She has cats. I have allergies. Can/should we live together?
July 15, 2013 6:38 AM   Subscribe

So perhaps I'm burying the lede, because I have other concerns than the cats, but we've been dating a little over 2 years and she'd like to move in. I have significant reservations about sharing my space generally but her two cats are the most conspicuous aspect I object to, due to allergies and general not-wanting-pets.

Basic background on us, above and beyond what was above: She moved to this city three years ago, at which time I'd been here for three years already, and was well settled into a house, job, and social circle. My house is definitely big enough for two to inhabit comfortably (I bought it from a family of 6, who were cramped but not absurdly so). She is four years my junior. She comes over to my house as often as she likes (she has a key) and frequently spends weekends here. This is the first serious, long-term relationship for both of us.

She increasingly feels a sense of tenuousness in her life, as her situation is a lot less settled than mine. She rents and her landlord/housemate has made selling-and-moving noises. Her job is significantly less lucrative than mine, to the extent that home-ownership or even living alone are long shots. She doesn't have much of a social circle outside of me, which I wish she did, because I think maybe she occasionally needs someone to talk to _about_ me.

I feel very badly about her situation particularly as regards her living situation. I'm doing comfortably well --- well enough that I feel I should be helpful to her --- and have severe reservations about doing the one major thing she's asked me to do, namely, let her move in. The most overt objection I have is to her two young cats: I have allergies, which are unpleasant but not life-threatening, and less concretely but no less worrisome to me is that I'm not really excited about having the long-term care of pets generally: I like unscratched furniture and untangled balls of yarn and floors without spilled kitty litter and not having direct responsibility for the welfare of living things that depend on me to take care of them. Basically, I am kind of not really looking to take this on.

There are less coherent concerns as well: I like my privacy, and I'm half-concerned that being in each other's space all the time would drive us nuts, that I might have to civilize to a greater degree than I really want to what-with moderating my choices of music and movies and suchlike to her tastes. Basically, I feel like her moving in might upset our relationship in ways which I at least (and possibly she) might find stifling.

But I feel like these reservations make me "the bad guy". I have good things in my power, and I care about her deeply and we have sufficiently committed to each other that I should be providing what help I can (and I often do, in matters of less far-reaching import), and I feel a scoundrel for being willfully unuseful here.

I've talked to her about these things, in pretty much the terms I used above, because I'm trying to be as honest as possible both with her and myself, so we both kind of see the other's perspective, but this particular conflict of desires isn't something either of us has found easily reconcilable and talking about it just makes us both unhappy. What should/can we do? This doesn't seem to be a matter on which there are clear compromise possibilities.
posted by jackbishop to Human Relations (44 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you two had a serious discussion about your hopes for your relationship future? Is she hoping/expecting cohabitation will lead to marriage, children, joint home ownership, etc? Are you? It seems to me that moving in together could be (should be?) the beginning of greater levels of romantic commitment. If you're not both ready for that, you should not move in together just because it would be convenient in practical ways. You two need to address that issue; I imagine after you do, the cat thing will fall into place.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:44 AM on July 15, 2013 [12 favorites]

This is the type of question that tends to elicit multiple replies and I would be surprised if more than 10% of them endorse a decision to have her move in. This may be a question where it is a good idea to listen to the majority and trust yourself.
posted by rmhsinc at 6:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

"This doesn't seem to be a matter on which there are clear compromise possibilities.

If that sort of sums up your (and her's) position on this, I would suspect that her moving in with the cats is a no-go.

Further, given your statements about the impact of living with someone (even without the cats) on your lifestyle and need for privacy, you might want to hold off on this next step until you don't see that as an issue.

Also, your statement "I have good things in my power..." is edging a bit into a super-hero/rescuer mode....that's not always a good foundation for a relationship..

And, let me add, you're not the "bad guy" in this situation. You're being honest. Continue that course and the two of you will determine what moving forward with this relationship looks like.
posted by HuronBob at 6:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I don't think this question is really about living with cats, but I'll leave that aspect of it to MeFites more qualified than I.

My dad sounds a little like you with respect to pets: he isn't a great animal lover but puts up with the cats for the sake of the rest of us. He even cleans out the litter (sometimes) and feeds them (occasionally)! A few things that help this to work:
  • There are a couple of rooms in the house that are cat-free -- in particular, the master bedroom and the living room. These are Certified Allergy-Free Zones™.
  • He takes a daily Benadryl, which helps with hayfever and cats.
  • Routine pet issues are my mum's problem -- although there are exceptions, the routine cleaning/feeding/petting/vet bookings usually fall to her.
You may find that the cats grow on you, though! There's a lot to be said for curling up on the sofa with a cat and a book.
posted by katrielalex at 6:46 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

If the cats are a deal breaker, continue to be firm. If you have no intention of asking her to ameliorate some of the issue on her site (grooming of the cats, defined areas of cats and no cats) and on your side (allergy pills, shots?) and together (cleaning service, better HVAC filters) don't even get to that point of moving in.

If she's going to need to choose between you and the cats, its likely, in my experience, to get it out, seriously, now. If she needs help rehoming them, help her. But either they are in or not, or there is a defined trial period for them (both your tolerance physically and you guys keeping it up in general).

As for everything else, resist the urge to "rescue" someone (or their pets/kids) as a general rule of thumb.

If you guys don't have a sit down and "are we going somewhere and is it the same direction" chat before she and the cats move in, then it might not be a good idea to just impulsively throw in together.
posted by tilde at 6:47 AM on July 15, 2013

Here's the deal, it's been three years, do you want to move your relationship forward, or not?

The rest of your objections are noise.

Now, you and your girlfriend may have a non-traditional relationship, in that you'll always live in separate dwellings. If that's the case, then let your girlfriend know it. She may not want that kind of relationship and if you're not being honest with her, then it's not fair.

If you're unsure if you want to move to another level with her, let her know that too. Let her decide if she wants to keep seeing you under the existing circumstances.

Your girlfriend is offering logical reasons for progressing your relationship. Either you see her as your future partner, or you don't. If you don't, again, articulate this so she can make an informed decision.

Basically, if you aren't 100% on board with her moving in, and if you aren't willing to take an anti-histamine for her kitties, and if you aren't keen on having her around, then DON'T do it!

But buddy, this is where the rubber meets the road. Either she moves in and you become more serious about her, or you run the risk of a break up.

I'd be advising HER to move on, because you're not ready to commit and if it's been three years, you never will be.

My .2
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [46 favorites]

There are lots of different kinds of relationships, but if yours is the kind where one or both of you envision eventually moving in together and/or getting married, I think 2 years is sufficiently long to make this an up-or-out moment (in that it's unlikely anything will change after, say, another 6 months).

As for the cats, pets are important to pet-owners, I don't think they're going to go away, although she will surely be willing to consider future pets which minimize the impact on your allergies.
posted by deadweightloss at 6:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

10mg OTC loratadine + Singulair. YMMV.

That said, you should be cohabitating as equals with shared end goals (like, to be in a serious, very long-term relationship, maybe with kids, or marriage), not because it would be a nice thing to do. It doesn't sound like you want to live with her. So don't live with her.
posted by phunniemee at 6:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

No, you shouldn't live with her. Reason: you do not want to live with her. You would not be doing her a kindness to live with her when you do not want to live with her. Possibly your job here is to find kind ways to make that clear to her, which may include breaking it off so she can find somebody else. This reads like a great friendship, but a poor romantic relationship. You are kind to want to be of assistance, but the ideal here would be more 'I wish for both of us to continue enhancing each other's lives,' not... There's an imbalance here which is distressing.
posted by kmennie at 6:53 AM on July 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

Basically, I feel like her moving in might upset our relationship in ways which I at least (and possibly she) might find stifling.

Then it's not the right time for you two to move in together. Moving in isn't always the easiest thing, but it shouldn't start out with so much trepidation.
posted by xingcat at 6:54 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

She wants to move in with you.
She has financial insecurity, and no social circle.
She knows your concerns, but still wants to move in with you.
You're feeling like a "bad guy"

Sounds to me like low-grade guilt tripping on her part. Forget the cats, think carefully about the healthy future of your relationship - letting her move in is the last thing you want to do at this stage.
posted by Kruger5 at 6:58 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

I think you really need to forget the cat issue - it sounds like you're focusing on the cats to avoid the real issue, which is, you don't want to live with her. Don't do that - it makes it a technical problem to be solved, rather than an emotional problem that may be unsolvable.
posted by corb at 7:04 AM on July 15, 2013

Imagine a world in which your girlfriend inherited a million dollars from a long lost uncle, and then both of her cats suddenly died in a very peaceful, non-traumatic way, and she decided not to get new ones. And imagine that she also made a bunch of cool new friends she really likes. In other words, imagine that all of the things that seem to be going badly in her life started going well, and that the major physical objection you have went away.

Now, in that world, do you want your girlfriend to live with you in your house? Would that make you happy?

Everything else here--the cats, the money, the outside socializing, whatever--are red herrings. There are lots of ways to solve these problems, and moving in together is not the only, or even necessarily an effective, way of solving them. At the end of the day, your girlfriend wants to move in with you, and I hope she wants that for reasons above and beyond being poor and lonely. I suspect that she wants to live with you because she wants to be closer to you and to share more of her life and her time with you than she does now and to do all of the little domestic things that cohabitating couples do together.

I suspect that she wants to move from being your girlfriend to being your life partner. Do you want that with her right now? That is the only question that matters.
posted by decathecting at 7:06 AM on July 15, 2013 [21 favorites]

Man I always wanted to come here and say DTMFA, and now I can! Dump her. Sorry to be so blunt, but it's pretty obvious from the way this is written that you're not very into her. You don't say one single NICE thing about a girl who probably believes you are in love with her. You don't mention loving her or even liking her, or respecting her. Having a job and friends and owning a house are good things, but just because she doesn't have those things doesn't make her a charity case or something. Bad times happen, transitions are hard, and having a judgmental boyfriend probably sucks on top of all that.

If after two years the thought of living with her sounds unappealing, then she deserves to know that. At that point she gets to decide if she wants to continue the relationship.

On re-read of the question, at most you say you CARE about her. It's pretty clear it's time to end the whole dang thing. She can find someone who wants to live with her and start a life, even if it means they aren't social and financial equals. You can find a woman who is okay with separate or pet-less dwellings, or who is as financially and professionally stable as you are.

For the record, I think owning a house and having friends are also good things, and I also really really need my alone time. My fiance and I moved in together because we REALLY REALLY like being together, and miss each other when we're not there. Moving in should be the obvious solution, not one that requires you to ask a crowd of strangers for their opinions. You both deserve better.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:13 AM on July 15, 2013 [13 favorites]

Unless you're really really young- like under 25- two years should be plenty of time to figure out whether you want this relationship to progress to cohabitation. You clearly don't want to live with her so you should cut her free, the sooner the better.
posted by mareli at 7:21 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I want to say this in the most non-argumentative way.... If it was obvious you were in love with her, you wouldn't be asking the question. It would be, "How do I learn to love cats as much as my girlfriend does?" or even, "What are your best tips for first-time cohabitants?" Move in with the girl who makes you want to ask THOSE questions.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 7:27 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

Cat problems aside, it sounds to me like you don't view her as your equal. You think you're more "together" than she is, and more capable of dealing with finances/life challenges. Whether or not that's true, it's going to be far more of a problem than your allergies. I would suggest addressing your lack of respect for her situation before you worry about cats.

(Note: I'm not saying your lack of respect is unwarranted; I'm just saying it comes through pretty clearly. You seem to view yourself as a potential rescuer more than a partner, and that's not going to be good for your relationship long term.)
posted by kythuen at 7:32 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

I like my privacy, and I'm half-concerned that being in each other's space all the time would drive us nuts, that I might have to civilize to a greater degree than I really want to what-with moderating my choices of music and movies and suchlike to her tastes. Basically, I feel like her moving in might upset our relationship in ways which I at least (and possibly she) might find stifling.

This is just how cohabitation is. Doesn't matter with whom. You have to figure out how to negotiate alone time and you'll occasionally need to refrain from things you'd do if you were alone, like blasting Kesha or drinking straight from the milk carton. Most of us adjust. I'm like you in terms of needing privacy and space, and the transition to living together wasn't bad at all. You do have to communicate ("hey I need this room to myself for the evening") and it helps if your place is large enough for two people to hang out in separate rooms, but it's very doable. There's always the risk of it not working out, but don't assume that you're just not a good candidate for cohabitation. Do you see yourself living with any partner, ever? Or just not her, not now?

As for the cats: allergies can sometimes be lessened by gradual exposure. Not liking the cats, however, is harder to overcome. Pets are usually a little more annoying than you may think (even if you adore them). If you already don't like the cats, and if you don't like the normal things cats do, then you'll grow to resent them. And you'll start to resent her, by extension.

Anyway. If you're not ready, you're not ready, and you don't need to look for reasons. It might make you feel selfish, since you've already got a nice place that can accommodate her and she might need somewhere to live, but if you'd only be doing this as a favor to her and not out of a desire to live together, don't go ahead with it.

This could be a dealbreaker for her, or at least the beginning of the end. I hope it isn't. However, there isn't an easy solution here, and I think either choice has the potential for unhappiness. But it'd be better to break up without moving in together than to move in together, start fighting, and then break up and go through the whole moving out thing.
posted by Metroid Baby at 7:32 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

When you move in with someone it should be because you feel you are benefiting equally from the relationship moving ahead in this way. It should be exciting, a new step for both people.

It should not feel like one partner is offering it just to be helping the other partner with their housing and financial problems. That puts you into a paternal position to her that might skew your whole relationship towards a sense of obligation and grim charity. Perhaps if you were more equal overall when you moved in together, you'd be more reassured about reaching equally satisfying decisions about space, pets, etc. You;d feel like you were building something together, not rescuing her and her pets.
posted by third rail at 7:37 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

The cats will provide discomfort if you are allergic, I wouldn't put a bowlful of dust next to my bed when I go to bed at night when I sleep so why would you introduce cats into your home if you are allergic? Now that I have said that (and many will probably curse me for not liking cats,) the issue is more about how you will share your space with another human being.

Maybe you are not ready for living with your girlfriend. If you are feeling bad for her living conditions and you are financially comfortable, would it be feasible to offer to pay some of her rent? If you love one another and would like an "ever after" eventually, don't think living together now will untangle things for a better later.

Have her move in because you want to wake up to her every morning, not because you want her to have less anxiety about her apartment. I don't know your girlfriend or how she is, but it could be a disaster in many levels if you realize you don't want to wake up to her every morning and you now can't figure out how to undo the living situation.
posted by Yellow at 7:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

It's fine if you don't want her to move in with you. Don't bring the cats into it, or make that your excuse. Ignore the sunk costs of the three years you've been dating, that's a fallacy that will keep you in the relationship longer than you want to be. If you feel that her moving in with you will be stifling... listen to your gut, and don't do it. Let her know that ASAP, though. It's not fair to lead her on. You can say something like, "Kate, I care about you very much, and I'd like to continue dating you like we are right now, but I don't want you to move in with me, because I'm just not ready and I honestly don't know when or if I ever will be. I wanted to tell you now because you deserve to know that, so you can decide if those are terms you'll willing to live with."
posted by juniperesque at 8:04 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

First, the cats are a red herring. Forget them. Take a daily RediTab.

Moving in with someone will by definition change your life. I was once in a similar situation. A gal I was dating moved to the city I was living in (and she was not) because I was there and that is where she got a job. She moved in with me initially with the intention she would find her own place. She did after two months. I actually was very reluctant to have her move in so I agreed for a transition period until she could find an apartment. I was young and set in my ways. Every difference was magnified in my mind. Silverware up in the dishwasher was for some reason a huge annoyance. Things like that. She gave me ample opportunity to ask her not to move out. I put my own alone time preferences over her moving in and making compromises like you are supposed to in a good relationship.

We broke up about 6 months after that. Both of us met our respective marriage partners soon thereafter. We both got married, had kids, bought houses and generally lived the American dream. After 18 years of marital bliss, I got divorced. She just recently did the same. I had lunch with her a few months back. I apologized for the two months we lived together. We are going on a "first date" in a few weeks. (She lives about 250 miles away.) I have no idea where this will go if it goes at all. I do know that the issue will be compatibility, respect and love, not the logistics of moving or living together.

I tell you all of this because I think if you are really fond of her and you think there is a future, put aside the cat litter, put aside the volume of your music and embrace her moving in with you and you both starting a life together. If you don't feel that way with her, don't let her move in because getting her out one day will suck. And you owe it to her (and yourself) to not prolong a relationship that is going nowhere.

None of us here knows what is in your heart, but if there is love in your heart, fuck the practical issues of living with her and her two cats.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:04 AM on July 15, 2013 [7 favorites]

There are less coherent concerns as well: I like my privacy, and I'm half-concerned that being in each other's space all the time would drive us nuts, that I might have to civilize to a greater degree than I really want to what-with moderating my choices of music and movies and suchlike to her tastes.

I moved in with my SO earlier this year and this went through my mind a lot as well. I had lived with someone before, which was a terrible idea in retrospect, and I felt then that I couldn't really be myself - I used to wait for him to go out so that I could put on the music I liked or sit around eating toast etc. Before I moved in with my SO, my living conditions were grim to the point that they were very much affecting my mental health, and I think this concerned him as well - that a good reason for us to move in together for me was just to escape where I was. The place I was living in mostly had me sitting in my room as it was the only space that felt like mine, and I had got used to coming home at night and just watching things on my laptop to escape how uncomfortable I felt there. When we did move in, I'd come home and feel confused until I realised that, actually, nobody would mind if I sat and watched a film in the living room, and that I didn't need to eat on my own.

It turns out that while both of our concerns were real, they were not the only reasons to move in together or not move in together. We had been going out for longer than you before it started becoming a feasible option for a variety of reasons, and we had a lot of time to think about not only whether it was the right thing to do but when it would be the right thing to do. I disagree that at three years, it's either move in or break up. Every couple is different, and if her life is chaotic at the moment, then I would bet she wants that to change before you start meshing your lives together and having both names on the gas bill.

I think it's normal to have doubts as it's a huge step to take. I realise the dynamic might be different if you own your place, though - that's your home, as opposed to a home you both find together, and there will be certain things you prefer one way and certain things that she would ideally have a different way were it her house.
posted by mippy at 8:09 AM on July 15, 2013

The amount of anxiety you have around living with cats, in proportion to the actual bother of being around cats (even for someone with allergies) makes me think you hit the nail on the head with your opening line: this isn't about the cats.

I moved in with a roommate and her two cats a couple years ago. I don't really care for cats- I am a dog person and had some negative childhood experiences with cats. However there were benefits to moving in- namely the social aspects of my relationship with my roommate, and the financial aspects of sharing rent and utilities. So I tolerate her cats.

Mind, I am not in love with my roommate. If you love this girl and you're pumping the brakes over spilled kitty litter, I think it's time to take the cats out of the equation and look at the real issues. Your girlfriend will appreciate the honesty.
posted by ista at 8:25 AM on July 15, 2013

Taking medication every day to tolerate an animal you don't really like is not a trivial solution. It still has side effects and impacts your overall health.
posted by winna at 8:30 AM on July 15, 2013 [9 favorites]

OK, just to make this about your question re: cats.

I'm allergic to cats. It's not deadly, but it could become that way (they aggravate my asthma, cat owners in my family have been hospitalised). As a side effect of generally keeping away from cats, I do not get along with cats. It would be unfair of me to house a cat (with or without a human) because I would not love it and would not care for it sufficiently. Ergo cats are a dealbreaker for me. My boyfriend moved in with me with the knowledge that he will never have a cat so long as we are together (and he loves cats).

On preview: winna said it better. I know cats are popular on the internet, but lifelong allergies are not a minor thing, and if you do decide to move in with your girlfriend then the cat issue will have to be addressed. It is certainly not a given that you should accept the cats.

However, I understanding that you have more fundamental, overarching concerns with regards to the progression of your relationship, and you need to decide what you want and then communicate with your girlfriend. You won't live with cats? Simple: 'Sweetheart, you cannot move your cats here. If you have to keep the cats, then I respect that but we have to live apart.' She can then decide what her priorities are.

Of course, if you don't want to live with her anyway then you should buck up and say so. It would be awful if she re-homed her pets and moved in only for your relationship to buckle under the pressures of cohabitation.
posted by dumdidumdum at 8:42 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Winna is correct. I spent years suffering with my dad's pets whenever I visited him, and my two aunts and uncles complain about allergies when they are there. My half-sister, who has no allergies, always rolls her eyes whenever somebody visits and thinks people who pull the allergy card are just drama queens and if they take a pill, they'll be fine. It doesn't always work that way, and the misery of pet allergy, for those who truly suffer with it, is not a trivial one.

When I was in the dating phase, I knew 100% that I could NEVER live with pets. I don't like them, they make me sick, they cause extra cleaning hassles and I am just not that kind of person who could live with them. AT ALL. I knew this 100%. It may sound shallow to someone who has never been SICK from being around them, but to me, this would be a deal-breaker, the same way other things would be a deal-breaker to other people. My sweetie has two things about him that would be a deal-breaker to many women I know, but they aren't for me, so we're fine. Everybody's different.
posted by JoannaC at 8:44 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

Think outside the box. We have a situation where we have a small guest house where we sleep and eat dinner and watch movies. Our two cats are not allowed in there. You could also sell your house and buy a duplex. Live next door to each other but have your own space. Tim Burton (sp?), the director, and his wife live like this - they have separate apartments in the same apartment building.
posted by cda at 9:03 AM on July 15, 2013

To address the car situation specifically:
2 years ago my boyfriend and I wanted to move in together, but I had a cat and he was very allergic. Allergy pills helped SOME but not a whole lot. Plus, he just didn't like cats very much. He thought they were weird and even a little menacing. He was 100% prepared to make a go of it but when it came down to it I wasn't willing for force my partner to be sick and miserable and on medication all the time. I ultimately had to decide between him or my cat. I had to weigh how sure I was that he was THE ONE vs. the risk of having us break up and then I would have re-homed my cat for no reason.

It wasn't a happy decision, I cried a LOT over it, but I decided on my boyfriend's health. I felt confident that he was my life partner, so I found my cat a new loving home. Lots of tears. Lots. Possibly one of the hardest things I have done because I loved my cat dearly. It was the right choice, though. I couldn't in good conscience force my partner in to a living situation that I knew would be unheathly for him.

We're engaged now, getting married in 2 months. Re-homing my cat is still something that makes me kinda sad, and my fiance I think still feels a bit guilty, even though he never forced my hand on the matter. I miss her, but I love him more. He is worth the heartache of losing my beloved pet.

If I had ANY doubts of the future of my relationship I never would have considered giving my up cat. Not for a second. I didn't give her up and move in until I was positive he was the one.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:15 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Why not ask her to give up her cats? If her living situation is unstable and she doesn't have a good financial situation either, what is she doing taking full responsibility for the lives of two animals? And how are you going to navigate your lives going forward if she isn't willing to compromise on things that are bad for your health?

What if you were allergic to peanuts? Would she keep them in the house?

I think that she is being selfish if she insists that you live with something that causes you health problems. If you two stay together forever, it will likely be a cat-free forever. I'm allergic to pets and would not EVER live with someone who has them.

Her wanting to move cats into your home when they make you sick is a red flag about the relationship. I'd talk to her about it, and see what her response is.
posted by 3491again at 9:25 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: Clarification of specific things left unclear:

* I'm not sharing the things I admire about her here because I'm assuming those can be taken as written. If I didn't love her I wouldn't need to ask for perspective and wisdom.

* For allergies, I take 10mg loratadine daily. I have recently been replacing with cetirizine to see if it makes a difference and it doesn't seem to work as well and makes me muzzy in the mornings.

* My allergies to cats are irksome but not dangerous. Watery eyes, runny nose, itchy roof-of-mouth. I actually like cats, the way I like kids — they're something other people have which I see sometimes and enjoy spending time in their company and then leaving.

* Speaking of kids, we're in agreement there; neither of us wants them. We have not talked about marriage at all.

* She is deeply devoted both to these specific cats and to living with cats generally, and does not see rehoming and living a cat-free life as an option.

* I worry about paternalism and inequality, as many of you mention. That aspect's always been present in our relationship due to our differing financial footing and complicates this matter for me morally, because I want to help her without compromising her autonomy — or doing more for her than I feel comfortable doing and fomenting resentment.
posted by jackbishop at 10:04 AM on July 15, 2013

Your clarification only further cements my answer. Sorry! This isn't the girl for you, long term, and that's okay! Better to know now than after the moving in or marriage or something. You both DESERVE the house and relationship you want.
posted by masquesoporfavor at 10:09 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are many degrees of allergy and ways to handle trying to cat in a cat-sensitive home. I think it's great that you're trying different things to see if at least that aspect might be dealable with* from an allergy perspective.

If her cats are aloof, you are fine and she is fine with whatever you two do to have the cats around, great! Maybe it means small changes for her and the cats, maybe not (for instance, if they are in/door/out/door, becoming more out/door).

I lived in (and do again) an unequal economic relationship. Sometimes it was me that made more, sometimes not. We found a routine and a balance that works. But I didn't have the instability she seems to be said to be in. Or you perceive her to be in - I don't see 'renting' as unstable.

But I'd go at this as less "hey, why don't you move in and then you don't have to worry about this" and more "so we're talking about moving in, here are things we may need to talk about: space, time apart, cohabit habits, where we see ourselves going, cats. These are the things I think we agree on [list] and things we might need to work on [list] and things I have no idea about [list]. Can we discuss these and anything else I might have missed that concerns you? Even if we don't move in together right now, maybe there's another option that keeps us going and okay. [such as - some deposit assistance to more closer/more stable or trial move in with an asses at six months]"

Me and mine have separate spaces in the house, and that helps. We made sure to give each other space as sometimes we really don't want to be surrounded by more than our thoughts.

*dealable with - I guess I don't get the ZOMG TAKE A PILL EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE hysteria, mostly because daily pills, including and especially allergy, make me fit for the civlized world of lung breathers.
posted by tilde at 10:21 AM on July 15, 2013

It sounds like you really don't want to move in with your girlfriend.

You should tell her this.
posted by Sara C. at 10:24 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

To address your concerns about inequality first. I've been in relationships where I was the broke one and basically every meal came out of my then-boyfriend's salary. I've also been in relationships where I have lent upwards of $2K because they were the broke one. Both situations were fine and caused no issues in terms of relationship dynamics, even if it took me a while to accept that meals and comic bookstore splurges didn't mean I was a kept woman and I didn't have to get all prickly at the thought of presents. On the other hand, I felt terribly dependent when I moved to an entirely new city because of a boyfriend and my justification for being in that specific place was this one dude. I can't tell if your girlfriend moved three years ago to be with you or if the two of you met after her move, but I think your concern about emotional dependency and friendship circles is the most important to me. If one day she's grouchy and needs to vent about you, does she have somewhere to go, someone to talk to? Even a friend in a different city she can call up and kvetch with? My first big fight after moving in with my now-fiance (reader, I will marry him) I was so worked up I walked to KMart at 1 am, just to have a destination and get out of our studio.

Metroid Baby has good points about cohabitation. It's not an easy transition always. But even when my fiance is watching his terrible TV shows in one room (thank goodness we moved out of the studio, that was going to break me!) while I'm another room reading fanfic, the fact that we live together, go grocery shopping together, and I get to come home to him is something amazing.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:29 AM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Neither of you seem committed enough to the relationship that you're willing to make compromises for it. You're not willing to live with cats to be with her, and she's not willing to give up her cats to be with you. Neither of you is being unreasonable. It just means that it's probably not meant to be.
posted by Asparagus at 10:41 AM on July 15, 2013 [6 favorites]

No amount of gymnastics take away from the basic fact:

She wants you to both let her and cats move in with you, and take on medication to adjust your living to her wishes.

She doesn't sound like a healthy relationship partner to me, sadly.
posted by Kruger5 at 10:48 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I'm going to be blunt: if, after 2 years of dating, you don't want to move in with her, then you two are not right for each other and you should free yourselves up to find people who are.
posted by MexicanYenta at 11:00 AM on July 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

I still don't think you should move in together.

Also, I thought I was allergic to cats for years, itchy, watery eyes, itchy face, runny nose. Then I got tested. Turns out I'm allergic to trees and grass, and not kitties. Our indoor kitties don't bother me a bit.

So...if you reconsider and want a good life with cats, go to an allergist and get tested. If you're not allergic, awesome! If you are, you can get something that will be effective, or at least know for sure that it's cats. Not stuff cats roll around in.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:07 AM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

Asparagus has it. Neither of you are willing to compromise. It has been my experience that compromise (on BOTH sides) is an important part of a healthy relationship. I think Asparagus is right that in regards to the cats neither of you is being unreasonable. It is understandable why she doesn't want to give up her pets, and it is understandable why you don't want to be on antihistamines all the time.

Cats aside, however, from what you wrote it sounds like you are resistant to compromising on pretty much any level. Yes, she isn't willing to compromise on the cat thing, which is a big one, but you fear having to "moderate" you tastes in music, movies, etc. which are all small, easy-to-handle, so not a big deal compromises. Seriously, those are tiny tiny things. I actually think your fear and resistance to compromising and adapting your life to include hers is a bigger problem than the cats. Compromise and adaptation is just part of life when you live with someone. My fiance hates musicals but every so often he will watch one with me. I hate sleeping with the blinds open, but every so often I will let him keep them open and I wear an eye mask those nights. Life with another person is unavoidably a give and take. It just is. If you are seriously that wary of having to make any changes in your life, even ones as small as sometimes having to watch a movie you aren't interested in, then you definitely aren't ready to live with someone else.

And from my experience, when it is the right person those compromises aren't scary, nor do they feel as huge and inconvenient as you feel they are.

I don't know if you guys are doomed or what, but I definitely think you should not move in together, and I definitely think that you guys need to have a very long, honest talk with each other about where you think your relationship is going, what each of you wants, what each of you expects from a long term partner, etc.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:45 AM on July 15, 2013 [4 favorites]

You have significant reservations -- cat and otherwise -- about living with this woman. That doesn't make you the bad guy; that makes you a guy with significant reservations about living with this woman. That's perfectly acceptable.

Someone shouldn't move in with you because it's convenient or financially beneficial for them. They should move in with you because they want to, and because you want them to. You don't want her to, so it shouldn't happen. If she wants to make you feel crappy about that, fine, but the truth is you two should use this disconnect as an opportunity to evaluate your relationship honestly.

If it really is just about the cats, then you have to decide if putting up with cats* is worth it to live with her, and she has to decide if getting rid of cats is worth it to live with you, and that's the end-all and be-all of it, and nobody's wrong, you just might be different in what you consider an acceptable living situation. There is no bad guy.

*I used to have cats. I used to have roommates with cats. I used to love cats. After my last cat passed away from cancer, I decided to live cat-free for a while, and I will never go back not just because of allergies, but because of the hair and the litterbox and the furniture damage, so I understand your position.
posted by davejay at 11:49 AM on July 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

She'd rather choose the cats over you, subjecting you to long-term medication. She'd rather compromise your health than compromise by finding another home for her pets.
Yes, it doesn't seem like an equal relationship.

There are many out there that, if they love you and are serious about you, would not hesitate to give up something if they knew it affected your health and general well-being. This person does not seem to be one of them.
posted by aielen at 12:05 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think I get how you're feeling - I've had a similar quandary in my life, my boyfriend, who I love very much, has cats, and I'm allergic. Allergic enough that pills don't help at all. I wanted to be closer to him, but also, I really like having my space, and I am a big introvert, so I need a lot of alone time. So, for years we each had our own places and saw each other on weekends, which kinda sucked. What we ended up doing was getting a house together that has 2 apartments, so we still have our own places, but can be together a lot more, and get to combine our lives a lot more. It's working really well! we both totally love it - I get my space, he gets his lovely cat, I have no allergies. We each get to decorate with our own styles and stuff.

so - would you be able to arrange your house so that each of you has their own space? you will probably still have to share a kitchen and maybe a bathroom, but if you could have your own rooms and living room, and the cat stays in her suite, you may feel more comfortable sharing the house.

Some people have suggested that he should give up his cat for me, and I think that's nuts - what kind of horrible person would I be to make him give up something he loves, and that makes him happy?
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:29 PM on July 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

My fiance is allergic to cats. I have three. If it came to a decision, I would choose my cats. He knows this, understands this, and respects this so he takes allergy pills. BUT, he likes cats (and me!) so it's something he's willing to do.

As for privacy, we both need lots of personal time so we each have our separate spaces. His office is cat free (except, of course, when he gives in to his best cat friend crying at his office door) and there is absolutely no obligation for either of us to hang out with each other unless we both want to.

Your living situation can be whatever you want it be. But you kind of need to figure out if this is something you want to do at all.
posted by eunoia at 10:03 PM on July 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

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