Moving in?
August 20, 2014 12:05 PM   Subscribe

Boyfriend of 1.5 years and I considering joining homes. Some extenuating circumstances...

I've read other advice re: general moving-in practices. My boyfriend and I (me 26f, him 31m) have been dating for 1.5 years, everything's great, finances in order, similar cleaning habits, etc.

However, much of the advice that I've read/heard is "when you spend most nights together anyway, moving in is a natural step."

My boyfriend and I don't spend many nights together, by choice. We live about 15 mins away from each other, but we both prefer our own spaces/need some alone time after work (we both work in highly social environments). Also, we both work long hours and get home late/wake up early, so our home-time is pretty limited, except for weekends (which we do spend together) We spend maybe 2 nights a week sleeping over (mostly weekends).

We want to move in because we'd like to spend more time together and take the next committed step in our relationship. We plan to get our own shared space, rather than move into one of our current homes. We have carved out some time tonight to talk about next steps.

Does this mean a move-in is doomed? If we wanted to spend more nights together, wouldn't we already be doing it? What can we do to ease the transition? Thoughts/anecdotes, etc. welcome.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you are both frequently not home, tend to need recovery "alone time" when home during the week, and already spend most weekends together, I'm confused as to how moving in = "spend[ing] more time together" in this case.

I don't think moving in per se represents an added level of intimacy/commitment, unless you specifically move in in order to do more intimate and more committed things-- like buying furniture together, cooking together, waking up together, getting a pet, etc., etc. Otherwise, it's just a roommate who happens to be your same boyfriend from before, no? When you imagine yourself moving in, is there anything concrete you're looking forward to?
posted by Bardolph at 12:12 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Doomed? Probably not. More of an adjustment than couples who are already in each others' space a lot? Maybe? But also maybe not. Moving in is an adjustment for most couples anyway; prior to moving in together, my SO and I would spend most nights together, and it was still kind of a jolt. Just make sure that whatever shared space you find together has enough room that the two of you can still carve out some solitude for yourselves, or you will find that post-work recovery "alone time" hard to get.
posted by like_a_friend at 12:14 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Get at least a 2 bedroom place. 3 if you can afford it. Each of you carve out your own space in the house that is "your space", or at least a place you can easily retreat to individaully. You can visit each other in your "spaces" when you want, or go to a third "share space", and retreat to your corners when you need to. My husband and I have adopted a "closed door" strategy for when we really need to be alone vs. when we welcome company (and since my private space involves some of my musical instruments and whatnot, which are great stress relievers for me, if I am in there with the door closed he pretends the door has excellent soundproofing and he couldn't hear me in there).

We also try to each have one night every week or two of a few hours of activity outside the home (a class, beer with friends, some time at the library reading, whatever) which gives the other person a chance to have some legit alone time in the house, which is really nice.

I'm not sure if from what you are saying you don't like actually sharing a bed or not, but if not, that's totally fine too. Each of you can set up your own bedroom, you can spend time together when you want, have some pre-sleeping sex and/or cuddling in one of the beds, and go to your separate beds when you want to sleep.

People have differing amounts of time they like to spend with each other. Some couples choose to never live together, and that's fine too (a friend of mine lives in a different apartment in the same building as her wife, a situation which works fabulously for them). For those of us who like living with our significant others but also need some alone time, a situation where we can carve out our spaces but still be together when we want is best of both worlds.

And! A piece of advice I've given before: if you are signing a lease, have the conversation before you sign it about who would get the apartment if you break up (or decide that living together isn't working for you), and whether they can afford it. A 2 bedroom is good in this case too because it makes it easier to get a roommate if the staying party needs it to afford the place. It is an awkward conversation, but it is so much better to have it now then to have it be an issue later.
posted by brainmouse at 12:15 PM on August 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

I would say I'm in a similar relationship, and I have really enjoyed "shacking up." We mitigated alone time needs by getting a two bedroom apartment, so we each have our own space. We sleep apart most weekdays and are still very happy and in love. The time you spend with someone when you live together is different than time spent together when tut live apart for better and worse. When we would spend time together before we moved in, that time was about socializing with each other, now much of the time we happen to spend together is each of us doing our own thing while the other person happens to be around. I say go for it if you guys generally get along with each other. Worst comes to worst you can always just move back out.
posted by permiechickie at 12:16 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Get at least a two bedroom place, even if one is just used as a den/computer room. That way you have some place to escape to for 'me time'.
posted by empath at 12:17 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Doomed? Not based on what you've told us. If you each need to be able to retreat to your respective lairs, you might look for a place that allows that. You might figure out different ways to accommodate that. Or you might discover that you don't really need it after all.

As with all couples, being honest with yourself and upfront with your SO will be important. You might get into a situation where one of you wants more alone time than the other, and this could cause resentment if you don't recognize it and talk about it.
posted by adamrice at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Definitely not doomed; my partner and I have lived together like this for 7 or 8 years. You just need designated individual spaces so that you each have a study/workshop/whatever, and an open conversation about how much "me" time you each generally need, if you feel you need general rules about when it's OK to interrupt and when it's not, etc. We also don't share a bed most nights, either, because we have always had pretty different sleep schedules (though we usually fall asleep together; he just gets up after I've fallen asleep), so don't feel you have to conform to some one-size-fits-all cultural expectation of what a "good" couple looks like.

That said: as others have noted, living together is always an adjustment, no matter how compatible you are, so don't be alarmed if it takes some time for you to develop the dynamic that works best for you.
posted by scody at 12:27 PM on August 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Not doomed at all! Permiechickie is so right about being able to do your own thing and having time with your SO, simultaneously, rather than your time together being intense bursts of socializing. Living together can be really delightful, and you can make your own rules.

One thing to consider is home decor and your belongings. Do you like your boyfriend's stuff? Does he like your stuff? Are you prepared to put a thing or two in storage? Do you agree, or will you, on how your mutual spaces should look?

Another thing: accepting that your idea of "clean" will probably be different from your boyfriend's. Accept it as part of who he is, and then you should both maintain a standard you both find agreeable and realistic. Outside of that standard, it's best to just let it slide. I've had big fights with exes about cleaning, and they almost always accomplished nothing (except misery). Hire a cleaning service if you can afford it.

Sometimes I think wealthy folks in the past had the best possible situation--it'd probably be really nice for a husband and wife to keep separate bedrooms (and sitting areas, antechambers, bathrooms, etc.) and meet in a shared parlor or make bedroom visits only as often as they felt like.
posted by magdalemon at 12:29 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

"If we wanted to spend more nights together, wouldn't we already be doing it?"

This is a very wise insight. If you have the financial means to keep your own spaces you'll be happier and cultivate a better relationship if you do so. Ideally, you will feel drawn together, not driven.

—Married 32 years
posted by R2WeTwo at 12:51 PM on August 20, 2014

I don't think this is doomed at all, but I think a bigger place would serve you guys well. My fiance and I really like spending almost all our free time with each other (yes, we are one of those horridly obnoxious couples who is always holding hands, goes to the gym together, eats lunch together etc. etc.), and we still sometimes go a bit crazy in our very small one-bedroom apartment -- for people with need of more alone time, I think it would be terrible. If you're both currently able to pay rent on two separate places, hopefully a 2-br place or larger isn't out of the question.

The only thing that gave me pause about your question was the line "take the next committed step in our relationship." If you guys want to move in together because you want more intimacy, make it easier to spend time together, want to wake up next to each other, etc. etc. then go for it. If it's just because you feel it's the next thing you're "supposed to do" rather than what you actually want, then I do think it is probably semi-doomed (or at least ill-advised).

Also: are you on a particular time table with leases or something similar that makes an immediate decision necessary? How about committing to a month or two of regular sleep overs (5 nights a week?) and see how it goes? If it seems good and the thing you don't like about it is that it is inconvenient to do that with two residences, moving in together has a good chance of working out well. If it drives you nuts and you don't like seeing each other that much, then that is valuable information as well.
posted by rainbowbrite at 1:07 PM on August 20, 2014

Not doomed, but an adjustment, and one you will weather better if you explicitly discuss this.

For example, as the even-more-hermit-y one of a hermit-y pair, I have flat-out insisted on having my own office/den sort of room everywhere we have lived together. It's a basic sanity thing. I need to have a small space that is mine, arranged exactly how I like it, where it is understood that if I go in there and shut the door I should really not be disturbed for non-serious issues. In return, I understand that sometimes "I am really hungry can we please figure out what to do about dinner" and "I would like to hug you and/or show you this adorable thing our cat is doing" is a valid and sweet reason to interrupt, as long as The Closed Door is respected most of the time.

We also have both had to get very comfortable being very upfront about saying stuff like "Hey, I am kind of climbing the walls without any alone time here, could you maybe plan an evening out without me in the next week or two?" And then not being offended when the other person does the same thing, as long as we have sufficient warning to figure something out and it's not like "You need to leave Right Now."

That stuff keeps living-together enjoyable and manageable for us. Your compromises may be different, but I think it's quite likely you can make this work and that you will really enjoy many of the together parts of living together, if you allow yourself space for some non-together parts too.
posted by Stacey at 1:47 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm an introvert, living with a fellow hermit who's even more introverted than I am, which at first, I didn't believe was possible. We've been living together for almost two years, and here are some things that wound up working for us as we settled in together.

Getting a two-bedroom place was definitely a good idea for us. The second bedroom is mostly used as a den/storage room, but it's nice to have a spare room for the nights when we're both home but need our respective corners. We found a two-bedroom for about the same price as a 1-bedroom, in an older set of townhouses. It suits us. We respect the space and know that if either of us retreats in there, it's not because we're upset or anything. We just seriously need some completely alone time.

Also, we have an agreement. If one of us needs introvert time, we can have it. We've mastered the art of doing our own thing in the same room. He might play a video game, and I'll read or fuss on the computer. It is understood that we'll leave each other alone for an hour or two, until one or both of us decides we're fit to interact with others again.

We work different hours, so we usually have 3-4 big chunks of uninterrupted time a week with the house totally to ourselves, which is nice. If we worked similar hours, I imagine we'd probably dedicate 1-2 nights a week toward making sure the other person had the house to themselves for a stretch.

On the evenings we have free, we try to go out for at least one of them, even if it's just to dinner. It makes us appreciate our time together alone more after we've had a taste of interacting with the wider world.

I think the big thing is to try and be somewhat flexible, as you're both going to be adjusting to the change. But also speak up if something's not working. It's okay if you decide you need your own bedrooms or a night without the significant other or whatever. Part of bringing the relationship to the next level, so to speak, is figuring out what makes both of you happy.
posted by PearlRose at 1:54 PM on August 20, 2014

Not doomed, just get a nice big place, with areas for each of you to go to if you want alone time.

Husbunny and I have separate bedrooms and have since we've been engaged. We didn't plan it that way, but that's how it shook out. It's SO GREAT to have my own room! I have it as girly as can be, it's my little sanctuary. At night Husbunny and the cats and I go there to hang out in the King sized bed, watch TV and commune. When bedtime comes, he goes to his room, and I sleep with the cats.

Husbunny's room is masculine and it has his study area. (He's an actuary, so he needs study stuff.) He can study in there, pet the cats by himself, and whatever all else his little heart desires.

Our living room has a 'tech area' just off of it. There's a desk in there and all the computer jazz. That's another place he can go to if he wants to play games or write, or whatever.

We're very sympathetic to each other's need for alone time, and will ask each other, "I'm going to watch Pre-Code Movies. Want to do that with me, or should I go in the other room?" Then he can accept or decline and it's all good. If I want his company I can ask for it, "I feel like watching TV together, what's on that you'd watch?"

But you need to be okay with expressing your needs and not always getting what you want. Even a two bedroom apartment should be cheaper than two one bedroom apartments. You won't be sad you got the extra space.

Be sure that each of you has his/her own space, you'll be just fine!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:31 PM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

I agree with everyone above, but I'll add this caveat: If the parties are loving and generous and the will to allow each other time, space and *respect* to be alone with their own interests / occupations is there, even a small space can be used and shared happily by two. If those qualities are missing, even a mansion won't afford enough space.
posted by taz at 2:44 PM on August 20, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yeah, as long as pre-cohabitation communication is solid, I don't see any reason why this couldn't work. Unless of course, one of you is going along only to placate the other.

Both my SO and I are introverts (she more than I), and we both need private time. Before we moved in together, I was arguably less interested; it was a "next step" for her, but mostly just an economic convenience for me. But we talked about it a bunch in the run-up, and I started getting more emotionally on-board. These sorts of talks ranged from privacy needs/expectations and financial stuff to architectural/amenities minutia.

We found a good-sized 2 bdrm, in a building/location that suited us. I do a lot of my work-y/surf-y stuff in the "office," while she does most of hers in the "bedroom." "Office" is arranged more to my liking, and has my fold-out futon couch and clothing. "Bedroom" is arranged more to hers and has the fancy new Grown Up Bed and her clothes. "Living Room" is for shared sit-down eating, movie watching, etc. We usually sleep together in "bedroom," but if we want to solo sleep, I happily retire to "office."

Your experience may be different, but I've been really surprised how much mine has been the opposite of what I'd feared. Instead of feeling irritated about sharing space more often and "spending the night" more frequently (we were at 3 -- 4 nights a week, previously), I've found that I actively look forward to being together at home. It's still early, but the move has brought us much closer, rather than driving a wedge.

TL/DR: If approached with calm and mutual care, this is totally doable.
posted by credible hulk at 5:46 PM on August 20, 2014

Agreed with the 2-3 bedroom idea. That's what we have now and it works out very well. I make sure to spend 2-3 hours with my husband together every night.

If this doesn't work out for you but you still want to be together, you may want to look at "Living Apart Together" (apparently there's even a wikipedia article on it).
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 5:40 AM on August 21, 2014

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