My boyfriend of almost a year lives in a large city on the East Coast. I do not. And I’m beginning to feel like it’s a situation we should do something about. We met at an art show when we were both on vacation and have kept up a near constant stream of email, phone calls, texts, and letters. He visits me every six weeks or so, and I have visited him, well, once. Things are great, except for the distance.
I’m 29 and live in a small city with my sister in the Midwest. Right now I’m underemployed, which is an offshoot of living in a place without a lot of jobs in my field. My boyfriend is in his late 30s and is a tenured professor at a prestigious university. He loves his job and owns his house. I’d thought about moving to the city where he lives long before I met him, and my job prospects would be a lot better out there, so I am absolutely on board with moving.
The problem is I can’t afford to move right now. With my current job situation, I’ll need almost year to get together enough money for a move to a shitty apartment in a neighborhood where I probably won’t get stabbed. I’ll need more time to save up living expenses if I’m moving out there before I have a job in place, which seems like a gamble I shouldn’t make. I could cut back on some of my resume-building volunteer work in favor of, say, a job at Starbucks and make the move faster, but I feel like the volunteer work is more of an asset to my career long-term than a quick cash infusion would be. But I’ll have better job prospects in the city, so maybe the speedy move’s the real asset.
My boyfriend has mentioned that I could move in with him, a relationship step I’ve never been quite nervy enough to take with anyone else. Then again, I’ve never before been in such a happy relationship. Certainly moving in with him would let me move faster, so that’s great. But it seems like maybe moving in is an awfully big step for two people who haven’t been in the same state for longer than five days at a stretch. He’s also mentioned that he thinks it’d be fair if he put up some of the money for the move, because he thinks I’d be doing something to benefit us both. But that seems sort of weird to me. I’m a little sensitive about how much more “adult” his living situation is, and my feminist soul shrivels a little at the idea of a man helping me pay to move into his house. I just don’t want to become a character in a John Cheever novel, or something. I just really don’t want to screw up any of this. Help? — Moved to Write
I was in a very similar position a few years ago. I met Drew on a weekend getaway in NYC and we started dating long distance (I lived in Chicago at the time). He was much more settled in life than I was — I was still finishing grad school; he had a good job and was seven years older. He was not open to moving, but I was and had always loved the idea of living in NYC. But, like you, I needed money to move and was hesitant about living with Drew since we’d never spent more than a week in the same state together. But after months of thinking about things, I realized that what I had with Drew was bigger than my own ego and I needed to just get over myself.
After I graduated, I took a job I didn’t really want in a field that wasn’t at all what I was interested in. But it paid OK, and gave me lots of time off, so I was able to save money to move and have time to see Drew when he came to visit me. After about 10 months in that position (and doing freelance work on the side to supplement my income), I had what I thought was enough money for the move, and to cushion myself for a couple of months in NYC until I found a job. The plan was to put most of my things in storage in Chicago, packs a few suitcases and my cats, and stay at Drew’s place until I found a job and an apartment of my own. What I didn’t tell Drew — because I didn’t want to put too much pressure on us — was that if things went well in this whole “living together” experiment, and he wanted me to stay with him, I’d definitely consider that.
The good news is that things did go well and we loved living together. The bad news is that I moved to NYC at the exact minute the economy took a serious nosedive and people were getting laid off left and right. It took months and months for me to find a decent job. I freelanced here and there, did a little temping, and worked part-time at a friend’s coffee shop, but it was literally 10 months before I landed a decent-paying job in my field of interest. That put a strain on our relationship, but not because Drew was disappointed in me. Not at all. It was all on me. I’d run out of money. I couldn’t contribute to the rent. Drew was supporting me. And it felt weird. But I loved him and I believed in our future together and I stuck it out, and I’m so glad I did. I got over myself, and I know that Drew never looks at that period — or our current period, for that matter, now that I’m working for myself trying to get this website off the ground — and resents me for not bringing in more money. It’s the opposite, really. He sees it as an investment in our future. OUR future. Because we’re a team. We’re partners. Because when you are in love with someone and committed to that person as he is to you, it’s not just about you anymore. It’s about both of you and what’s best for your relationship.
So … get over yourself. Get over your antiquated feminist notion about what it means to be a strong, independent woman. Trust me, it takes more strength to swallow your pride and let someone support you for a short period of time for future of your relationship. If your boyfriend is offering to help you move and is inviting you to stay/live with him, don’t be a fool. Don’t let your pride stand in the way of what could be an amazing future together. Cut back on your volunteer stuff, take that second job at Starbucks, work your ass off, save as much as you can in the next, say 8-10 months or so, and make the move. Put your stuff in storage like I did if that makes you more comfortable. See how you like living with your boyfriend for a trial period. If things go well, send for you things — let your boyfriend help you pay for it if that gives you some financial relief and he can afford it. This isn’t just about you. This is about his happiness too. And believe me, it is a much, much bigger deal to pack up your life and move somewhere totally new where you know hardly anyone than it is to pitch in a little money to help someone move. So, let your boyfriend help make it a little easier on you. After all, it’s not like he’s not getting something out of his investment. He’s getting his girlfriend in his same city! He doesn’t have to keep making those long and expensive commutes to see you. And, finally, he can begin planning a future with you in a real, tangible way instead of big hypotheticals. That’s a big deal, and you can’t put a price tag on that.
For some additional perspective, I’d also suggest reading these columns:
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