What To Do If You Moved In Too Soon

Photographed by Alexandra Gavillet.
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Dear Kelsey,

My boyfriend and I have been together for two years now, and dated for three months before moving in together. We used to be head-over-heels for each other, before we moved in — but after we moved in and started spending so much time together, it seemed as if we started arguing a lot more about little things and didn't appreciate the time we spent together as much. I'm thinking of asking to move out but stay together. Is this a wise choice?


Photographed by Maria Del Rio.
Dear Confused, I'm tempted to give one of those easy, time-machine answers and say that (in most cases) three months is probably too early in a relationship to do the big move-in. But I'm guessing you don't have a time machine, and mine's in the shop. So, I'm going to have to break out the complicated answer (ugh, I know). There are few universal truths about romantic relationships, but these two things are universal-ish: Number One: The honeymoon phase usually ends a few months in, and that's when shit gets real. Number Two: When you move in together, shit gets really real. You guys happened to move in right around the same time your honeymoon phase ended, meaning you unintentionally compounded the levels of shit-getting-realness. Yikes! I imagine this perfect storm of reality made for a rocky start to living together — and, to be clear, moving in together is almost always followed by a rocky period, even when you've been dating for a long time. In fact, I just moved in with my boyfriend of three-and-a-half years, and even though I had ages to game out this scenario with him (and with my shrink), there are just some unavoidable difficulties. Change is hard on us as humans, and it's harder when you're doing it with another person in your bed. You're anxious and irritable, and then he leaves his socks in the middle of the kitchen floor, and you're like, "ARE YOU A FUCKING MONSTER?!" Then you turn to catch sight of your own reflection and lo, you have become a monster, too. But my boyfriend and I have years of good and bad experiences in our relationship bank. We've ridden out much bigger conflicts together, so even when I become a Sock Monster, I know it's going to pass. But you two moved in at an early juncture; at three months, you don't have many experiences in your relationship bank (and the ones you have are mostly rosy, thanks to that honeymoon phase). You're still finding your rhythm and creating new habits. I suspect you may have inadvertently set yourself up for negative habits: bickering, boredom, general Sock Monster-ness. So, I understand your instinct — and it might be the right one. I do think it's possible to move out and stay together, provided that you really sit down and talk about it, making sure you're both on the same page. But first, I'd suggest just doing the sitting-down-and-really-talking part — minus the intention of moving out.

You're anxious and irritable, and then he leaves his socks in the middle of the kitchen floor, and you're like, "ARE YOU A FUCKING MONSTER?!"

Reach out to your boyfriend and ask if you guys can have a talk. Do it in a gentle, loving way (and don't do it in the middle of a fight). Then, sit down on the couch and tell him what you told me: Things have been tough since you moved in. Just acknowledge it, plain and simple. Even if you've brought this up before, try doing it in this deliberate, compassionate way, letting your boyfriend know that you're doing it because you believe in your relationship and you want to find a way to move forward. Say the uncomfortable things: Maybe you moved in too soon, maybe you haven't handled conflict in the healthiest way, etc. Don't just think of the individual fights, but also the overarching patterns — and say them out loud. Be sure to acknowledge your patterns and the things about your own behavior that you'd like to change (before you bring up any of his patterns). Maybe you'll both realize that, yeah, it couldn't hurt to try un-cohabitating and see what happens. Maybe you'll decide to stick it out and commit to practicing new patterns under the same roof. Maybe you'll find that neither of you has the answer just yet. But I guarantee that nothing will be made worse by having this conversation. It's incredible what happens when you lay the groundwork for open, honest communication. It's not easy to curb your inner monologue (especially when that monologue is that of a defensive, cranky Sock Monster), but when you can do it for a second and just listen — truly, actively listen — to your partner, then that person will feel heard. That person will be more receptive to hearing you, too. If you can give that to each other, you will be infinitely more functional as a couple, whether you live together or not. I'm not saying it's not challenging or strange at first. And trying to make this kind of positive change while living in the same place that holds almost two years of old, negative patterns is even more difficult. But it's not impossible — not by a long shot. One last thing. You mentioned a lack of appreciation for the time you spend together now that you've moved in. In that respect, you are a totally normal couple. When you move in together, you lose the romance of missing each other. Waking up in your sweetheart's arms feels routine, because it is routine. You now have the luxury of getting bored with each other — and the challenge of remembering why you did this in the first place. That takes effort. Having these conversations, uncomfortable and scary though they may be, is a great way of finding that reminder. It strips away the discomfort of boredom and bickering and lets you see that the one you love, the one you fell head-over-heels for in those honeymoon days so long ago, is still there. He's been right there, in bed beside you, all along.
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