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My boyfriend and I have known each other for close to two years, and we have been dating a year next month. We have seriously discussed moving closer to each other, and we have both made visits to the other one’s town to get to know what it’s like. We’ve talked about marriage (and he even brought up the idea of kids), so we’re pretty serious about our relationship. We’ve also debated who should be the one to give up everything to move closer to the other. We both have a lot of family and friends, jobs, and other things that keep us tied to where we are. How should we choose who should make the move? — Going the Distance?
Yours is a question that has as many different answers as there are couples in long distance relationships. “Who should move” in an LDR is a deeply personal decision and dependent on a wide variety of factors. In short: there is no answer that will apply universally, but there are specific questions couples can consider to determine what is the right move for them.
Before I get to those questions though, I need to point out that, if either you or your boyfriend truly feels like you’d be “giving up everything” by moving, then the answer is probably “neither of you should move.” Yes, leaving a town you love, and a job and your friends and family, can be incredibly difficult, but if all of that represents “everything” to you and moving somewhere new, even with or to someone you love, feels like completely starting from scratch, it’s likely that you aren’t a good candidate for moving for love. Because LOVE, of all things, should be enough that everything else is still just … everything else and not everything period.
Now, semantics aside, there are legitimate reasons it’s more convenient, economical, and feasible for one party in a long distance relationship to move toward the other. There are also great reasons for BOTH parties to move somewhere new together. Here are six questions to ask yourselves to help determine if a move is better for one (or both) of you:
1. Whose job/career is more easily transportable?
If one of you works in, say, television, for example, and has a great job with a national network, it might be hard to move to, like, Montana where they don’t even have TV (Oh, I’m joking, don’t send me hate mail; I know there’s TV in Montana. It just happens to be blue with big clouds floating by all the time).
2. Does either of you have family who are physically (or emotionally) dependent on you? Conversely: is either of you so physically or emotionally dependent on family that you can’t leave them?
One of the reasons Drew was opposed to making the move in our long-distance relationship is because his father, a widower of many, many years, was getting on in age (he’s almost 94 now) and Drew knew how important it would be for him to remain physically close to help with any care-giving. I, on the other hand, lived in a city where I had zero family, let alone family who were in any way dependent on me.
3. Is one of you at a place in your education, career, or life that makes moving more feasible in the near future than it is for the other?
Another reason it made more sense for me to move to Drew rather than for him to move to me is because I was finishing grad school when we met and was at a logical place in my life to start over somewhere new. I was already in a place of transition, so it didn’t matter as much whether the next step took place in Chicago or in New York.
4. Does either of you have strong climate preferences that make your partner’s location particularly desirable or undesirable?
If one of you lives in, like, Minnesota and the other one hates cold weather, then that’s a big deciding factor. Or, if one of you is literally allergic to the other person’s city, that’s certainly something to consider. Or, if either of you has health issues — physical or mental — that are better managed in a certain climate, that is something to keep in mind.
5. What long-term education, career or family goals might affect where you live as well as potential future moves?
Basically, if one or both of you has goals that may necessitate future moves (or staying put), that’s definitely important to discuss. If, for example, you always dreamed of having your parents babysit your future children full-time and you can’t imagine ever leaving them in anyone else’s care while you and your partner work, that’s an important thing to discuss. Or, if you are in medical school and have no idea where you might end up for your residency, that is definitely something to consider.
6. How does cost of living in your independent cities affect each other, especially considering your long-term career and family goals?
If one of you dreams of being a stay-at-home parent but the other lives in a city and has a career that makes a single-income household impractical, then priorities need to be addressed. How important is staying home? How important is the city? How important is the career? You can’t plan everything, of course, but having some general ideas for Plan A and Plan B and Plan C can definitely help you think about what city and what path makes the most sense.
7. Who has a larger/closer social network and who is more dependent on his or her local support system?
This question is challenging and certainly a bit loaded (“We both love our friends!”), but if you’re really honest with yourselves and with each other (and if you’ve had a chance to spend time with one another’s friends), then there’s probably one answer to this that’s stronger than another. Though, truthfully, had Drew and I thought about this before I moved, I think we really would have said that our dependence on and love for our social networks was equal. But because we were at an age when social circles naturally shift as friends couple up, get married, settle down, have children, and move to the ‘burbs or whatever, things have changed quite a bit. I moved to NYC thinking there was a built-in group of friends here for me simply because Drew had so many friends (many of whom were in couples where I liked both partners). What I didn’t realize was how little everyone actually got together and how much would change in the coming years. Looking back now, I see that it was my social circle that was probably closer — or at least more… actively social. And to this day, I miss my friends so, so much. BUT! In the 6 1/2 years I have been in NYC now, I have made a new support/social network. It’s different than my old one, but I’m different. I’m a wife and a mother now, and I have different needs and certainly different schedule and energy limitations than I did when I was single and in my 20s living in Chicago.
In short: life changes. What seems important to you NOW and what seems so impossible to “give up” may not even be part of your life three, four, five years from now, even if you don’t ever leave exactly where you are. If it comes down to choosing between love and choosing “everything else,” there’s one final question that may help you more than any other I listed: which is more likely to still be in your life five years from now? THAT is what you should fight to keep.
If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, you can send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.