Let's shack up?
January 27, 2014 3:24 PM   Subscribe

I want to ask my boyfriend if he'd like to move in together for mostly practical reasons, but I'm not sure if I should ask or be patient. Lots of snowflake details inside.

Relevant information:
- I'm 25, he's 28.
- I'm in school still (3.5 more years) and he is working full-time.
- We've been together for ~1.5 years.
- Neither of us has lived with a significant other before. For me this is because my relationships were < 2 years long, and for him it is because his long term relationships were also long-distance for long stretches.
- We currently both live in houses with 2(+) roommates. He is more extroverted has very few complaints about his living situation (most of which stem from the house being old and crappy) whereas I have progressively become less and less happy with my living situation (problems I've addressed with my roommates haven't been resolved, commute to school is long, can't have pets, etc.).
- He lives 15 minutes away by car--except that he doesn't have a car. He commutes to work by public transit, which is easy from his current place. I would say 90% of the time I drive to his place and spend the night there, 5% of the time I drive to his place to pick him up and we spend the night at my place, and 5% of the time he borrows his roommate's car to spend the night at my place.
- He has made plans to purchase a vehicle, but this keeps getting moved back due to financial constraints (he's got a lot of student loan debt, and so do I). I feel bad nagging him about the car situation since he has told me in the past that the only reason he needs a car is to visit me, and everything else he wants/needs to do he can accomplish via public transit, cab, or borrowing his roommate's car.
- We spend about 3 nights a week together (usually Friday-Saturday and 1 week day). Both of us would like more time together, although I am probably more vocal about this than he is. I would say the main reason we don't spend more time together during the week is because I'm usually busy studying for exams on weeknights*, so driving over to his house to ignore him while I study doesn't make much sense to either of us.
- *Because 75% of my weekends are spent hanging out with him and occasionally working, I've had to adjust my study habits so that I get more studying done during the week. This is probably a beneficial change, because I'm a bit of a procrastinator by nature. However, there are times when I've got 2 exams in 1 week, and so I have to spend a significant part of my weekend studying. During these times we've tried the whole "be together doing separate things" thing (me studying, him playing videogames/watching football/working) which I like a lot. It gives me a chance to spend time with him (taking breaks, making meals, bedtime) while still being able to accomplish some necessary studying. He's pretty resistant to it, because generally this happens at my house (his place is waaaaay too distracting with his roommates) and he says my house isn't fun. :(
- We get along really well for long stretches of time and far and away enjoy each other's company over anyone else's. I love him, and can easily picture myself with him in 5, 10, 20 years. Marriage is not super high on either of our priority lists right now, but we've discussed weddings in an abstract sort of way (such as, "when I get married I want a small ceremony and a mariachi band!" "OMG me too!"), he's told me he doesn't want to get married before he's 30 and I've told him I don't want to get married before I finish school. Great.

Sorry that was long-winded. Here are the practical reasons as I see them for moving in together:
- I don't have to drive over to his place anymore. This is huge because I really only drive to his house, the grocery store, and my job (which happens about 3x/month) and instead take the bus to school. I hate driving and parking in the city we live in, especially with the polar vortex cold and snowy road conditions.
- He doesn't need to get a car anymore.
- Save money on rent. This is debatable, because if we'd move in together I'd definitely want to get a 2 bedroom and use the extra bedroom as a retreat that either of us could use for necessary quiet/alone time.
- We'll have more time together. Things includes actively doing things together (making dinner, watching movies, playing video games, chatting before bed) and doing separate activities in the same room. Obviously we'd balance this increase in couple time with an increase in planning different activities solo or with our respective friend groups so we both feel like our needs are being met.
- I could move somewhere closer to school/my new job at school. This becomes more important next year as I'll have more weekend and late night on-call shifts at the hospital. I could also find a place that is pet-friendly, which would be wonderful because we both really love my dog who isn't allowed at my current place (he lives with Grandma/Grandpa).
- I've previously lived with 1-3 roommates, in a dorm with no roommate, and in an apartment alone. There are things I liked and disliked about each, but I found that living completely alone was pretty isolating and difficult for me. I'm not sure how different it would be if I tried living alone now that I'm a) in a super rigorous professional school program b) have a boyfriend and c) have a dog.

I've asked him previously if moving in together before marriage is something he would want to do--he was receptive, but we've never discussed a timeline for that. There's part of me that wonders if maybe I should just suck it up and be patient since it seems like he's pretty happy with the way things are, whereas I'm the one who is not. I've also wondered if it's too early in the relationship to be considering this sort of decision, or if I'm too young; I realize all relationships are different, and what works for some doesn't work for all. Should I ask him if he wants to make plans to move in together in 5-8 months? If he says no, what do I do? I've read this question and I am wondering if I should be patient, or.. I don't even know! I would love to get some outside perspective on this.
posted by gumtree to Human Relations (32 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If you don't ask for what you want, you'll never get it. (well, rarely)
posted by seesom at 3:28 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

There is nothing bad that could possibly come out of asking him this question. Worst case scenario is clarity.
posted by oceanjesse at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just ask.

You will know pretty much right away whether it's going to be yes or no.

Warning: asking about this now and getting a negative or hesitant response could be more revealing of the underlying health of your relationship than you might want. I once asked a boyfriend to move in with me for mostly practical reasons, got a "no", and it turned out to be a harbinger of our impending breakup.
posted by Sara C. at 3:29 PM on January 27, 2014 [7 favorites]

Just talk to him about it. Don't start with "hey we should move in together," but "Hey, I was thinking about this thing and was wondering what you think about it...."
posted by craven_morhead at 3:30 PM on January 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

No, it's not too early. Unless you're leaving something major out, I don't see any reason for you to not live together.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:31 PM on January 27, 2014

What do you want from moving in together? Is it strictly for convenience? Or are you hoping that living together will deepen the relationship and put you on a path towards marriage — even at 30? Do you view this as a step to make your relationship more serious, even if you never get married? Your question seems to be all about convenience, but if there's any part of you that wants something more by moving in, the two conversations are really different — and vitally important.
posted by amoeba at 3:32 PM on January 27, 2014 [11 favorites]

amoeba's points are worth considering, but yes, ask. Even if the answer is "no", you'll be better off knowing that now than wondering. And if the answer is "huh I haven't thought of that", then at least you two can start thinking about it.

And if it's yes, well, then better to stop dealing with the logistics issues earlier than later, eh?
posted by nat at 3:44 PM on January 27, 2014

I don't want to thread sit, but I wanted to address amoeba's question:

I love this man and I'm very happy with the level of seriousness of our relationship currently. I don't NEED to move in together right now to feel like we're getting more committed/moving towards marriage. I think that we would eventually get to a point in a couple of years where we looked and each other and asked, "Wanna move in together?" but circumstances right now are making me wonder if moving in together sooner might make more sense.
I feel like we're on the same page as far as long-term plans/commitment, and if it were not for the reasons I listed above, I would probably be pretty content continuing to live separately for another year or two.
posted by gumtree at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2014

Do it!

Actually, qualifying that, do you have a dog already? Or is that part of the moving plan? I wasn't entirely clear on that part of the question, but if it's a planned dog then I'd make sure to check with yourself that you'd be doing that anyway if you moved into a place that allowed pets. I've seen a lot of friends do the move in + dog thing in short order when it was obvious to one partner that what they were doing was a sort of try-on of commitment and marriage, and since it wasn't outwardly discussed it wasn't obvious to the other...blahblah, lead to some stress later on. So yes, as long as your brain doesn't immediately jump to "and now it's forever!", then you should totally do it!

Your reasons are quite legitimate and you can't feel guilty about how it'll make you happier than it makes him until you ask and know how he actually feels.
posted by theweasel at 3:50 PM on January 27, 2014

After reading OP's response: Ok, removing qualifiers. No time like the present!
posted by theweasel at 3:52 PM on January 27, 2014

You don't need ask him like you're popping some big question that requires an immediate answer. Just bring up a discussion about whether it makes sense and you guys want to. If you can't do that, then the answer is no, don't ask him.
posted by cmoj at 3:56 PM on January 27, 2014 [4 favorites]

There is some strong evidence that co-habitation, especially before marriage is agreed upon (if engaged already, the odds are better) leads to greater chance of breaking up and less chance of marriage. I kind of feel like, if what you want is a good roommate for the next few years, move in. If what you want is to marry this man, wait and take care of yourself until he asks you to move in/proposes.

I am aware this is probably unpopular, but were I in your position this is exactly what I would do. I just have a feeling that asking to live together now may lead to a good roommate situation but possibly decrease the odds of staying together long haul.

I don't know. Maybe to you it's worth the risk, or maybe I'm just paranoid and imagining things. YMMV. It's also possible you could break up anyway, and then maybe you'll be mad you didn't just go ahead and live together in the meantime. Although you'd have to find a new place and that's always hard and sad.
posted by quincunx at 4:02 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

In my opinion, you have thought this through very well and I totally think you should just go for it.
posted by Lutoslawski at 4:03 PM on January 27, 2014

I guess I'll be the dissenter here, because I think moving in together for reasons of convenience is usually not a good idea. Lots of couples move in together before formal engagement or marriage, but I think it works best when there's a real sense of being life partners vs just dating.

I think instead of cohabitation, I would try to figure out ways to make the current situation work better for both of you. First of all, you say you're not happy with your living situation. Can you afford an apartment of your own? If so, I would consider that. Then see if he can visit you more. Is he not able to take public transit to where you are? What does he mean when he says your house isn't "fun"?

I think cohabitation would be like trying to use a screwdriver to push in a nail, or something. It's not the right tool for the job at hand. Figure out how to make your current situation workable, and then think about cohabitation if it's what you want for its own sake and not just because it would make your life easier.
posted by Asparagus at 4:10 PM on January 27, 2014 [13 favorites]

There is some strong evidence that co-habitation, especially before marriage is agreed upon (if engaged already, the odds are better) leads to greater chance of breaking up and less chance of marriage.

According to this article from 2012 summarizing a paper which in turn summarizes data from 1996 onward, the "evidence" is neither strong nor so simple.
posted by cmoj at 4:11 PM on January 27, 2014 [10 favorites]

There is some strong evidence that co-habitation, especially before marriage is agreed upon (if engaged already, the odds are better) leads to greater chance of breaking up and less chance of marriage.

Actually, the study I read said that couples who cohabit before marriage are more likely to get divorced. Specifically, couples who cohabited and then sort of "fell into" marriage were less likely to stay happily married. But if you see cohabitation as a test run, and keep working on the relationship, and make sure that you are both happy, then you are more likely to have a happier marriage if you decide to marry this person.

I would just ask. I think it will always be a big adjustment, so there's never a "good" time, as long as you've known each other for a while. My partner and I moved in together for convenience (and earlier in the relationship). It was a bit nerve-wracking but it worked out because we are both logical people, and we agreed beforehand about what we wanted living together to look like.
posted by ethidda at 4:12 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you want to move in together at some point soonish anyways and think it makes practical sense to move up the time-frame to the next few months, then do it. When you bring it up, you might also make sure you're on the same page as to what it means. Is this a test-run before getting engaged/married? Or are you still just boyfriend/girlfriend right now, but you happen to share an address. This will affect things like how you split expenses as well.

But it's not clear to me how much you really want to move in together vs. how much you just want to not be going to his place every weekend. It sounds like he can't take public transportation to your place, but what about taking a cab half the time and then you going over there the other half? Could you talk to him about what you could do to make your apartment less "boring"? Maybe rearranging the furniture so that there's room for him to do his thing alongside you?

I would figure out whether you actually want to move in with him or whether you just want to solve this car/commuting to his place issue and then proceed apropriately.
posted by matildatakesovertheworld at 4:20 PM on January 27, 2014

The reasons you're outlining are almost exactly the reasons i moved in with my partner. Pretty much everything you described was going on exactly, but then my roommate living situation fell apart and i started staying with her to "crash there until i find a place". After a couple apartments fell through because of nipple rubbing landlords, i just stayed.

We got an apartment not long after, and have lived together ever since. It absolutely WAS a convenience thing, not a "we're setting up to get married and getting serious!" thing. But we've both enjoyed it, and we were able to afford a really awesome spacious place in a cool area neither of us could have swung alone, and without any roommates. We've been able to save up money to travel, buy nice furniture, eat better food, and generally have a good time. Both from having the money to do it because utilities and other bills on an apartment were way cheaper than a sharehouse, and sharing food is cheaper, and many other things.

I also think you should be clear on what theweasel brought up. In that you're both on the same page of why you're doing this, and that there aren't differing understandings of what it means to move in together. We're both very much on the "we're dating and living together, there isn't some subtext here" page.

I also wouldn't worry about some kind of "the rules" type bullshit about not moving in before marriage or whatever, that's 1950s crap that seems centered on ye olden rules of not having sex before you're married and can't really be traced back anywhere but "it's immoral to live together, what might they be doing in there!". Anything else is just fluff to prop up those BS ideas. Especially the whole "moving in means you're less likely to get married!" crap. I realize the rules type stuff has supporters on here, but it really is baby boomer garbage. The only people i know who have gotten married without moving in together beforehand were literally attending a ridiculous religious boarding college.
posted by emptythought at 4:20 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

I've also wondered if it's too early in the relationship to be considering this sort of decision, or if I'm too young

No and no.
posted by John Cohen at 4:28 PM on January 27, 2014

When I was 22, I asked my now-husband to move in together about three months into our relationship. I was desperate to get out of my parents' place and my schedule (full-time work, full-time school) meant we had very little time together. So: total convenience. He said, "No, you're crazy; let's go out to dinner instead." No big deal. Another three months later, after we had a great long weekend out of town together (when I almost puked in his car because of heat exhaustion, ended up puking in a ditch somewhere along I-71, and nixed all planned fun times at the hotel room), he said, "This is crazy, but let's move in together." And we did. Never looked back. We had no clear understanding about what moving in together meant (although that is a good idea). We just did it, and we were so happy that first night that we literally slept on the floor of our new living room (...probably would not do that again, actually). All relationships are different, as you pointed out, so YMMV of course. I just wanted to qualify my answer of "totally go for it." Life's short; live it.

If you have a nagging hang-up about doing it, go on a trip together, if you haven't already and if it's feasible for you. I read once, a long time ago, that a decent gauge of compatibility in this regard is to do a trip (maybe a long weekend?), just the two of you, to see if the relationship flourishes or stumbles. If your relationship is strong enough to handle the stressors of a 4-5 days away from home together, then you're probably ready to move out of relationship complacency and into that next phase of your relationship.
posted by coast99 at 4:37 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

My opinion is you're not too young and it's not too early, it's up to you anyway! There's no way to predict whether this will help or hurt your relationship, every relationship is different. Most importantly, be honest and clear about your intentions (which it sounds like you are doing.) If you are excited about the thought of deepening your relationship don't hide that behind convenience explanations as a way to convince him. Ask what he would think about the idea, explain why you're excited about the idea and be open to his response.
posted by dahliachewswell at 4:47 PM on January 27, 2014

I also wouldn't worry about some kind of "the rules" type bullshit about not moving in before marriage or whatever, that's 1950s crap that seems centered on ye olden rules of not having sex before you're married and can't really be traced back anywhere but "it's immoral to live together, what might they be doing in there!". Anything else is just fluff to prop up those BS ideas.

I don't want to harp on this or anything, but I'm really not trying to advocate anything about sex or immorality or the 1950s or the rules or anything like that, and I'm guessing maybe people are having strong reactions to that idea because what they perceive as judgement offends them or their life worked out great after moving in together.

But I think it is also a mistake to just dismiss any and all concerns totally out of hand and be like, "Yes, living together is always great! Always just go for it! Nothing could ever go wrong!" And I think it's important to offer that perspective, too. I mean, I lived together with a guy I thought I was going to marry, and it did not work out. Many people out there have my story. Lots of people do end up married. Lots of others don't. I think living together before we were committed to each other was probably a mistake in my case, and it has made me more hesitant to do it again. Also, life as a student with one person working is pretty rough- OP you might want to ask yourself, will it be a distraction when I need to do my thesis? Are there any benefits to living with other people? Could you possibly move somewhere closer to him with better roommates and solve the problem that way?

I would certainly at least always keep back-up plans in mind, and would not sign a super-long lease with a boyfriend anymore. Okay, so I'm gun-shy. But, hey, that's my experience so far. Nothing is worse than living together with an ex, in any case!

And yeah, I have read some studies to that effect that it can have negative effects, although it is quite possible they are funded by really evil conservative people who hate sex (and I have seriously not dismissed this possibility) it's also possible that there is some slight truth to them. It's worth thinking about for more than two seconds, in any case, even if you ultimately dismiss it as bunk.

I just think it's unrealistic to pretend there are no risks at all. Living together IS a big step in a relationship. It's worth it to ask yourself, OP, what do I really want here? What could go wrong? What if things don't work out, what will I do? What if I'm not ready to hear his answer of no, will the relationship fall apart? What if he says yes but doesn't really want to be committed and just wants the convenience of living together and I don't realize that and it hurts me? Am I prepared to live together and then break up sometime down the road? Who is going to do the housework? Will we have friends over? Who is going to pay for utilities? Is he already paying for everything? Will he take it as an imposition? Etc.

Listen, maybe you two are the real thing and you move in together and it goes wonderfully and you get married when he turns 30 and you're very happy you did it and it works out well. That's great! I hope so! But there are other scenarios and it's worth thinking through how you'd deal if there's a worse hand in the cards. Just my advice.
posted by quincunx at 5:08 PM on January 27, 2014 [5 favorites]

An equally valid question to ask, and i realize we're somewhat derailing the thread here, is how is moving in and breaking up without getting married different than getting married, moving in together, and then having to go through a more painful breakup process(legally and otherwise) because it didn't work out for the exact same reasons?

This is why i don't see the point of waiting for marriage to move in together, and also why i think the "people who move in together are less likely to get married" thing is a correlation != causation kind of logic failure.

god that entire derail of marriage WRT moving in together really shitted up this thread though, and it was more than a couple posts by more than a couple people. sorry op!
posted by emptythought at 5:11 PM on January 27, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, you should definitely keep strongly in mind the fact that you asking "Do you want to move in together?" does not equal hearts and flowers and happily ever after.

I've lived with someone I did not end up marrying. I'd imagine that most people -- except for a lucky few who married their first serious SO -- have.

Moving in together can be a path to marriage, but it isn't always, and you shouldn't assume.

But it doesn't sound like you are assuming, and the bottom line is that either you guys are in it for the long haul, or you're not. Deciding not to move in together because you're afraid it might ruin your chances at eventually marrying is stupid.
posted by Sara C. at 5:13 PM on January 27, 2014

An equally valid question to ask, and i realize we're somewhat derailing the thread here, is how is moving in and breaking up without getting married different than getting married, moving in together, and then having to go through a more painful breakup process...

Actually, depending on the circumstances (like if there is any joint property ownership), breaking up after cohabitation can actually be more financially and legally messy than a divorce.
posted by Asparagus at 5:21 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Came to echo thoughts that emptythought summed up nicely. I have a life policy of "be wrong fast".

I am currently living with a boyfriend of about 2.5 years (we've been living together for a year and a half of that). Our reasons were both practical and relationship related. I don't know if this relationship will end in marriage, but I would live with a potential spouse/longtime partner again in the future before getting engaged or married. You learn a lot -- sometimes more than you want to know.
posted by jorlyfish at 5:36 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Do you both have leases? Because I think a great way to start this conversation is "what are you planning to do when your lease is up?" (I assume that the 5-8 months part of your OP has to do with this, but my point is that there is a big difference between "want to move in together in 5-8 months?" and the above.)

That being said, if he is not interested in co-habitating at this time, for whatever reason, your "practical reasons" are not very convincing.
posted by sm1tten at 6:16 PM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

Watch the youtube video Sliding vs Deciding. I'd link to it, but I'm on my phone.

It's an hour long, and I promise it will give you lots of insight into exactly the question you are grappling with.

The short answer is: are you paying attention to all of the signals this person is already giving you about their suitability as a partner for you?

Because of you are ignoring yellow and red flags now, they will not get better. If anything, they get worse.

Moves are hard to undo, because the inconvenience (and more uncomfortable, the admission of 'failure!') when you 'go backwards' is psychologically and logistically hard. Dividing households is way less fun than combining them. Just consider now who would carry the lease on the new place after a breakup.

In short, this might be the right relationship move for you. But only two can decide that. And 'we'll see reach other more and have cheaper rent' is not (psychologically and sociologically) a strong enough cement, alone, for long term success.
posted by bilabial at 6:24 PM on January 27, 2014 [6 favorites]

I'd just move nearer to his place & live with other people. Students are no fun for non-students to live with. Dishes get left undone, things go nutty around exams (predictably, but it's not like it's an avoidable pattern), there's the perpetual creep of papers and piles that invades every room in the house. Students need time and space, and it's not always convenient for others, who after a day of work might want to kick their feet up and watch a game (loud).

Students living with non-students often resent them. See above re time and space.

I think you might get suckered into snuggles too many days of the week, have a hard time remembering to worry about anatomy or whatever, and feel guilty about it, maybe blame him a little, or not do as well. While he'll want to do nice (or loud) things and will be annoyed at you for not keeping up your end of the housekeeping (this part is pretty much guaranteed).

It'd be different if you were both doing the same thing in life, but this discrepancy is known to cause stress to well established couples. Why not move in together when you're over the hurdle?
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:21 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Moves are hard to undo, because the inconvenience (and more uncomfortable, the admission of 'failure!') when you 'go backwards' is psychologically and logistically hard.

And this should not be underestimated. It's huge.
posted by cotton dress sock at 12:31 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

Coming back to suggest another resource that's based on what actual data suggests. Books by John Gottman about what it takes to have a strong relationship. They deeply analyze the interactions of couples, and the red flags I mentioned above, his books can tell you specifically which you must not ignore.
posted by bilabial at 3:12 AM on January 28, 2014

If this is strickly for convenience, then no, don't move in together for that reason. By all means, start looking for something that is closer to him, but your own deal.

If there's a combination of dissatisfaction AND a desire to take your relationship to the next level, then start talking about it.

"You know, I'd like to see you more often and I know with our current living situations that its hard. I'm unhappy where I am now and I'm planning to move. I'm thinking either closer to where you live, or, if you think we're ready, perhaps we can get a place to share. What do you think?"

It opens the conversation. How would you feel if he said no? Would you still be okay with it? Know that going in, because he should be able to say no if he likes where he lives and is comfortable living apart.

Moving in together as a couple isn't just a roommate situation, it means a lot more, and is a TON more work!

If you're not really ready, if you're just tired of living in your current situation, perhaps you ought to just get your own place, and leave moving in together for a bit later on in your relationship.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:55 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

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