I’ve been in a great relationship with an amazing guy for about nine months, and we’ve recently started talking about moving in together (probably this fall when my lease ends). He already spends 3-4 nights a week at my place, and I am really excited about taking the next step and officially living together. The problem is that we’re at very different places career-wise, and I currently make more than 3x what he does (though it’s still just enough to cover my current expenses). His salary is basically enough to pay for food for the month and not much more. I know that this will even out within a couple years, but money issues can, of course, be very sensitive and I’m scared they could jeopardize our otherwise incredible relationship.
My guy is currently in school (hopefully finishing his MA within the next semester or two) and working part-time at the campus bookstore for minimum wage. He also lives with his parents to save money until graduation. I, on the other hand, have been working full-time and totally supporting myself for a number of years already. I want to emphasize that he is not cheap – for instance, when we cook dinner at my apartment he always contributes money for the groceries and he often does the shopping himself. But this doesn’t change the fact that when we move in together, I’ll be paying a significantly larger share of the rent and utilities, at least in the beginning.
I think my main fear is that, as much as I love him, I’ll start resenting him once I’m paying a big chunk of his living expenses. Also, we will probably need to move out of the city center to find a place we can afford (since he won’t be able to contribute much rent money, and we want to find a place that’s bigger than my current apartment). I do love the thought of living with him, but at the same time I’m not sure I want to leave the city yet. Overall, it’s starting to make me feel like a real jerk! Am I being totally selfish? Should we wait to move in together until he finishes school? And how can I bring up these topics without making him feel bad about making less money than I do? Please help if you can! — Dollars and Sense
It’s great that you’re giving so much thought to the financial challenges you and your boyfriend would face if you moved in together. Many people only think about the fun part of living with a significant other — endless sex! breakfast in bed every single morning! someone to play Scrabble with whenever you want!! — and not about the potential problems and the sacrifices that will need to be made. Ideally, you would weigh the sacrifices against the benefits and the benefits would win, but that doesn’t seem to be the case here. You know that you will be contributing much more financially to your living expenses than your boyfriend will and you know that isn’t likely to change for a couple of years, at least. You also realize that finding a bigger place that can accommodate the both of you would mean moving out of the neighborhood you love. It’s OK if these aren’t acceptable trade-offs in your mind. It doesn’t mean you’re a jerk or a bad person. It simply means that you and your relationship aren’t ready for the commitment and sacrifices of cohabitation just yet.
You’ve only been together nine months. By the time your lease is up, it will be a year or so. If there’s a chance you may spend the rest of your lives together — and, really, I wouldn’t advise moving in together unless there was that chance — a year is just a tiny drop in the bucket of the rest of your life. If you aren’t quite sure you’re ready — ready for the cons as well as the pros — wait another year and reassess. Why rock the boat if things are going so well anyway? Your boyfriend can continue staying at your place 3-4 nights a week, and you can keep cooking dinners together, and he can finish up his degree without the pressure of living with you and living up to your (financial) expectations.
In another year, things will be different. Maybe your boyfriend will be closer to making real money. Maybe his lack of a big paycheck won’t matter to you as much. Perhaps you’ll be ready to change neighborhoods. Maybe you guys won’t even be together anymore and you’ll be happy you didn’t give up an apartment you like in an area you love. So, wait. Wait until you’re more sure. Moving in together is a huge step — one that should definitely not be made if you’ve got a big question mark hanging over your head. There’s no rush here, anyway. Enjoy the sweet spot a little longer. The rest of your life — and all the complications that come with it — will come soon enough.