Mooching in with the boyfriend
July 8, 2010 7:26 PM   Subscribe

How can I broach the topic of moving in with my boyfriend without feeling like a deadbeat mooch?

My boyfriend and I have been together a little over a year. Since the beginning we have spent almost every night together, and since about September 2009 always at his place, so I practically live there anyway. The arrangement wasn't planned, it just sort of worked out that way, and except for one brief instance*, all has been wonderful. I share my "real" apartment with a roommate (who, it turns out, I'm not particularly fond of), and our lease is up in about a month. It's crunch time.

Under normal circumstances, this would be the perfect time to move in together. The time is right, we're very happy, and all that jazz. The problem is that I'm unemployed and my savings are quickly dwindling. And time is running out. I've been dragging my feet to bring this up for a couple of reasons, the most prominent of which is that for the first time in my life I feel needy. I'm usually so capable and on top of my shit, and I've always been the one to take control of this kind of business-type situation. But this time I'm not holding any of the cards. The other reason is that my last relationship, of four years, fell apart surrounding the moving in together discussion. Though it fell apart because we had stopped liking each other and it was time for the relationship to be over, it all came to a head when we talking about moving in together, so I've kind of developed a complex.

I'm feeling especially anxious about this because there's such a huge imbalance in what both of us can bring to the table here. Not only is he the only one with a job right now, but it is a totally awesome, stable, high-paying job. His place is very expensive, such that even when I do eventually get a job, I still wouldn't be able to pay half the rent each month, though of course I would want to contribute (but can't currently, due to the joblessness). Moving into a more reasonably-priced place isn't an option, as he just re-signed his own lease, and even so, really loves where he lives. And I can't even do the typical pulling-my-weight things like cleaning and cooking, because he loves to cook (and is much better at it than I am, gratefully) and is very clean, so there are rarely any chores I can do. We (mostly) split groceries and meals when we go out, and I'm really not an extravagant person, so other than the huge apartment-paying inadequacy, things are pretty even. Other details: we're both in our early 20s (he's a little younger than me, we're the same age school-wise, though), live in a large city in the US, and both of us are very rational and fair when it comes to Life Issues, agreeing that everyone needs to be responsible for themselves. (So basically I feel like a huge dope.)

Obviously the first thing I need to do is TALK TO HIM ABOUT IT. I know this. He's currently out of town and it just hit me that it's the middle of July and I'm not going to have a place to live in a few short weeks and we absolutely must talk about this as soon as possible. PLEASE do not give me a bunch of answers that tell me to "just talk with him". That is not what I'm asking/that is not my problem.

My problem is that I feel hugely inadequate here, and I hate that I'm going to have to rely on him for this since without a job/income/money, I can't go sign a new lease somewhere. I would like advice on how to not feel like such a deadbeat, and how to frame this discussion with him in a way that makes me feel like less of a mooch.

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*About six months ago he had a minor freakout and wanted his own space back. Understandable, because we basically had stayed with each other every night since the day we got together. I moved what things I had at his place back to mine, we had dinner (and relations) together that night, and I stayed at my own place for a little while. Three days later he missed me, and I was back at his place every night. We have an absolutely wonderful relationship, and I just feel like I'm letting him down by being so useless right now. Ugh.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (25 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It sounds to me like you feel weird because you feel that moving in with him is possibly the only option. Maybe you should start scouting apartments while he's out of town. See what your real options are. Have some other options besides "I have to move in here because I have no choice!" and maybe present him with a series of options. It sounds like you guys are in a good place. If you are worried this sounds too committed maybe you can have a short-term deal where you'll move in with him for six months or until you get a job or something you're comfortable with because you don't want the move-in decision to be made as a result of happenstance as opposed to a conscious choice by both of you.

It also sounds like maybe you're worried he'll say no? And that that would change your relationship dramatically? In which case, well, that's a different issue and a different conversation you need to have. I think it's not that you're a deadbeat, but that you've developed a set of patterns that worked for you and didn't make you feel unequal until suddenly something happened and now your lack of job and cash is putting you in an awkward place.

So I guess my advice is to have another plan. And approach him when you talk to him with a set of plans. If all goes well, he's like "I insist you come live here" and if it doesn't... well, you'll be prepared and then you can deal with any relationship fallout from the security of your Plan B.
posted by jessamyn at 7:37 PM on July 8, 2010 [4 favorites]

I would start by telling your boyfriend what you just said here: that you feel inadequate, etc.

See where the conversation goes from there..
posted by dfriedman at 7:38 PM on July 8, 2010

I agree with the first 2 answers:

(1) Tell him you're thinking about where to move and give a list of options, with one being moving in together.

(2) Completely admit all your feelings about the possibility of moving in that you've expressed to us. Don't even bother trying to sugarcoat it. "I'm worried that ____ will happen and I'll feel _____ / you'll feel _____." He needs to hear how you're feeling about this; then, it's his job (as boyfriend) to respond to it well.
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:46 PM on July 8, 2010

Do you have any other options? If you weren't together, what would you do? If you were to break up after moving in together, what would you do? Moving in together sounds like a great option, and probably the best one, but it shouldn't be your only one. Have a back-up plan a) in case doesn't want to, b) for your own protection should things fall apart and c) to allow yourself to relax about the whole "I'm such a mooch I'm only doing this because I'm in a bad situation" thing.

Have you ever talked about this in a general sort of way before? Any hints from him about whether he'd be open to the idea? If you're uncomfortable with moving in together for the long-term right now, you can always frame it as you'll do this until you get a job and can afford a place of your own - and then stick to that. Continue looking for a job and another place to life. If you both decide mutually that things are working out and there's no reason for you to move to your own place, that's great, but don't make assumptions.

You're not a deadbeat mooch, though, no matter what happens. This is a terrible economy, and a lot of people who are perfectly responsible adults are finding themselves with very few options. The income disparity shouldn't be a concern as long as you talk things through thoroughly. You say he's neat and loves to cook, but when you talk to him about the possibility of moving in together, he might have some ideas of things you could do to balance it out.

You don't say whether you are unemployed freshly out of school or if you lost a job. If you had a job before, are you getting unemployment assistance? What about other forms of aid for low-income/jobless folks?
posted by SugarAndSass at 7:47 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

You're being far too hard on yourself. Just because you can't contribute 1/2 of the rent doesn't mean you don't bring anything to the table. You bring him love, joy, companionship, etc. etc. Similarly, you are not with him because he has a fancy apartment and big salary, correct? Keep in mind that, right now, he is paying 100% of his rent, so even if you can't pay anything, he's no worse off from that standpoint. Also, there are loads of ways you can contribute around the house - do the laundry, start a garden, do all the stupid errands he puts off... Plus, I'm sure he would be thrilled if someone else cooked for him once in a while, no matter how good a cook he is.

These are hard economic times. If you're really serious about this guy (and it sounds like you are), you should know whether he is willing to stick with you through the rough patches.

Really, it all boils down to this: imagine your roles are reversed. If he came to you with this, would you think of him as a deadbeat mooch?
posted by kookaburra at 7:47 PM on July 8, 2010 [9 favorites]

I would like advice on how to not feel like such a deadbeat, and how to frame this discussion with him in a way that makes me feel like less of a mooch.

I think it's good that you recognize that this is about how you feel and not necessarily how he feels about you. But in case you're not 100% clear on this, I'd be willing to bet you're being a lot harder on yourself than he is. And that's understandable - it's normal to have these feelings when you're unemployed, but it's also not based totally on reality. We're in the worst economy since the Depression - lots and lots of people are struggling.

I think this is the way to reframe it for yourself - you're not a deadbeat, you're a responsible person who's having a hard time. Also, this concerns me:

this time I'm not holding any of the cards.

This is absolutely not the case. I assume that if you are at the point of thinking about living together, you love each other. This means you both hold cards. I worry that your own sense of powerlessness is what actually makes you powerless, if that makes sense. You are an equal in this relationship, and your salary should not make you less so. If he does act like it does (and it doesn't sound like he does, but if he does), then it's not a healthy relationship.

I do have two questions for you to think about:

- Do you have an alternative if he doesn't want to move in together, or you break up? Can you stay with friends or family? I know none of those options are as good as living with your guy, but I think it's important to know exactly what your alternatives are, or else you're in a vulnerable position.

- Would you be talking about moving in with him right now if you weren't in this position? If not, why not?
posted by lunasol at 7:49 PM on July 8, 2010 [1 favorite]

Yes, have a plan B. Even if that's a few friends who will let you crash on a couch for a few nights while you continue the job search.

I know a lot of people will say, 'you need to take even the most humble job right this second, so you can afford your own place,' but I'm also job hunting. Jobs are not easy to get right now, I know. But keep looking.

It sounds like your plan B might be storage unit, couch surfing, and continued/ramped up job hunting.

As far as what to say to him. I probably wouldn't suggest you start the conversation with, 'this is really hard for me,' or any variation of that, because those words scream 'breakup doom!' So. Maybe say:

'boyfriend. My lease with roommate is almost up. I've been thinking over my options and I'd like to get your input. Option A is putting my things in storage for x amount of time while I search for an affordable place. Option B is moving in with friend x who has am extra room at the moment. Option C is moving in with friend y who will have a room open on sept 1. Option D is moving in with you under conditions a, b, and c.

I have some concerns about each of these options. Can we discuss those before I make a decision?
Do you see any other options that I might be missing? Is therevanything I'm not considering here that I should be?'

Boyfriend may or may not chime in that you should move in with him. But if he doesn't, you'll know and prioritize your other paths ahead of time, and he'll see that you're not being a desperate mooch.
posted by bilabial at 7:53 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

I dunno, to me I think it is a bad idea for both of you to have such a huge imbalance in your relationship when the relationship is still new and you are both so young. I think it would put a lot of pressure on you feeling like a freeloader/loser and him feeling obligated and parental to you.

Surely he is aware that you will soon be homeless, just as he is aware you don't have much money but he doesn't offer to pay for groceries or help you with your bills because your relationship isn't at that level yet.

Financial entanglement is an entirely different level of commitment and although it would solve your immediate problems I think it could negatively affect your currently happy relationship.

What would you do if you didn't have him and his amazing, expensive apartment?
posted by saucysault at 7:58 PM on July 8, 2010 [8 favorites]

but he doesn't offer to pay for groceries or help you with your bills because your relationship isn't at that level yet.

How do you know? I'd imagine he already is paying for a lot of her groceries if she stays at his apartment so often.

If I were in his position, I'd be happy to have you move in if it would make life easier for you. The "imbalance" isn't such a big deal if neither of you considers it a big deal, especially since the current situation will hopefully be temporary (i.e. you'll get a job).
posted by Jaltcoh at 8:10 PM on July 8, 2010

We (mostly) split groceries and meals

From her own words, fourth paragraph.
posted by saucysault at 8:14 PM on July 8, 2010

I've never earned as much money as my boyfriend. At one point his take home income was literally five times as much as mine (it's usually about double). We've also never combined our income, so I still have to hold up my side of things regardless. It's still possible to have an equal relationship without one of you being a mooch in such circumstances, as long as you have a compromise you're both happy with.

The way we did it when I was a lot poorer than him was I paid the amount I would pay if I was living with people I wasn't sleeping with. And he decided what kind of place he wanted to live in and paid the rest. So we rented a three bedroom place and I paid for one bedroom and he paid for two (this was in a cheap town where three bedroom houses were the norm for renting by the way, this wasn't as extravagant as it might sound). Same went for food, I paid a reasonable fixed amount each month and if he wanted steak he paid the extra (I paid half of everything else). We both paid to live in the circumstances we could afford and he wasn't dragged down to my cheap student level. On paper it was very uneven but it felt even, which is what mattered.

For your current situation you currently pay to live right? If you pay that rent at his house instead of yours then he's better off and you're not at all mooching, and if you even just pay some of that it's still less money he has to shell out. When you talk about it you need to be specific with numbers, both what you have now and what you might have in the future. It's kind of scary to be so honest and clinical but will be necessary if you're going to live together anyway.

Moving in together is a higher commitment. It makes you a team, pools resources, and means you're there to look out for each other's welfare. Once you make that commitment then unbalanced salaries and stuff aren't such an issue (even if you keep the money seperate) because you're a team now anyway. Living with a partner is easier than living alone, that's a large part of why we do it, so don't feel bad about that aspect of it. And if you can't make that commitment then you shouldn't move in together regardless of money, and then salary is still not an issue because you're looking after yourself anyway.
posted by shelleycat at 8:27 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Wait! Has he ever brought up the idea of you guys living together? Have you ever talked about it, even in a desultory "that would be cool someday" kind of way?

If not, I think you should be working hardcore on a Plan B. There's kind of no good way to ever invite yourself to live at someone's house, even if it already seems like you're living there. If you're at the point of wanting to live together, he knows about your life circumstances. He might offer. But until then, you should proceed as you would if you weren't together. You should not be bitter about this or hold it against him; there are lots of good reasons not to want to live with a partner. You could certainly talk about it, in a "what do you think" way - he might be clueless and it'd never occur to him on his own - but you should have other realistic options.
posted by peachfuzz at 8:31 PM on July 8, 2010 [13 favorites]

I agree with Peachfuzz; of your SO knows about your circumstances and hasn't offered to let you live at his place there is no graceful way to bring this up. Presumably if he was interested in living together he'd mention it and he might take it as some kind of ultimatum.
posted by fshgrl at 8:59 PM on July 8, 2010

Everyone else has had great advice for you. I just want to add a rule that my partner and I work by. "Everybody has to have an exit strategy." That means that you have to be there because you want to be, and you have to have some option not to be there if you don't want to be. Otherwise, things can get *quickly* exploitative, uncomfortable, passive-aggressive and weird. It's probably not just feelings of inadequacy that are causing you to feel bad about this. Moving in with him right now would also make you very vulnerable. What if you have a fight? Is it going to come up that he pays all or most of the rent? I'm sure he's a wonderful guy, but money trouble can make things very tense sometimes.

You're short of options right now in general, unfortunately, but I want to join with others in urging you to think of any other options you can.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:23 PM on July 8, 2010 [3 favorites]

Peachfuzz has it! Figure out what you'd do if you didn't have a boyfriend. Find a way to be okay with those plans. Talk to bf, but don't be overly invested in moving in with him. He may not want to live officially with you. If that's the case, be happy you have plan B.

Also, signing a lease isn't your only option. Look for a month-to-month or short-term situation with someone who needs a roommate.
posted by studioaudience at 9:55 PM on July 8, 2010

"Here's the deal: we practically live together already, and I like it that way. With my savings dwindling, it makes sense for me to drop my lease and move in with you -- but, let's face it, then I'm sponging off you unless I pay rent. So the way I see it, I could move in officially and keep mooching off you, or I could refuse to move in so that I wasn't mooching off you, or I could pay you less rent than I was paying so I'll save money but still contribute, and trust that if it becomes an issue for you, you'll be straight up and tell me -- which means you have to trust me to hear you and not be defensive, if and when you feel that way. What do you think?"

In short, talk to your BF about this.
posted by davejay at 11:01 PM on July 8, 2010

I think it's a bad idea, given the way you're feeling.
posted by tejolote at 12:00 AM on July 9, 2010

I also think it's a bad idea.

it's going to add a subtext to the relationship that's not there. You say "Under normal circumstances, this would be the perfect time to move in together."

And I'd gently say, under normal circumstances, this would be the perfect time TO TALK ABOUT moving in together.

But I think you can try to talk about it. But have a real, actual plan B before you do.

I don't agree that just because he knows of your situation and hasn't suggested you move in, that he's not interested in it. He may also feel like it would be weird and doesn't want to make you feel uncomfortable, he may think "well she'd ask if she wanted to stay here, we've been together for a year now, so she must not" or he might be experiencing the contextual cluelessness that even the best, best men occasionally experience where he has not put two and two together, despite obvious, clear facts hanging in front of his face.
posted by micawber at 8:35 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

You need to have a plan B and maintain a plan B while cohabitating with someone who is your boyfriend or fiance. Don't ever drop the plan B until you are married or elsewise legally bound. Ask me how I know.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:04 AM on July 9, 2010 [4 favorites]

I wonder if people are misinterpreting the OP's line "I can't sign a lease right now", as she doesn't want to. Most places are going to want to make sure you can actually pay your rent before leasing to you, through a credit check or last 3 month's pay stubs or job offer letter. Being as she has no job and not much savings left, she may actually not be able to sign a lease, at least not without a co-signer.

This makes her situation a bit more difficult, and the suggestions to "keep looking for a job" are nice in sentiment, but clearly spoken by people who didn't graduate/need entry-level jobs in the last 2 years. She's obviously looking, but there aren't a whole lot of jobs to be found. Un/under employment for early 20s is close to 20%, and it's not for a lack of trying.

My advice to the OP: You are not irresponsible. You are in an extraordinary situation, and the wonderful thing about being middle class and American is you have a cushion. There's a bottom, and you will never fall too far. That floor is the other people in your life. This is sometimes what it means to have other people that care about you, they'll help you out. Hopefully these people, whether your BF, other friends or family, will be gracious, and you will be humble and grateful. Hopefully one day you'll repay the favor. Recessions will end, jobs will materialize, and when people act with compassion no regrets will be had.

Make sure your BF or whomever you move in with/ask for support is doing this as a compassionate situation, not something you've obligated them into. Pay some part of your way, like your current rent, and you'll feel much better about it.

I think trading rent for chores is a destructive situation, especially as a woman in a relationship. Talk about holding no cards now, then you'll be holding no cards and aping the role of mother. Few things are more toxic to a sex life. Nope. Every adult is going to need to scrub their own toilet, wether they're living alone or with a partner, male or female. Hopefully you can both agree just how often that toilet needs to be cleaned, and equally contribute. If you choose to take on more domestic work, (It's so much easier to do laundry if you're at home all day, for example) do it as a favor not for "money". You love each other, you're not monetarily obligated to each other.
posted by fontophilic at 9:36 AM on July 9, 2010 [6 favorites]

Yes, exactly what fontophilic said.
posted by Jaltcoh at 9:45 AM on July 9, 2010

This is a tough situation. I don't think it's a good idea for people to move in together when one person is having financial difficulties and moving in would be a huge benefit to them because of money. Right away, it's starts thing off with the wrong dynamic. When you move in, it should be about the relationship and seeing what life is like living under the same roof as a couple. I also truly think that when a couple moves in together it's always best to move in to a completely new place for both people. And while this isn't always possible do to finances and leases, it works the best because it creates a position where both people are signed to a lease and both people have to at least try to make things work with the relationship or come up with a way to end things fairly. When someone moves in to someone else's place, once the relationship goes bad the person who technically owns the place can kick the other person out. Also, no matter how you phrase this to your boyfriend, you're gonna look needy and seem like a mooch. The topic of moving in is such a big one. Second only to the topic of marriage. And while it's not the same thing as marriage, for a lot of men moving in is a HUGE decision. If he feels backed into a corner he'll run.

I would strongly advise that you seriously consider looking for another apartment of your own. Maybe find someone else who is looking for a roommate, this way the rent won't be too bad. What if you didn't have your boyfriend? What would you do then? Do you have any family close by? Right now your main focus should be finding a job and a place to live besides your boyfriend's.

All that being said, if you really want to...I think it's ok to politely talk to your boyfriend about moving in together. It's risky, but if you do it in the right way it's less risky. If you have other options before talking, and make sure he's aware of your other options so he doesn't feel'll be in a better position. You might approach this by saying, "Hey, I was wondering if we could talk about the idea of what it would be like to move in together. I just wanted to see how you feel about that". Asking him how he feels about it rather then asking him if he wants to move in together is less demanding. It also gives you a back door out of the situation if he starts to pull away or get mad. Then you can say "It was just a thought that was going through my mind. I didn't mean I want to move in with you right now". Tread lightly.

Hope this is helpful. This is only my opinion, and for all I know you could talk to your boyfriend about moving in and he might be totally cool with it. But it just seems this is the wrong time to move in together because of your financial position. I would seem like that's the best time, but it could really add a lot of stress to your relationship. Moving in will totally change the relationship no matter what. Even if you're spending every day at his place already, a permanent move still changes everything. So think this through. Hopefully you find a job soon! It's tough out there.
posted by ljs30 at 9:54 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you don't normally spend much time at your own apartment, then you should just find a roommate situation. That saves money and eliminates the credit-check issue.
posted by conrad53 at 10:26 AM on July 9, 2010

I would speak to him as openly and honestly as you possibly can. "BF, I love spending time with you, and I love spending time with you HERE. My lease is up, my savings are dwindling, and I don't know if I can even find someone else who will rent to me without a job, which I am desperately hunting for but so far cannot find. I feel insecure and frightened; I feel powerless and scared and like I hold zero cards here. I don't know how much longer, if indeed at all, I can feasibly maintain my own place, but I don't want to monetize our relationship or be a burden on you. Ideally for my own purposes I'd like to just move in, but I don't know how practical that is from your point of view. Can you help me find a solution?"
posted by KathrynT at 10:30 AM on July 9, 2010 [1 favorite]

I see another side to this.

You say you've spent almost every night since September 2009 at his place, and that when he freaked out and sent you "packing" he quickly realized he missed you and wanted you back. At his place. Not fifty-fifty, not even eighty-twenty, but almost exclusively at his place.

As I see it, he's having his cake and eating it too, at the moment. You're his live in girlfriend, except when you aren't. You're around him, you sleep with him, you hang out with him, you spend your time with him. At his place. And then when he's not at his place, ie during the day, you get to go back to your place. Lather, rinse, repeat.

He wanted his space, realized he'd much rather have you around instead, but you're left with subsidizing a place of your own in which you don't sleep. Your bedroom? Not actually your bedroom any more. And you're paying for it despite the fact that it's glorified storage space at this point.

Now, I am absolutely not saying that this magically makes you entitled to just move in with him. It doesn't. But, it should get you to realize that it's not such an outlandish proposition. You practically live there anyway. You really do. It's real convenient for him right now that you only live there when he's around and that you float home when he's not, but that is absolutely not the definition of either of you having your own spaces. A balanced relationship, in this regard, would be to spend an almost equal amount of time at each of your apartments or to actually move in together.

You're not a moocher. You'd contribute if you were employed. You're actively seeking employment. I'm assuming your boyfriend likes and respects you and you feel similarly towards him. Have you at all mentioned to him whether you'd like to move in with him, independent of your financial situation? Sure, it would be convenient right now to do so, but would you want to move in with him even if you made as much money as he does?

Just because doing something would make your life easier doesn't mean it's automatically something done for the wrong reason. Starting next month, my boyfriend isn't going to have to pay rent. He's moving in with me, I own my house. Done. He's picking up some of the bills, but he's certainly not doing more than his share of chores and absolutely does not owe me anything. I love him, he loves me, we want to live together. The financial stuff doesn't matter, if you guys would be happy living together independently of finances. That is the question you need to answer for yourself and the question you need to ask him. Do you want to live together? Yes? Then that's what you should discuss.
posted by lydhre at 2:11 PM on July 9, 2010 [3 favorites]

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