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How to Navigate Moving in with Your Partner in Your Early 20s

What do you do if one of you wants to live together, but the other doesn't?

Megan Nolan

Success! Photo: Eyecandy Images / Alamy Stock Photo

This article originally appeared on VICE UK.

We are in the midst of a cultural shift. Men are confused. "How are we supposed to know what’s OK if you don’t tell us?" they wail, tearing their shirts and bellowing at the moon. Here’s a solution: just ask! Send me your questions about romance, relationships, and sex. I’m a woman, ask me anything.

What’s the problem?

"My girlfriend of three years says she loves me and wants to be with me forever, but she won't move in with me. What's up with that?"

What am I not getting?

I assume you've, uh, asked her, right? I feel like it's easy sometimes to forget we have the right and power to ask these things outright, but maybe you're feeling a bit defensive about being rejected and she's feeling nervous about having to hurt your feelings so it's all a bit muddled.

Anyway, assuming you have asked already and she hasn’t been forthcoming, here’s what I think: Living with someone is often a kind of helleventually, if not at first.

Your girlfriend probably knows this, whether from experience or a deep internal prehistoric bodily alarm going off inside her, saying: "Man want to live with me? Man want to TRAP me! Man want cost-free domestic servitude!" Living with a man has traditionally meant a massive loss of freedom for women, and even though things are different now than they were a hundred years ago, there are still gendered roles that come out to play in surprising ways when you move in together. You think you're enlightened and post-feminist and post-modern, post-this and post-that, and then you move in together.

It's all fun and games in the beginning, ordering pizza to your unfurnished apartment that first night, having sex whenever you want, Sunday mornings going out for the papers and lying on the sofa together all day. He doesn’t know how to make anything other than omelettes so you take on the cooking duties nine times out of ten—happily at first, and then less so. In exchange, he's supposed to be on top of the cleaning, but then Sundays stop being idyllic sun-dappled afternoons reading and drinking flat whites, and instead become recurring fights in which he insists that cleaning the bathroom once a month is enough. Suddenly, somehow, you genuinely have ended up picking up his dirty socks, like a cliché in some crappy sitcom you would have both mocked in your earlier courtship.

Now, am I saying you are a horrible misogynist just because you want to live with your beloved girlfriend? Yes. Yes, I am.

No, I kid LOL, and goodbye to all the angry commenters who will read this far and then get very upset about me wanting to castrate them. I just want to point out that moving in together can be hard on even the best relationship, especially when you’re still as young as you are, and maybe if your girlfriend has firsthand experience of this it's really not so strange that she's reluctant to try it again.

My decision to move in with a boyfriend in my early 20s was one the stupidest things I've ever done, and the worst part was that when it ended, I had to deal with all the practical fallout at the same time as the emotional (picture three weeks of me staying in Groupon hotels of declining quality, hysterically crying, and drinking bottles of gin while trying to negotiate with a furious, dumped ex and a confused landlord). After that, I couldn’t really imagine choosing to live with someone again. It’s been a long time since then, and I’m now with someone so perfect that I do admittedly daydream about what kind of house we could live in with our hypothetical dog (Rudy), but I still don’t know how it would feel to consider actually doing it in practice.

Maybe your girlfriend had a bad experience like mine which has left her more cautious than she once was, or maybe she just likes living alone. It has a lot going for it, to be honest. The ability to leave the bar and get some kind of disgusting takeaway to be eaten in bed while watching documentaries about Nazis—all the while not having to share your odd habits or bother anyone else—is not to be underestimated. And knowing you get to wake up the next day and go over to your boyfriend's nice clean bedroom for a cuddle and a wholesome brunch makes it even better, in my experience. Being in a great relationship where you also have all the alone slob-time you want is the best of both worlds.

It sounds like you have a very loving and stable relationship with your girlfriend, so I can totally understand why you’re keen to live together. Even though I shudder at the memory of much of my cohabitation, I also remember why I wanted to do it in the first place—it was because I was madly in love, and the feeling of cosy domestic nesting with someone you love is really cute, comforting, and fun. But if she really doesn’t want to live with you, don’t push her on it. The being in love part is the most important part. Try to imagine a new version of what that looks like for you in the long run, a forever-love that doesn’t have to be an always-together love. Stop expecting the future to look like what you thought it would look like and you may find it's better than you ever imagined.

What do I really need to know:

Love doesn’t have to go: dating > move in > marriage > kids > death. It can be whatever you both want.

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