not-me" things. I feel so grateful to have found a partner who also values the joy in spontaneous experiences. When your family encounters a brand new scenario and navigates it together, there is a special bond in that shared experience. Memories are so much more valuable than 'stuff' you could accumulate; just say YES! This tip may be the difference between your relationship surviving a tiny space and thriving in a tiny space!

Spending the weekend or the next few months in your RV can be so incredibly rewarding if you plan for success to keep all the inhabitants happy campers! I'd love to hear what works for your family to keep the peace inside your tiny space! Feel free to sound off in the comments to help out your fellow travel families! Consider hitting the SUBSCRIBE button in the green box below so you never miss a post!

Happy Travels!

-Emily

 

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