So, here’s the situation I hope you can help me with. My boyfriend, “Damien” wants us to move in together. We are in our mid 20s and have been dating for less than a year. He makes me laugh, thinks about my feelings, and I love him. At this point in our lives, moving in together makes practical and financial sense since we spend nearly every night together at my place anyway.
I’m concerned a little because he’s not very good with money (student loans, credit card debt). So I am wondering if the primary motivation for him is mostly monetary, even though I don’t doubt that he loves me by the way we feel about each other. Since I am pretty good at managing money, I think that I could help him get his finances in order if we shared a place.
He lives with a bunch of guys who don’t really take care of the place and it makes him feel that he’s not really an adult in that kind of living situation. Our lives would be much more organized if we lived together. Moving in together seems like a good way to find out whether we really have a future together, which I think we do. What do you think?
Up for Moving In Together
Except for your declaration of love, you’ve described some circumstances that apply to a possible roommate rather than a live-in boyfriend. As a former banker, I always reflexively imagine the worst-case scenario first, especially when someone is described as “not very good with money.” So, caveat empty (beware of boyfriends with nothing in their wallets).
Even though I know that anticipating a new living arrangement is exciting with someone about whom you can say, “I love him”, I want to ask you to do something: Try to consider rationally what your future could be like while you still have the freedom to say no to a life that hand-cuffs you as a kind of “passion’s slave” to someone who can’t master his Mastercard. Of course you’ll say that the worst case couldn’t possibly apply to you and your cynosure Damien, but let’s try it out just to make sure that you aren’t missing something through your rosey-scenario glasses.
First, before we even get to the advisability of moving in together, what do you mean by, “ I love him”? As an expression that can justify a magic mountain of decisions, it can be slippery slope to disillusion and regret. Looking back I can remember about half of the faces and none of the names of women who had feelings for me and made me laugh but never made me even breathe the “L word.” Love has to do with a level of understanding, acceptance, and devotion that usually takes a number of years, not months, to reach. The expression from the 60s was, “If it feels good, do it!” but the advice I’d add is, “Just don’t call it love.”
While I’m not against moving in together per se, I am apprehensive about two romantically-involved people doing it when their animating impulse is based upon money or circumstances or, even worse—both. From what you say about Damien’s handling of his finances and his living situation, you have two good reasons to hesitate. And don’t ever try to “get his finances in order” if you want to “have a future together.” Have him talk to a paid professional. If you try to do it yourself, you’ll be breaking up before you decide who takes out the trash.
When you say that you’re not sure whether “the primary motivation for him is mostly monetary”, I think you know or suspect that it is. Living with you would be an obvious, situational improvement for him whether it has any relation to deep emotional attachment to you or not. What should motivate the two of you to share your living space is the recognition that the other person shares your commitment to, as well as your excitement about, the two of you being together.
You say: “Moving in together seems like a good way to find out whether we really have a future together”; but is that really true? It could be if it is a logical, next step in a relationship that has had time to ripen past the first blush of physical attraction and emotional infatuation. However, if you haven’t had time to see and feel the rougher sides of each other’s exterior, you might not know what to make of the interior when it’s bumpy or brittle. And then what do you do?
Living together makes breaking up more complicated and daunting, so most people avoid it even when they know that something isn’t right. They stay together even when they aren’t happy together because the certain and right-now pain of being without someone is worse than the possible and far-off pleasure of being with the right one. Call it “relationship inertia”; it’s almost as powerful as compounding interest. Even though moving in with someone seems to solve a problem emotionally and practically for you now, it will also create new ones later.
In the financial world, we often looked at risk in terms of cost of entry and cost of exit. So put off moving in with Damien for a year, until you’ve both had a chance know more about each other’s feelings and Damien, in particular, knows more about his finances as well. You lose nothing by waiting, and you might even stipulate that he make a certain amount of financial progress. Even though I’m talking about emotions and not finances, the principle of risk still applies in your case: Be careful because even if getting in won’t cost you, getting out might break you.
Got questions about life? Love? Parenting? Work? Write to Whit’s End, an advice column by local husband, father, teacher, coach, former executive and former Marine Corps officer Al Whitaker. Send your questions to [email protected]
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