When is the right time to talk about moving in together?
This was the question raised in a recent letter to my advice column. The real problem wasn’t the timing, though. It was one partner’s unwillingness to address the question.
For a relationship to thrive, it’s important that both partners be able to talk about issues where they may have different opinions or that they’d rather not address.
Here’s the letter, and my response:
I want to move in with my boyfriend and he is pushing back. We’ve been dating for almost two years. Isn’t it time?
I’m sick of planning who goes where on what night, worrying about having everything I need both at his place and mine and just sleeping alone sometimes.
I want to have a home together. Buy groceries, decorate, split the chores, maybe get a dog or cat — really share our lives.
Brad says he wants to wait. He says he likes having some space and time to himself. He says things are great as they are, meaning we have lots of time together and also some space.
I told him we could get a two-bedroom and he can close the door when he wants. Since we’ve been dating, he’s always liked some time and space for himself and that’s been totally OK with me. So I’m sure I wouldn’t mind if he had his own space in a place we were sharing.
But he still says no and won’t give me a timeline for when he would consider this.
I just want to be more of a couple. I could see us getting married one day but we’re just in our 20s. Right now the idea of committing to being together forever is way too much. I think if we lived together, we could deepen our commitment and maybe down the road we would feel comfortable with marriage.
I’m starting to feel like he has his arms out keeping me at a distance. I don’t know how much to push this. I don’t want to come across as clingy, because I’m not. I don’t think it’s clingy to want to live with your boyfriend whom you love.
Is there any way to work this out or should we call it quits?
Of course it makes sense that you want to move in with your boyfriend after almost two years. But Brad doesn’t agree with you on this point and he doesn’t have to.
It’s normal for couples to disagree about all sorts of things, including really important matters like when to start living together or whether to do so. Part of being in a relationship is figuring out how to be a couple despite the differences that are bound to come up.
It’s also true that sometimes when two people want to go forward in two different directions that can’t be reconciled, it makes sense for them to part.
But in any case, to deal with differences — and simply to know each other well — each partner needs to share what he’s thinking and why his stance on a given topic is important to him.
That’s why Brad’s unwillingness to talk about future suggests there’s a big problem in your relationship, even bigger than a stalemate over moving in or not. You can work on deepening your relationship without living together, but you can’t have a close relationship with a man who won’t let you know what he’s thinking.
Maybe I’m overreacting to Brad’s refusal to discuss about the possibility of you two living together, but I don’t think so. His unwillingness to open up on this subject is a giant red flag specifically because the subject is so important to you.
Is Brad is willing to talk with you about other sensitive topics? If so, that’s good news, because it suggests he values the importance of two people in a relationship opening up to each other.
You could ask Brad if he would be willing to talk with you about why the issue of moving in together is so difficult for him to discuss. Talking may not change his mind about moving in of course, but at least you will understand him better.
If Brad doesn’t talk with you about other important topics, consider the likelihood that he is not comfortable having a relationship that is closer than the one you have now.
You could spend a lot of energy trying to figure out why Brad might not want to open up. Maybe he’s just scared to have a relationship that’s close. Maybe he comes from a family where feelings aren’t ever discussed, so he doesn’t have a clue how to proceed.
But your hypothesizing won’t alter the situation. Brad is the one who has to confront himself about his reticence to let you get closer if anything is to change.