Over six years ago, I met Drew, my now-husband, on a blind date while I was visiting New York for the weekend. I lived in Chicago, and a year and a half after we met I decided to leave my friends and home in Chicago and close the gap in our long distance relationship. This month, we’ll celebrate our third wedding anniversary, so it’s safe to say that the transition was a successful one. To help those of you who are in long distance relationships yourselves and are contemplating whether such a move will be successful for you, too, here’s a list of eight things you need to do before you move for love.
1. Discuss a long-term future with your significant other.
If it seems too soon or too awkward or too inappropriate to discuss marriage or a long-term, serious commitment to each other, then it’s too soon, too awkward and too inappropriate for you to uproot your life and move to a new city for love. If you can’t imagine a life together at least five years down the road, then stop packing your bags and stay put until you can.
2. Decide whether you’re going to resent your partner if you move and the relationship doesn’t work out.
Moving for love is a leap of faith for anyone, but if you feel in your heart that you’ll be bitter and resentful if the sacrifice doesn’t lead to the happy ending you’re hoping for, you should reconsider whether you’re really ready to make the jump.
3. Imagine what your life would be like living in your significant other’s city.
You may love your partner, but do you love his or her city? If the answer’s no or you aren’t sure, spend more time there and imagine how you’d feel if you never came home. Does the idea of staying there make you feel “stuck”? Does it fill you with dread? Do you spend a lot of time wishing your significant other could just move to your town or that you could find a neutral city where you could both start over? If so, then maybe moving to your partner’s town isn’t the right choice.
4. Discuss with your partner what your living arrangements will be in your new city.
Will you be living with your significant other right off the bat? Getting your own place? Staying with him/her before you get your own place? If so, how long will you stay? Will you be paying rent? If so, how much? What if your partner has a bachelor pad that you want to re-decorate? Would he be open to that? These are all questions you need to discuss together and be in agreement on before you move. It’s a lot to talk about, but these discussions are much better to have before you make the move rather than after!
5. Create a back-up plan.
Shit happens. Relationships combust. Jobs are lost. Feelings change. People get sick. While you can’t possibly anticipate every issue that might arise after you move, you should have some idea what your back-up plan would be if your new life in your new city isn’t working out. When I moved to New York, I brought my cats, laptop, and two suitcases, but left most of my belongings in storage in Chicago. That way, if things didn’t work out between Drew and me, I could move back to Chicago without paying to ship my things twice. I waited until I was 100% sure I wanted to stay in NYC before I sent for my belongings. It took five months for me to be certain.
6. Save money for the move.
When I made my move, I had about 5 grand saved, which I thought would cover movers and easily last me until I landed a job — something I thought would take a few weeks. Ha! As soon as I moved — in the fall of 2007 — the economy took a nose dive and it took me much, much longer to land steady employment than I had anticipated. I ran out of money pretty quickly and I almost returned back to Chicago where I was pretty sure I could get my old job back. But I stayed put. Drew let me stay with him rent-free (this goes back to question #4), which helped a great deal. I pieced together enough freelance work to pay my student loans and buy groceries, but financially — as well as emotionally — it was a hard first year that took a toll me and on our relationship. In the long run, it made us stronger, but if we hadn’t been very committed to making it work, it would have been easier to jump ship. Money won’t save a relationship that isn’t meant to be, but it will make transitions smoother, so save as much as you can before moving for love.
7. Find a job (or at least have some strong job prospects).
Not only is having steady employment necessary for financial survival, it’s pretty important for your emotional well-being too. Anyone who has ever been unemployed for very long — and, sadly, that’s far too many people these days — can attest to how depressing it is to be out of work. Add to that the isolation you will likely feel being in a new town where maybe you don’t know many people other than your significant other, and it can be super damn lonely. Like I said, I had a lot of trouble securing work when I moved here and it took a real toll on my self-esteem. I hated meeting new people and not having a good answer when people asked what I did for a living (P.S. Don’t ask people you’ve just met what they do for a living.) Save yourself the same trauma, and familiarize yourself with the job market in your field in your partner’s city. If it’s not promising, how long are you emotionally and financially prepared to be out of work? And are you willing to switch careers for a better shot at landing a longterm job?
8. Decide whether you love this person enough to sacrifice the life you have now.
It might help you to write a pros and cons list for both your partner and the life you have without him. Sure, leaving a life you may love for a person you love more will be bittersweet, but the key is you have to love your partner MORE than the life you have without him or her. If you don’t, it simply won’t work out. I had a pretty nice life in Chicago with a great circle of friends and a nice apartment in a fun neighborhood, just five minutes from the beach. But I loved Drew — and the potential I thought we had for a long, happy future together — more and I knew his life in New York was much more firmly rooted than my life in Chicago, so I moved. And that decision has made all the difference.