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My girlfriend and I have been together for almost 4 months now and I am HEAD OVER HEELS OMG SO IN LOVE WITH THIS GIRL LIKE WHOA. All I want to do is U-Haul so hard and I don’t want to stop there. I want to marry this girl. I want to marry this girl right now and start a family.
Overall I’m a pretty slow moving, cautious person. I’ve had other relationships that have lasted years (read: YEARS) and only sometimes thought, “yeah, I could MAYBE marry this girl, but maybe I should wait to be sure…” But this girl, I know. I JUST KNOW I want to be with her forever.
We were friends for several months before dating but I’ve still only really known her for less than a year. So logically I understand that it’s too soon to move in and definitely too soon to elope. Right? RIGHT?!
But in my heart of hearts I know that I’ve found her. I’ve found the one. The one that I want to be with forever and ever. The one that makes me a better person and who loves me for me. The person I love and want to be with all the time. The person I think is just so great and just so great for me.
So I need help. I need to be talked down from this crazy ledge. Or do I? Maybe I need a hopeless romantic to give me a little validation that sometime when you know, you know – and that’s okay. I don’t know what I need. I need help. Am I being crazy?
You’re being in love! Being in love is a LOT like being crazy, especially at the start. Your skin is on fire, your teeth itch, you feel like 3-4 body parts are on the verge of explosion at any given moment. How did we get so lucky?, Oh my gosh this girl! This girl! I wouldn’t say I’m a “hopeless romantic,” but I believe in big feelings, unstoppable forces and not-so-tangible energies that make me vulnerable to the feelings you say you’re feeling so I’m not gonna talk you down. I’m gonna congratulate you on finding a magical thing, and then we’re gonna talk about what to do about this thing.
New Relationship Energy is a high, right? It’s a high. You feel high right now! And you don’t want it to end. Sometimes these choices — getting an apartment, getting engaged, getting married — are methods of maintaining that high, of ensuring there’s always something even MORE intense and devotional to do in order to feel that rush all over again. That’s one reason people make big decisions too quickly, but the other reason is that, as Harry famously told Sally, “when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” You want to do these things because, well, you want to do these things!
But should you? Well, I’ve been a strong anti-U-Hauling advocate since before I knew what U-Hauling was — at 20, I’d radically misinterpreted my own personality and moved in with my boyfriend, who really liked eating at Hooters. Two weeks into our co-habitation I realized I’d made a terrible mistake, but we lived together, so it was hard to exit, and complicated, especially ’cause I’d been paying most of the bills.
I’ve resisted, since, opportunities to shack up too early, or at all. I’d been known to declare it “always a bad idea,” claim it “killed romance,” remind people that “you think it’s the same as just staying at each other’s place every night, but it’s not.” My ex-girlfriend and I took careful steps: nine months in the same town, a year in the same building, and then almost two years in the same apartment. (and then we broke up.)
And then I found my current person. Like you, I’d been in many relationships prior to this one and this one was markedly different. This was it! This was special! Just thinking about her looking at me and smiling made my stomach do flip-flops! (It still does, actually.) We’d only been together for a month when she left a farm in Oregon to be with me in California, but the rent where I lived in the Bay Area was astronomical. So either she’d move into my (still expensive but) rent-controlled place and we’d see each other constantly, or we’d find affordable apartments far away from civilization and never see each other at all. The first option was clearly the winner, but I still worried that we were gonna kill this thing before it started.
It didn’t. It was actually really fun, like we’d tricked our Moms into letting us have a sleepover every night! I mean when you’re first falling in love, any thing you get to do together, even grocery shopping or going to IKEA three times in one day, feels like the funnest thing you’ve ever done. (To be fair, that IKEA joy has never faded.) There was bickering, for sure, and it felt like a cruel crash-course in our assorted psychological triggers at times, but we made it, more excited about the future than ever. Less than a year later, we got engaged, moved across the country together, moved into a very small house with my Mom for five months, and then bought a giant house of our own and moved into it. Short of having a baby, we were officially on track to do everything way faster than recommended.
The good news is that we’re still together and still in love and still planning to spend our lives together. But for a minute there — shortly after moving into our house — it seemed like we might not make it after all. It was terrifying. And when we finally sat down and talked about our true feelings and desires and the kind of life we wanted, separately and together, a big thing that came up was choice.
As in: we’d never really had the chance to actively choose to be together — whether that meant have dinner together, take a vacation together, be monogamous, or design career paths with the other in mind. The way our life was set up was for all those things to be the default, and for doing things separately to be what required the extra effort.
Yeah, there are practical things worth eschewing U-Hauling in favor of putting off, like the possibility of occasionally feeling homicidal about one another’s various household chore-related inadequacies or the terror of financial logistics. But the real argument against moving too quickly into Official Commitments is that there’s a value in extending the period of time in which the way you build a life together is directed only by what’s in your heart and guts and brain, not by leases and legal documents and bill payments and shared sofas.
When you live separately, you choose to spend time together, and that choice is deliberate and special, it’s not a default. You choose whether or not you wanna have a sleepover even though you’re tired or cranky or sick or distracted, or you choose not to because of those reasons. You choose to invite her over when your friend is coming by rather than automatically turning friend-time into a group hang ’cause there’s only one living room and you’re both it. If you struggle with mental illness like I do and my partner does and many of us here do, it’s nice to be able to keep some of those “crying in bed in the morning for three hours” days to yourself for a while! When you live together, pretty much any time is a time you could have sex, which at first means you have sex all the time but then can eventually mean you never do because well, there’s always tomorrow, or next weekend? (Look, I’ve read a lot of Lesbian Sex Surveys.) Even if you’re gonna choose spending every night together for the rest of your lives, the act of choosing and not doing it because you’re locked in to a lease or a marriage is an important act.
All that being said, we did everything “wrong” and we’re still okay! So it’s very possible that you could do everything wrong and also be okay. I don’t have any regrets. But if you DO have other options, I’d like to suggest considering them for a little while longer, or to at least wait until a practical time to make a change.
And, if you do move in together sooner rather than later, I’d suggest: radical honesty (don’t get passive aggressive, make room to be frank, don’t take household things personally), make lists for each other about your pet peeves and household desires right away, be clear about finances and get a two-bedroom or larger so you have the option of taking space from each other (and figure out how to do that without feeling insecure about it).
Remember that being in love doesn’t necessarily mean that you should want to spend every minute together, constantly be in touch, or rely on the other for all your basic life functions. But! Have fun. You’re in love! Follow your heart! You found her! GO FORTH AND BE MERRY.
ETA December 2017: The relationship I cited as “still okay” ended two months after this post was published, and the financial repercussions for me personally w/r/t home ownership when I needed to sell within a year of moving in were STRATOSPHERIC, just so you have the full picture here!! If I could add anything small to my advice, it’d be to avoid buying a fixer-upper in the middle of the country with only three (3) friends who live within a 3-hour radius of your home (and one of them is your mom) until you’ve known each other for a few years. And if you are buying a house, make sure you have a plan, in writing, for what will happen to it if you break up.