How do I tactfully ask my girlfriend to move out?
April 25, 2007 7:59 AM   Subscribe

How do I tactfully ask my girlfriend to move out of my house?

My girlfriend and I have been living together for about 4 months. She moved in to my house after about 6 months of hinting and hoping that we could live together. I asked her to move in because she was having some issues at her previous place (not important).

However, I have been really uncomfortable with us living together since the beginning. It's not one specific thing but I'm the type of person that needs copious amounts of "alone time" to feel relaxed and maintain my insanity. She really doesn't understand this (after many attempts at an explanation) and gets frustrated that we don't spend all of our time together when we're home. It ends up that I spend my time with her (hanging out on the couch or whatever) and I end up feeling very stressed and anxious and "trapped". I really wish I had the same freedom I did when I lived alone.

I'd like to continue our relationship but with us living apart. I'd like to find a really tactful and diplomatic way of expressing my feelings to her that I don't want to live together anymore and I want her to move out (it is my house that we live in currently). Unfortunately, she's very sensitive about feeling rejected and is a bit on the dramatic side…

Any ideas on how I can approach this sensitive topic?

(we're in our early 30s if it matters)

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posted by anonymous to Human Relations (36 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Asking her to move out will end your relationship. Doesn't sound like you are very compatible anyways.
posted by Justin Case at 8:03 AM on April 25, 2007

Well, it's possible it won't end the relationship. But that won't be determined by your clever way of asking her to move out.
posted by smackfu at 8:06 AM on April 25, 2007

Doesn't sound like you are very compatible anyways.

Yep. You sound like an archetypal introvert, and she is a very attention-craving person who thrives on time together. Niether of these is wrong, but they are not very compatible.

How long have you been together? Sounds like at least 10 months and probably much longer, which is usually "fish or cut bait" time for people in their early 30s. So, if this relationship continues and becomes more serious, you'll have to contemplate living with her at some point. Would it be better if you had 2 seperate bedrooms?

Bottom line is, if she doesn't understand your need for "me time", and if you are stressed by the prospect of giving her lots of "together time", this just isn't going to work out.
posted by rkent at 8:08 AM on April 25, 2007

In many ways, my relationship with my other half sounds similar to yours. If I try to go upstairs to my office to find stuff, she'll wander up there after about 20 minutes just to see what's going on.

Of course, you're not the first person to feel trapped in a relationship with someone who wants to spend all their time with you when you want some "me time". FWIW, I think everyone goes through that to begin with.

I found a mini-solution in having a laptop so that while I'm physically with her on the couch, I'm in my own world of watching some downloaded TV or playing a computer game while she's watching her soap operas. (But then I have a personal repulsion thing with soap operas - I can't stand to hear the dialogue of soap operas, otherwise I'll get trapped).

But I have to echo the above. If you ask her to move out, she's going to take that as a rejection of her and the relationship. because, well, it is. Presumably to her, a relationship involves living together and being together where possible.

If you can't accomodate that to some extent, and it's gotten to the point where you have to ask her to move out, then you'll just have to ask yourself which is more important. Your girlfriend or your "me time".

(Me giving relationship advice? What's happened in this crazee world ?!)
posted by aprivateperson at 8:10 AM on April 25, 2007

If you can't create the boundaries that let you feel 'free' while living together then the relationship doesn't look very hopeful.

Anyway, it seems like explaining the problem to her will help more than asking her to move out. She might have alternate solutions that don't cause major logistical and emotional problems for her.
posted by cowbellemoo at 8:14 AM on April 25, 2007

There is no "trick" to this. If you're in your 30's, you're old enough to have an adult conversation about your relationship.

I would suggest, however, that you broach the subject in the context of changing your relationship dynamic, not asking her to leave. If you're unwilling to change and make compromises, you're just not going to ever have a long-term relationship with anyone remotely interesting.

Unfortunately, she's very sensitive about feeling rejected and is a bit on the dramatic side…

Everyone is sensitive about being rejected. And "dramatic" is a weak excuse- it's the modern-day equivalent of calling women "hysterical" because they express emotion.
posted by mkultra at 8:14 AM on April 25, 2007 [3 favorites]

If you can't get her to understand your need for alone time in the current situation then you're not going to get her to understand it with this new request.

I have the same issue, and to some extent I have reconciled myself to it being a lifetime annoyance, like being prone to hangnails or UTIs. People who don't need that time are often unable - or sometimes unwilling - to understand. In fairness to them, we're a smaller segment of the population so it's less intuitive to them.

You simply need to be up-front and firm about it, while recognizing that anyone prone to feeling at all rejected is going to feel like you're pushing them away. They don't understand the need, so they interpret it as if it was their own request and something they'd do because they didn't want to be around someone, not because of a separate competing need. Figure out a way you can get what you need, present it, and be resolute. Maybe an office space that's your sanctum. Maybe it's going to have to be out of the house - that's her home now too, after all.

I find that whenever this comes up as an issue between my darling girlfriend and myself it's because I've failed to make that time for myself for a while and she's fallen out of the habit of seeing it as something I Need. Everyone has to make some effort to look after themselves and you're going to have to as well. You may as well attempt to fix this now rather than booting her out since you are going to have to find a way to cope with this in your life.
posted by phearlez at 8:15 AM on April 25, 2007

For me, this situation would be a deal-breaker.

I'm like you (seemingly) in that I need time to myself to recharge. When I was in relationships, if the other person didn't understand this, it never could last. Fortunately, I met someone as introverted as me, and they give me time to myself when I need it.

As such, from my personal experience, asking her to move out probably will lead to the end of the relationship.

That said, if you still wanted to try to pull it off, first I'd try to figure out a compromise that wouldn't involve her moving out. Separate bedrooms might work, the couch-laptop idea might work, or maybe just tell her you need some time to yourself every day or every week. To try to make it work, try to find solutions that you'll both be comfortable with.
posted by drezdn at 8:21 AM on April 25, 2007

I was once in the same position as you and I couched it as, "I need some time to myself. It's not that I don't like spending time with you, but I also like being on my own and would like more of an opportunity to do that." And then I tried to put myself in situations where I was "on my own" like working on a hobby that I do by myself, reading a book, watching a show he didn't like, or going to get my nails done. (We were living together and I tried what you're thinking of, he didn't take it well and I backed down). All the togetherness eventually overwhelmed me and I broke up with him.

In the end, I don't think her moving out will solve too much. If you want to continue a relationship (presumably) in the direction of a marriage, eventually you're going to end up in the same house again with the same situation. Finding a way to peacefully co-exist in the same place right now may be a better solution if you'd like to keep your relationship.
posted by ml98tu at 8:41 AM on April 25, 2007

The alone time/space issue is an important one for me and my boyfriend, too. When we lived in a 1BR apartment it was hell and he spent alot of time at work to get his alone time. At that point, he was thinking the same way you are...not about how to make it work but just that if I left, then he'd be more comfortable. The key was talking about the issue and realizing it meant that we each had to have an office in the house where we could retreat. So yea, you need to tell her what you need and go from there. You don't have to jump right to "you have to move out" unless she is unable to give you the space you need.
posted by cabingirl at 8:44 AM on April 25, 2007

What phearlez said - if you don't learn to establish your own boundaries and take care of your own needs, it won't matter if your girlfriend is physically present or not, because the issue will resurface later.
posted by desjardins at 8:51 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Your question makes me really really glad my boyfriend didn't move in when I wanted him to.
I see alot of men outside in the garage or parking lots, or bars alone at night because they need to get away.
I was married 20 years and we were both introverts, even took seperate vacations, had seperate rooms. But when we were together it was fun, the sex was good... we traded off the kids alot so we could each have alone time. For a few years we worked different shifts. Finally even with all the love and years together we just got sick of each other :) and divorced.
It's hard to live with anyone for years and years. Your girlfriend (I'd bet on it) probably is thinking marriage and children already.
Try this. Tell her you love her but need time alone because you have this type of personality blah blah blah and then encourage her to take up some hobbies, work overtime, volunteer, something.
BTW soap operas- red flag.
Good luck.
posted by bkiddo at 8:52 AM on April 25, 2007

I can't imagine asking her to move out won't end your relationship. If you can't live with someone, where exactly is your relationship leading anyway?
posted by chunking express at 8:54 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Is it possible that she feels she has to hang around you? When I started dating my very extroverted partner he always followed me whenever I went off alone since he thought I expected him to come with me so we'd have "alone time". I explained to him that I'm introverted and I need time to myself to recouperate from the somewhat draining experience of being around people so it was OK when he went off and did his own thing. Explain to your girlfriend the same thing, and emphasize that you love her and because you love her and want to keep the relationship going you need to be away from people sometimes (not just her).

It helps that we have roommates--it means when I go off alone he still has people to hang out with. But he's also cool going out without me. Perhaps you can find a compromise--are there places in the apartment where you can be separate from one another? Is she willing to go out with her friends without you? Otherwise, given your age I would say this probably signifies the end of the relationship.
posted by schroedinger at 9:04 AM on April 25, 2007

just ask honestly. she'll probably hate you for it, but there's no way to get around it. she'll see through it no matter how you put it. if you want the very very obvious advice, it would be this:

1. tell her your feelings about her, be clear that you still care about her/love her/whatever.
2. tell her you want to stay with her.
3. explain that you're really uncomfortable not having alone time and private space.
4. because you don't see any other option, you think she should move out.
5. maybe give her the option of trying to work it out a little longer with her in the house if she promises to try to give you some space.

other than that, there isn't much you can do. good luck.
posted by shmegegge at 9:12 AM on April 25, 2007

Loosely related: Introverted step parent dealing with Extroverted child. This might help with finding ways to cope.

Also, you might get her to read Caring for Your Introvert, and then discuss your need for space. It's definitely going to hurt her 'cause she won't understand. Keep in mind, you've been uncomfortable with this since the beginning and if that comes out, she'll really be hurt and possibly angry and feeling like a fool.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:15 AM on April 25, 2007

Does she expect you to interact with her all the time? Because some people find it completely normal to be in one another's presence but not be actively engaging the other person. Simply existing in the same space. My husband and I do this -- I sit at my desk, work on my stuff, surf the web, whatever, and he sits at his desk and does his thing. Sometimes we will ask one other questions or talk about what we're doing.

If you can cultivate this type of thing (essentially the whole laptop/couch/tv arrangement above) then you might be okay. Being in a relationship is about learning to live together.
posted by Medieval Maven at 9:23 AM on April 25, 2007

She really doesn't understand this (after many attempts at an explanation) and gets frustrated that we don't spend all of our time together when we're home.

This seems like your core issue here. Whether she's moved in with you or living on her own, you'll need to deal with this first. Take care of this aspect of your relationship and then decide what makes sense with respect to your living situation.
posted by junesix at 9:23 AM on April 25, 2007

If you really want to try this, make sure you plan some "together" time too, not just the alone time. If you only ever ask for alone time, instead of sometimes asking to spend time with her, there's no wonder she feels rejected. (I would, and have, too).

Could she handle having less together time if it were higher quality? (i.e. not just lazing around on the couch?) When was the last time you two went out on a planned date/weekend away?

Otherwise I second the "get her a hobby". Then you get your alone time, she gets human contact and hopefully some fun, and everybody's happy.

Oh, I'd also like to say that the divide isn't necessarily introvert/extrovert. I'm a total introvert, my ex was much more of an extrovert, and we still had trouble with this (he wanted time alone, I wanted time together). For me, I didn't really want to spend all my time with him-- but I wasn't getting much out of the time we did have, so I craved more. This was mostly because I was hoping for some sort of positive attention during those times, rather than just "hanging out". Could this be your issue too?
posted by nat at 9:38 AM on April 25, 2007

Break up or move to the next stage of the relationship and learn to live together.

You're 30, and that's decision time, if not for you, then for her. You don't have to decide right now but you need to be moving in the direction you eventually want to go.

If you want to stay together, you've got to have an adult discussion about how to live together.
posted by Mr. Gunn at 10:14 AM on April 25, 2007

While I am firmly in the "you are breaking up" camp, a data point: my wife and I each have separate studios as well as our shared bedroom. We each crave being able to shut the door and dance/play guitar/mindlessly post to metafilter/etc., and would probably resent not being able to do this.
Maybe you need to find a larger place, together?
posted by signal at 10:37 AM on April 25, 2007

Dump her. Tell her she's gotta go.

"Unfortunately, she's very sensitive about feeling rejected and is a bit on the dramatic side…"

Translation: "We have other communication problems."

Does she have any friends outside of your relationship or are you basically her only friend? If so, that can become a problem too.
posted by drstein at 10:45 AM on April 25, 2007

I'm an extrovert and my husband is an introvert. I'm happy to give him alone time to recharge. As long as he gives me positive attention when we are together...not just hanging out in the same room. For awhile, he thought that if we were watching TV or if we were in the same room while he was working on his laptop, that we were spending time together. Um, no. Going for a walk together, grabbing a beer together at the pub, talking while making dinner together...that was the type of thing that I needed once in awhile. He needed to spend that time on his laptop without talking or hunker down in the office playing a video game to blow off steam or unwind after talking to others at work all day. He gets home from work and needs to chill and I'm cool with that. But I need some conversation at some point before bed or I begin to feel down. And no, saying that "well, I pay attention to her AFTER we go to bed" doesn't cut it.

There is the Care and Feeding of Introverts and Care and Feeding of Extroverts. You have needs. She has needs. Before you throw in the towel on living together, think about whether you are willing to really be in a relationship with another person which involves some give AND take.
posted by jeanmari at 10:49 AM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Assuming you still want to stay in the relationship, perhaps this book would help. 16 ways to love your lover.

It's focus is how different types like introverts and extroverts have different needs in a relationship. My girlfiend read it once I introduced her to it. It explained a lot of the differences we were having. (She and I are almost total opposites from a Myers Briggs type) I'm the introvert and can relate to your need for alone time.

My girlfriend is now my wife of 11 years by the way.
posted by bhdad at 10:50 AM on April 25, 2007

I'm guessing the reason she focused so much on moving in and the reason she's spending so much time with you is partly in response to your need for space -- if she doesn't have the same need for alone time, that can be pretty tough to a) understand and b) not feel rejected.

If you guys could just get to a place where she's not feeling rejected, she would probably calm down on the together time and remember that she needs her own space too. As others have suggested, i'd focus on shorter bursts of proper quality time - go for a day trip, go to the zoo, etc., then maybe both of you would feel more comfortable and could go do your own thing afterwards. That is, of course, assuming that you're not 100% dead set on her moving out, but just want your comfort back.
posted by ukdanae at 11:15 AM on April 25, 2007

I think its important to have the balance. I'll say to my girlfriend "i'm doing this tonight" or "i don't feel like watching tv, i'll be down stairs reading" and generally she is OK with that, but what is important is that I make time with her, even if its just a few hours a week to sit close on the couch and watch some crap i can't stand because i love her and it is important to her and her needs for me to do that (as well as express my affection in other ways). We both have made it clear to each other that we need to be seperate and do our own things because it is how we recharge ourselves and have something to bring to the relationship.

I'd suggest telling her how important having your own time is to you while being honest with her about how you feel about her (still want the relationship, etc...) and making a commitment to time together (on tuesdays we'll go out together, on thus i'll sit with you and watch tv for 3 hrs or whatever). If she cares about you and is not just in a relationship for needy reasons she will give you the room you ask for I'd think.

On the other hand maybe you need to share a bigger place?

or on the other hand maybe you already decided you want her out which doesn't bode well for anything more then break-up in the long run.
posted by jeffe at 11:46 AM on April 25, 2007

(If you can't live together, why would you keep dating?)

She's probably just as frustrated with the situation as you are. She probably also knows that this relationship isn't working; that's probably why she's so dramatic.

Tell her you'd rather live separately for a while, and help her find her new living situation. You don't have to break up as part of this process.
posted by Sprout the Vulgarian at 12:25 PM on April 25, 2007

I can't imagine asking her to move out won't end your relationship. If you can't live with someone, where exactly is your relationship leading anyway?

From the W to the T to the F...

If you think all relationships must follow the stereotypical linear progression toward co-habitation and 1.5 children, then, yes, this comment is right. Judging from your question, though, you don't necessarily think that, so that kind of glib advice is useless.

How do you feel about your GF? Really. Ask yourself that, and be honest. Then tell her how you feel, then tell her what your needs around privacy are. Then ask her the same questions (or just let her tell you). Then work out a compromise.

It seems like she probably thinks committed relationship = cohabitation, but that may be because she hasn't really thought about it. People often don't, either out of insecurity or simple laziness. The truth is, people can be constant, loving presences in eachother's lives without being constant, crowding presences in eachother's living spaces. There is no template for relationships, believe it or not.

If you're both trying to take home a Relationship Trophy at the end of the day, yeah, this will end badly. But if you both want to be in eachother's lives, and are honest with eachother and yourselves, there's no reason this has to end the relationship outright.

The relationships that don't change are the unhealthy ones.

Or, as Kahlil Gibran wrote,
"Love one another, but make not a bond of love. Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls. Fill eachother's cup but drink not from one cup... Sing and dance together and be joyous, but let each one of you be alone, even as the strings of a lute are alone though they quiver with the same music."

That said, you don't sound like you're "in love," whatever that means for you. Is she? You really need to be talking about more than just the living situation.
posted by poweredbybeard at 12:44 PM on April 25, 2007 [2 favorites]

It ends up that I spend my time with her (hanging out on the couch or whatever) and I end up feeling very stressed and anxious and "trapped".

Why don't you respect your own needs? How can you expect HER to accept your wishes / needs, if YOU don't?

Try to correct your behaviour first. Inform her, that you will more care of your own needs in future. Try not to scare her with this change - but do not make bad compromises anymore. If she has a problem with your new behaviour - well, this means you both a not a good fit. But from my perspective, there is a chance, that the new situation is ok for both of you - and you can continue your relationship.

How would you know, if you assume, that she will not be fine, when you haven't tried?
posted by cwittmann at 1:28 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

Within the first 6 months of living together, I would have described my current relationship very similarly, with me being the same as your girlfriend.

I'm not saying that you should stay living together, but there are a few things that might be worth considering. The subject of "quality" together time has come up, and I suggest pursuing and extending this to help figure things out (which you will need to do regardless of whether she moves out).

For instance, I realized at some point during our first 6 months (during which time I was jobless) that my partner spent the day working and dealing with people, while I spent the day looking for work and being rejected, or just being alone. I really needed a boost by the end of the day and looked forward to him coming home. He really needed a break from people, and looked forward to quiet time. Once we realized that, it became much easier to work out that a 5 minute conversation and a hug was all I really needed to be able to both be comfortable and respect his desire for alone time, and that by dinner he was usually ready to spend more time together.

The thing is that it's not always easy to figure out what is triggering the need to be alone or the need for company. If our response towards stress or our current circumstances is one or the other, then we tend to assume that we are that type of person. But if you spend some time thinking *both* why and when do I need to be alone, *and* why and when does she need to be together, then you might be able to figure out a solution that is suited to your specific needs rather than to a perception of your general personality styles.

To have this conversation, a kind but honest approach is best. "Honey, I want our relationship to work, but right now it's not. Can we talk about what's going on with each other in our lives when you want to be together and I want alone time?" If you are trying to figure out both of your needs and how they fit together, then you aren't rejecting her. If you guys get engaged in a mutual effort to make both of you comfortable and living apart still seems like a better option, then you will be in a good place to introduce it as a part of your relationship rather than as a partial end to your relationship.
posted by carmen at 2:48 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

To expand on what carmen said: You obviously don't want to spend all your time alone, or you'd simply want to end the relationship. She probably doesn't want to spend all her time with you, or she'd quit her job and follow you to yours. So you must have some shared desires for space and for intimacy. Maybe you can start by exploring what those shared desires are rather than by pitting yourself against her as an adversary. Ask her to tell you about when she needs time alone and how she satisfies that need, and about when she needs time together and what satisfies that need. See where your desires overlap her desires, rather than trying to figure out where they clash, and start building things from there.

This is not a unique or unusual conflict -- Erikson claims that the decades between turning 20 and turning 40 are occupied by trying to resolve our conflicting needs for intimacy and isolation -- and it's one that's certainly worth talking through rather than using it as an excuse to retreat or stonewall, because it will almost definitely come up again.
posted by occhiblu at 3:17 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

I won't comment on whether or not you're compatible in the long-term, but I will say that if someone doesn't understand or respect my most fundamental qualities and needs, I shouldn't compromise myself to make them happy. Tell her compassionately that you moved in together too soon and that you'd like to have your space back. If she doesn't understand this at all then she may choose to go, in which case you're better off.
posted by loiseau at 4:10 PM on April 25, 2007

Yeah, I think carmen & occhiblu are getting at what's important here. It all comes down to awareness and communication. While personality "types" can be useful generalizations to explain broad points, all human beings have both social and private sides to themselves.

What matters most at this stage is that you figure out what you want out of this relationship. You say you're in your early 30s and have been with this woman long enough that she started hinting about moving to your place 10 months ago. As boring or cliche as it may seem, now's the time to start thinking what you're imagining for the long term. If you cannot see yourself in a "forever" scenario with her, it is probably time to make sure she's on the same page, and letting her know that sharing the apartment is too stressful is a good way to do that. But if she's on a different page, that will be the end of the relationship (which is only fair; she may well be thinking this is leading to "forever" and should have all the info).

However, if you can imagine this being "it", then you have to work out how you're going to handle this issue in the long run.
posted by mdn at 8:21 PM on April 25, 2007

Alex, is this you?

Seriously, you sound like my older brother. Bail the fuck out. Now.
posted by sperose at 9:34 PM on April 25, 2007 [1 favorite]

If you think all relationships must follow the stereotypical linear progression toward co-habitation and 1.5 children, then, yes, this comment is right.

I wasn't trying to be glib. It is possible that this 30 year old women would be cool with just dating this dude indefinitely, but it sounded quite clear from the question this certainly wasn't the case.
posted by chunking express at 7:43 AM on April 26, 2007

First of all, take a deep breath. There's an awful lot of bad advice running around in this thread, but there's some excellent advice from occhiblu and carmen.

To me, at a glance, it sounds like you (collective) have some boundary-setting issues, and that the move-in occurred under "pressured" terms and didn't allow you to take it at your own speed.

You need to find a way to have a straightforward conversation about your needs and her needs in which accusation or recrimination are notably absent. In other words, this conversation needs to be oriented around "I feel like" instead of "why do you always", because it sounds like both of you are acting on needs that the other person either doesn't or can't fully understand.

Have the conversation. See where it takes you. You are both responsible for articulating your wants and needs: it's unreasonable for you to expect her to "get it", or for her to expect you to "get it", without both of you speaking up.

Good luck.
posted by scrump at 10:58 AM on April 26, 2007

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