Have you ever done a trial run before seriously moving in together?
August 10, 2017 9:37 AM   Subscribe

If moving in is pre-engagement, is this pre-pre-engagement? Long distance couple looking at a future of more long distance and would like to move in together for a short time before making deeper decisions. Is this just too extra? Snowflakes inside.

I'm a planner. What I'm trying to plan ahead for (or maybe stop trying to plan and just go with the flow) is my current relationship. Unexpectedly, I met someone in my hometown 9 months ago. We're in our mid to late twenties. I moved to a new city and he went to go hike the Appalachian Trail. Though we thought it may not have been the smartest idea, we became exclusive and long distance. Turns out it was a really good idea and we couldn't be happier! It does suck doing distance, but we'd rather do that than not date.

He will soon be done with the trail and this means my mind is in hyperdrive with planning. We've talked about marriage and agree on heading down that path in the next couple years or so, talked about the Big Topics and are mostly on the same page, communication is on point since that's really all we have outside our visits. I dated a man for 4 years and never felt certain about wanting to take the next step with him. 9 months with Hiker Honey and I feel excited about that, which is...a flag? I'm not sure what color. Hopefully green.

Anyways, here's where the anxiety pops in. Next August, HH will start his PhD program many states away. While very excited for this new occurrence, I am anxious at the thought of 4-5 years of more long distance when we haven't even lived in the same town before. Our semi-solution is to have a trial move-in where he moves to my city for a few months post hike. He lives with me, we get to find out how well we fare on a day to day basis, and then if that goes well, I will move to his city in a year or two.

Is this a dumb idea?

I have a feeling that we will actually do fine/well living together, which means the possibility of me uprooting and finding another job again may be in my future. That's the part I am not looking forward to at all. Being in the same city will be great. But it means having to start a new social life and make new friends and find a new boba tea place.

After reading slightly similar questions on the green (with pretty sad endings) and most answers resolving to dtmfa, I am anxious that we are making some horrid mistake with our plan. We feel good about it, but what if we're all wrong? I am also anxious that I am overly concerning myself about something that is a couple months to a year away for no reason.

In summary, has anyone done a trial run move in before? Was it pointless? Was it helpful? For those who were in long distance relationships, did you ever have the chance to be in the same city/living space before committing to more long distance and eventually moving? Did you not have that opportunity? Please tell me about your experiences either way!
posted by socky bottoms to Human Relations (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Seems like a great idea to me. Much better than moving many states away for a relationship that has never been in-person or tested in any way.

And if it goes well, it doesn't mean you move to be with him for his PhD program; it may mean you feel solid enough to do the LDR for the duration of it. Just keep your options open.

At the very worst it will be a couple of months with someone you care a lot about but find out isn't your best permanent match.
posted by headnsouth at 9:44 AM on August 10, 2017 [17 favorites]

Best answer: I have a feeling that we will actually do fine/well living together, which means the possibility of me uprooting and finding another job again may be in my future. That's the part I am not looking forward to at all. Being in the same city will be great. But it means having to start a new social life and make new friends and find a new boba tea place.

Now you're really thinking too far down the road. He is unencumbered in life and probably needs a place to live. You guys are head-over-heels and you have a place to live and he can be there with you. What's great about this arrangement is that it does have a built-in end date. I can't see a downside. Be very clear about finances and fears before making the move in together. He needs to be able to contribute to food, gas, other daily costs of living while he is with you, right? But if he can do that and you guys get a few months of cohabitation before he goes off, great! I'm not sure what in your question would lead you to think that DTMF would come up? You sound very level-headed and also aware of your planning nature. Let the months be what they are and then re-evaluate when the time comes to do so.
posted by amanda at 9:45 AM on August 10, 2017 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think I would sound like a wonderful idea if he weren't just coming off the trail. The AT has its own culture and coming back from that is basically like returning from a foreign country. As someone who has dealt with a lot of reintegration struggles I would put a keen eye towards this issue before moving in together.
posted by raccoon409 at 9:46 AM on August 10, 2017

Best answer: We feel good about it, but what if we're all wrong?

Then you'll break up. Which could happen either way. It's a very mild worst case scenario.

I think this short term living together plan sounds good. It's not REALLY going to be like living together because the duration is short but it still sounds nice. If nothing else it should be fun.

Just take this first step. See how it goes. Then make a new plan. You're planning too far ahead, it's dating not a disaster preparedness plan.
posted by French Fry at 9:46 AM on August 10, 2017 [5 favorites]

Is this a dumb idea?

Nope. Do things at the pace you feel comfortable with. Enjoy yourselves! Learn what you need to about each other and let him reintegrate as he needs to.

When I met my wife, we were living in two different cities. We moved in together after I proposed. And everything was a learning experience. We also did things at the pace we were comfortable with, and looking back, I'm grateful we did. It gave us a chance to weather some unexpected crises and slowly merge our finances before getting married.
posted by zarq at 9:50 AM on August 10, 2017

I did this - I was still in college and went to live with my boyfriend for a summer while I did an internship in his city. I'm really glad I did it! We actually did wind up breaking up at the end of the summer but it was amicable and my memories of that summer are still very happy.
posted by showbiz_liz at 10:03 AM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

When I moved in with my now-wife, it was for a three-month trial. I had a remote job and could move cross-country and AirBnB my place, and she didn't need help with the rent for that period, so it would have been as painless as possible to declare the experiment a failure and move back. (It wasn't! But it was reassuring to both of us that we weren't stuck on a one-way trip to Bad Roommatehood if that's the way it went.)

I'm all for trial move-ins - you learn things about the other person that you can't easily learn any other way, and if you're thinking it could be a long-term thing, they're things you absolutely need to know.
posted by restless_nomad at 10:09 AM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

My boyfriend and I did something like this! We'd been dating for maybe two years and the next logical step was moving in together. We're both a bit older, his commute would be changing dramatically and I'm very tidy so to make sure it was really feasible we decided to have him move in for a week or two as a trial. It went really well -- we've been living together for a couple of years now and we're getting married next year.
posted by kate blank at 10:14 AM on August 10, 2017

My wife & I did a trial run like this and it was a great idea for us. The main thing it addressed was what I think of as vacation-brain. When we started dating, we lived 700 miles apart and so the time we spent together was only on joint vacations and long weekends visiting each other, when spending time together & being romantic was the main point of the trip and the rest of our life (esp. work) basically on pause. Those trips were uniformly lovely, but we were always on vacation, and so how we got along didn’t seem like a guarantee of how smoothly things would go if we lived together.

So we did a trial run of a month: I stayed with her in her tiny flat during an objectively crummy time of year (March in NYC) to see how day-to-day stuff would go. Sharing a small space. Sharing household jobs. Going to work every day (I was able to work remotely from a library). Spending some time with each other’s errrm less glamorous sides. Talking about money & how to share it. Adapting to each other’s deadlines & schedules. Kicking the tires, kinda: we wanted to subject the relationship to a little more characteristic stress before I left my excellent job & social life in another state to move in with her.

In a way, a more useful example for you might be a story when someone did a trial like this and realized “holy shit, this won’t work at all, I'm glad we checked!” In our case, it confirmed for us that we wanted to be together, and made us more optimistic that we could weather more than fun long weekends. By the end of the trial run I was looking for a new job in her city, and within the year we moved in together.

Highly recommended.
posted by miles per flower at 10:23 AM on August 10, 2017 [2 favorites]

I did this for a month last summer. It was very helpful to live a somewhat-normal life together without the vacation-brain that miles per flower describes above. It was especially useful because I was able to identify some habits that I could work to improve during the year that we lived apart.

For example, last summer, I noticed that after handling raw chicken, my girlfriend wiped down the counters with an antibacterial wipe, and I thought to myself, "Huh, I've never seen anyone do that before. Is it maybe not good to touch all the faucets and cabinet handles with raw chicken hands?"

Now, while I don't necessarily bust out the Lysol, I'm also a lot more careful about food prep and sanitation in the kitchen. I had a whole year to practice, and so far it hasn't been an issue since we've lived together.
posted by coppermoss at 10:41 AM on August 10, 2017

My wife and I did this and it was a great idea for reasons other people have already stated.

One thing I do wonder about is whether it will be difficult if he has no place else to go. When I spent that first summer in my wife's city, I had other options: relatives across town I could crash with for a night, and a room in an apartment back in my own city that I could flee to if things went really badly. I ended up not needing any of those other options, but I think we were both glad they were there.

You might want to talk through with your guy what he'll do if the two of you have a bad fight, or even break up, while he's living with you. If his answer is "I'll be homeless! That will be terrible! You wouldn't be so heartless and cruel to me, would you?!" or "Oh, we won't break up, everything will be fine" — and if he's unwilling to consider revising those answers — then that's maybe a red flag. If his answer is "Iunno, get a motel room and figure it out from there?" that's probably okay. If he's got an actual fallback plan, even if it's just staying on a friend's couch or going back on the trail for a bit or whatever, that's great.
posted by nebulawindphone at 12:32 PM on August 10, 2017

I did this with my now-husband (sorta). Here's how it worked for us:

We had been dating for about 14 months long distance (while he was in a graduate program in another country - I was in the USA and he was in Europe).

When he came back for the summer after his first year of school finished, he got a paid internship on the opposite coast of where I lived.

I asked my employer if I could work remotely for six weeks and he asked his employer to pay for the cost of my plane ticket and provide housing for both of us. His employer and my employer both agreed.

Then we spent six weeks living in a small house, cooking meals, doing chores, going on hikes on the weekends, and working (me on a MacBook and he in an office a block away). We basically got a preview of what domesticity would be like together. Near the end of the six weeks, we sat down and talked about marriage and made a plan to be engaged by the following spring followed by a wedding the following autumn.

We did indeed get engaged that spring and obviously got married that following autumn after a six-month engagement.

So, the whole trying out living together thing is fun and fine. We would've gotten married without it, honestly. But it was nice to have. We look back on that summer very fondly.

The one thing I'd caution you about is that, well, it seems like you are talking about a really long and/or indefinite time frame in your Ask.Me question.

I mean, you mention years and that timeline just seems really... hard to plan for, you know?

Like, when my now-husband and I started dating, we quickly knew we wanted to get married but hey, we also knew that we needed to get to know each other better. We waited about 11 months and then had a Serious Conversation which I began by saying "I would like us to get married. How do you feel about that?"

He said he wanted to get married to me, but a) he did not want to get married while he was in graduate school and b) did not want to get engaged until he was in the homestretch (last 6 months) of graduate school because he thought it would be too much to balance emotionally and that planning a wedding would be hard to do while trying to finish school. I agreed with those points. We also decided that we wanted to get married within one month of his return to the USA after grad school.

So, we were talking about a timeline totaling two and a half years from first kiss to "I do." That meant us getting married was something I could clearly envision. And trust. And believe in. You know?

I know two people (not married to each other) who have gotten divorces while doing a PhD program (partly, though not entirely, because they were trying to do a PhD program and be in a long-distance marriage). I know someone else who got married while doing his PhD but his partner is also a PhD student at the same university. They both have a few years left before they will finish up and they're doing great. Their relationship had an almost identical timeline to my husband and me.

I guess I'm trying to say: PhD programs can be hard on relationships. Long-distance relationships can be hard on relationships. Unspoken assumptions or expectations can be hard on relationships. I would try to avoid two out of three of those if at all possible.
posted by pinetree at 2:56 PM on August 10, 2017 [1 favorite]

Totally! My now husband and I lived apart for three years when I was an undergrad and he was in grad school. I took summer internships near his school and lived with him for those summer months. It was an extra good trial because we were living in spaces not really intended for two adults, so we got that extra closeness that can make you insane if you're not that compatible :) I will say, though, if you end up living in a super tiny place, think about getting a storage unit if you're the kind of people who are stressed out by clutter. It's a confounding variable in your trial.
posted by potrzebie at 12:15 AM on August 11, 2017

Also did this--my fiance and I are LD, and we live together when we visit, while we sort out immigration.

My advice is the longer you can make the time together the better-- I got a much better sense of living together when I was with him for 3 months straight, rather than times I am with him in 1-month stints. Although, the more time we spend together, the better.

So far it's working well, but I do advise that it can feel like you're on holiday or vice versa when you're living from a suitcase while in another place, and it has this temporary feeling (because it is temporary) and that if you're not working, it can exacerbate this pleasant 'holiday' feeling, which can cloud your relationship a bit. So the more you settle and normalize, and do crap, awful boring stuff, the closer to living together it will feel like. Feeling like you're on a holiday together, while pleasant, can make your relationship seem better than what it might be day to day.

Apart from that, working out a concrete plan, who moves, when where, etc, also helped a lot.
posted by Dimes at 12:49 PM on August 11, 2017

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