My girlfriend and I have been seeing each other for about a year, longer if we count the beginning when we were in the talking stage and non-exclusive. She brought up moving in together a few months ago, and I told her I wasn’t ready. She respected my decision but recently she reopened the conversation recently and wanted me to elaborate on why I don’t feel ready. I found it hard to really talk honestly about my reasons and we ended up fighting but I think it was mostly a mis-communication.
I’ve never lived with a partner before, but I’ve had some bad roommate experiences in the past and saved money until I could afford to live on my own. I love living alone! I love when my girlfriend sleeps over, but I also like having my own space. It takes about 20 minutes to drive between our apartments but an hour for her to get to my place from her work. I’d admit we both spend a lot of time in our cars going between our places. And the idea of sharing rent is attractive. I have a second room in my apartment but I use it as a home office and studio space. When I think about what living together looks like, I have a hard time picturing it even just in a logistics way.
I asked her if there’s a world in which we always live separately but still spend most nights together, and she didn’t say no but she also said she was having a hard time imagining it. Do people ever do this? Is it sustainable? How do people know when the time is time to move in together? Even though I’m not ready now, it’s also might be because I think it’s too soon.
My suspicion here is just that it’s too soon, and that’s okay! Do people move in together after dating for less than a year? Most don’t, but some certainly do — according to our 2018 Lesbian Stereotypes Survey, 25% of our readers had at some point moved in with someone they’d been dating for under a year. Do people live separately forever and still spend most nights together? I’m confident they do, apparently these days there is a trend of even married couples living apart. But! Forever is a long time. Do any of us know what we want to do forever? You don’t have to know that just yet!
Often the decision to move in quickly is driven by factors that don’t seem to be heavily at play for you, like needing to save money, not having the time to shuttle between apartments due to work or school or family obligations, or just generally preferring co-habitation over solo living. You’ve saved up to live alone, you like living alone, and it seems like the middle-distance relationship thing isn’t putting too much of a strain on the rest of your life, so your drive to move in might not look like everyone else’s. You don’t express any hesitation about the longevity or strength of your relationship, nor does that seem to be a factor holding you back from signing that lease. You just… like living alone and want to spend more time doing this thing that you like to do. And listen, I can relate!
I’ve lived with partners a few times — starting with a misguided college co-habitation with my then-boyfriend of nine months where I realized immediately after signing the lease that he was Not the Man For Me and promised myself to be more careful going forward. For my next four relationships I did the “living in different places but still spending every night together” arrangement. But a full decade later, in 2012, I moved in with my then-girlfriend after around two years together, which was preceded by over a year of living in different apartments in the same building. When we broke up in 2014, the real estate market in the Bay Area was bananas. The person I’d started dating couldn’t afford their own place in the area, so we made the very gay choice to move in together after six weeks of dating. It was pretty fun at first to be honest! We then got engaged, moved to the midwest and bought a house together. Although I clearly was still hopeful about our future when I answered this co-habitation question two months before we broke up, this situation eventually ended badly and I left it terrified of ever living with a partner ever again, certain it’d lead to them hating me and also me hating myself!
Which brings me to the present moment, which is like yours except we’ve had the value of two additional years together — my girlfriend and I have been together for nearly three years and we don’t live together. We live 30 minutes apart without traffic, 90 with traffic, and I spend a lot of time in my car and packing/unpacking. And I’ll tell you what, despite being a person who does enjoy living alone, I really really wish we lived together! But that overwhelming desire didn’t kick in immediately and it wasn’t until around a year ago — long after we’d started planning an indefinite future together — that we started talking more urgently about finding a place together. (Unfortunately, the Los Angles real estate market has yet to offer us an affordable option!)
So with the caveat that yes, I am projecting here based on my own personal experience — there will quite possibly come a time when you simply begin to desire more, when it feels like time, when it feels weird that someone your life is so intertwined with lives so far away. You may get tired, eventually, of all of the driving and shlepping and pre-planning involved in a mid-distance relationship. You’ll want to run errands together. You’ll wish it was easier to be there for her when she’s sick or sad, and vice versa. You may get tired of paying two separate sets of bills and buying two separate containers of peanut butter. You may want to be able to see your person in the in-between times and not just the times you’ve made a concerted effort to do so. You may want to be able to want to do different things on a Saturday night without that meaning you won’t see each other at all on Saturday night — you’ll want to be able to come home to her, or see her before.
But you might never get there, which brings me to: is there “a world in which we always live separately but still spend most nights together” is a sustainable option? I think so and I think it depends on the couple and the people in it. Famously, Annie Lebowitz and Susan Sontag lived in separate apartments directly opposite each other, but they had some coin to work with. Whatever you do, I’d ensure you live in at least a two-bedroom, if not a three bedroom. So you can have your space! (One thing I’ve never done is live in a one-bedroom with a partner, I think that can get very cramped, especially for anyone who works at home.)
My instinct is that such a thing might only be sustainable in the long-term for you and your girlfriend (who does want to live together) if you guys eventually find a way to live a little closer together. Would it be possible to live in the same building or on the same block, where you can still keep the solo space that you currently treasure, but can begin start sharing more of your lives with each other? Living an hour’s drive away from your girlfriend’s work is clearly less than ideal for her.
There definitely are people who want to live alone forever, even if they are in a serious relationship. If that turns out to be you, you’ll have to cross that bridge when you come to it and figure out an arrangement that meets your needs and hers. But I don’t think you’re at that bridge yet! I think you are still in the meadow, having a picnic. One year is really not enough time to know how you’ll feel about living together, especially if you’re still in the honeymoon phase with your own apartment after having difficult roommate situations in the past.
Finally; it sounds like your girlfriend took it personally that you didn’t want to move in together, so she might have some insecurities that your resistance is related to a lack of faith or interest in your relationship. From your letter, it sounds like that’s not where your resistance is coming from — so I’d suggest first and foremost communicating that to her. It could be helpful to talk through ways that she can feel more secure about your relationship despite living apart, or for her to understand that your love of solo living is simply a part of who you are rather than any reflection on how you feel about her.
The good news is that I’m pretty sure the longer you wait to co-habitate, the better it will be if/when you do — you’ll understand each other and your routines and habits better, you’ll be more adept at navigating the little squabbles that arise. You can figure out how to avoid the issues that plagued your previous roommate situations, and you’ll be less prone to question the entire relationship if you can’t agree about how often laundry needs to get done and who ought to do it. You’ll also have thoroughly rid yourself of the nagging concept that you wish you’d had a little more time to yourself first!
You can chime in with your advice in the comments and submit your own questions any time.