New readers, welcome to Dear Wendy, a relationship advice blog. If you don’t find the info you need in this column, please visit the Dear Wendy archives or the forums (you can even start your own thread), or submit a question for advice. You can read more advice on long distance relationships here.
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.
iwannatalktosampson July 19, 2012, 1:12 pm
Ha I see what you did there Wendy. This is a great list.
GatorGirl July 19, 2012, 1:21 pm
I have mixed feelings on #3. While I do agree you need to be aware of what sort of enviornment you’re moving into- but sometimes you can’t change where you have to live. I moved 900+ miles for my fiance to a crappy college town so he could persue his Phd. I hate it here but being with him is more important to me than living in a cool place.
Christy July 19, 2012, 1:47 pm
What’s nice about getting a degree, especially a PhD, is that you get to move when you finish!
GatorGirl July 19, 2012, 1:58 pm
Oh my goodness I can not wait to move!! I can’t be surrounded by 18-21 year olds any longer!! Bad news about academia is where we live will be dictated by his job…so it will probably be another college town!
theattack July 19, 2012, 4:29 pm
I’m with you, GatorGirl! I’m moving to what I think is the most horrible city I’ve ever been in for love. I know what I’m getting into though, and starting a life together temporarily in a bad place is better than being in a good place without him for several more years.
theattack July 19, 2012, 4:30 pm
PS – I think it’s fine to sort of skip #3 like we both have, but only if you make it very clear what your expectations are for moving in the future.
GatorGirl July 19, 2012, 7:51 pm
Agreed. If one person is madly in,love with the location it might be a problem. But if you both hate the town and it’s only temporary- why not?
theattack July 20, 2012, 1:23 am
I am so curious about where you live. I don’t think I’ve ever seen you post that on here, so it’s probably private info. But I’m a creepster. Can you give me a hint? Like, if call-me-hobo and I had a meetup in Tennessee, is there any part of the state where you would be able to go? I guess I should just assume that you’re in Florida. Or possibly anywhere else on the Gulf, but most likely Florida.
chicotia July 19, 2012, 1:26 pm
Good follow-up to the last letter 🙂
Nina July 19, 2012, 1:41 pm
Love the article Wendy!
My boyfriend and I currently live in ‘his’ home city, and are planning to move to ‘my’ home city in a little over a month. I am so happy to be going home, but I am nervous about all the things listed above-we’ve extensively spoken about each topic listed here, but even then it’s scary! I think things are a bit tense because he hasn’t found a full time position yet. He has work in our current city (his), but it is at the very bottom of a company (he has a good degree) and wants to find something closer to his field in my city. I am finishing my degree in my city, and I will work pt but it wont be enough to fully support our household. Thank god for our savings…
I think my top concern is him finding something he loves doing, and not resenting me when the gravity of the situation hits him. Talking is all fine and good, but the reality can be different. I’ve been through it before (moving to his city, alone, before I met him, starting my life over) so I know what is coming. He’s very independent and responsible though, I have a feeling he will want to help himself.
Wish me luck DW community!
PS-is it better to fly with 2 cats (2 hour flight) or drive (14 hour drive)?? does anyone have any experience with this? 1 cat doesnt mind driving, the other one gets very antsy. We prefer to travel together.
GatorGirl July 19, 2012, 2:00 pm
We have never taken my cat on a plane, but regularly do 9 hour drives with him. Our vet has given us a light sedative/relaxer to give him during the ride and he usually just sleeps the whole time.
Okay usually he freaks out for 30 minutes and then goes to sleep.
I don’t think I’ll ever take him on a plane. What if you get delayed over night or something?
jlyfsh July 19, 2012, 2:05 pm
like gator girl said talk to your vet, they should be able to give you a sedative. our vet just had us give our dog one benadryl (definitely talk to your vet before doing this and i would test it out, everybody responds to benadryl differently). he takes it 30 min before we leave and is sleepy for a good 6 to 7 hours.
bethany July 19, 2012, 2:19 pm
My vet suggested Benedryl for my cat, too. I’ve never given it to him though, becasue I always forget how much the vet said to give him. I really need to write this stuff down.
jlyfsh July 19, 2012, 2:47 pm
hmm yeah i’m lucky because whatever the dosage for his weight was equaled one benadryl, so much easier to remember than the actual mg/lb that she talked about. if my 50 pound dog takes 1 i would guess a cat would take about 1/4 but cat’s systems are so different i would never trust that guess!
kerrycontrary July 19, 2012, 3:04 pm
My dog also has a sedative for when she gets really upset. She hates men who do maintenance (plumbers, painters, contractors, etc…) so I have to give her one of those when they are around for a long time. She’s never been on a plane but it works really well so I would if we took a plane ride. The sedative takes 2 hours to become active though, but I would fly if you could sedate them easily. It helps that my dog is small so if we flew she could go in the plane cabin, but I think cats have to go in cargo because so many people are allergic.
katie July 19, 2012, 4:50 pm
i just moved, and took my cats on a 15 hour drive to move… they had never been in a car except for like 10 minute rides to the vet… and they were fine. i didnt give them anything. i did, however, make them a little cat sanctuary in the back seat.. towels over the seats, a little liter box, a little food, a little water, toys, ect. i also used feliway spray. i would also not want to fly because of the possibility of cancelations and delays…
jilliez July 19, 2012, 1:43 pm
This is great, Wendy! I would add that once you do decide to move, REALLY commit to making it work and trying to love the new place for you, and not just for the SO. I moved from Indy to Chicago so my husband could start a business, and i spent a lot of time feeling resentful that i had left a good job, family, and amazing friends so that he could have his dream job. Once i stopped dreaming about moving back, and really explored Chicago, I started making friends, hanging out with co-workers and getting involved with activities and it got a lot easier to love the city. Now Chicago is our home for lots of great reasons, and it’s not just a place i live so my husband can have his business.
Michelle.Lea July 19, 2012, 1:10 pm
I made a move across countries for someone that I’m no longer with. I don’t regret the move – I have a wonderful husband now and a life I love, but I honestly did not think everything through as much as I should have back then.
bittergaymark July 19, 2012, 2:39 pm
Great list. Solid, smart list. 🙂
Fabelle July 19, 2012, 3:22 pm
This is a great list that I hope everyone who’s thinking of moving in with a S/O reads. And ALSO, I have to support this: “P.S. Don’t ask people you’ve just met what they do for a living.” Because seriously. When I didn’t have a job, or even now– in a position I feel no “connection” to– that question is anxiety-producing & not even a great “get to know you” question.
Anna July 19, 2012, 11:32 pm
I agree. I don’t love my job and I just use it as a source of income to fund the rest of my life, so I don’t really like to talk about it. If I had a career I loved, it would be different but with this job I just survive it long enough to get through my shift and collect the paycheck. My job doesn’t define who I am, not even a little. I’d much prefer to be asked how I spend my free time.
rachel July 20, 2012, 12:53 am
Hmm, see, I get this. But, I DO love what I do…and it totally defines me to some degree. So, it’s hard to not ask what someone does, because it’s always great to hear from people who really are passionate about their work. I could definitely see it being awkward for someone who has a job-to-pay-the-bills job, but it’s sort of just second nature to ask.
tbrucemom July 19, 2012, 4:40 pm
I guess I’m old fashioned, but I honestly wouldn’t relocate to another city for love unless I was married or at the very least engaged.
theattack July 19, 2012, 5:15 pm
Yeah I’m with Wendy. Kind of confused about how that would work. Marrying someone without having moved already and made all of those arrangements seems like a huge chaotic risk.
Dearwendy July 19, 2012, 4:47 pm
So if you were in a long distance relationship with someone you met from another city, as I did, you’d marry the person before ever even Living in the same city as each other? Really??
GatorGirl July 19, 2012, 7:49 pm
I moved for a BF. 900 miles. But we did have a clear discussion and new marriage was on the table. We knew living in the same town was essentially to being 110% sure we were picking the right life partner. You can be just as committed as a married person with out actually getting married.
Btw we’re engaged now.
Kristina July 19, 2012, 5:53 pm
I really needed to hear these things this week. I’m visiting my boyfriend for the summer because it’s where I grew up and I made sure to get an internship in his city–but I’m technically living with him because being at home is so toxic that it stresses me out so much. It has us thinking about the future a lot more when we finally end the distance sometime next year and both of us can’t wait to start over in a new city, no matter how connected I am to my hometown. His job is pretty easy to relocate anywhere, but I’m afraid that if things don’t work out as smoothly for him, that I will feel so guilty, even though I know he won’t resent me. We have a back-up plan, but I couldn’t imagine actually going through with that.
Diablo July 19, 2012, 6:28 pm
I had the opposite problem, sort of. I wanted to move, but stayed for love. My hometown had a very bad economy in the past, I was just out of University and wanting to head for the horizon, seek my fortune, and generally get the hell outta Dodge. (No, it’s not Dodge, its just an expression.) She would not leave because her parents were elderly and she did not want to be too far away in case of health problems, etc. (By now, they are really, really elderly, and we are no longer all that young.) But the list still works fairly well if you invert it. Ultimately, you have to decide if the opportunity you choose outweighs the opportunity you forego, and whether you can be content with your decision. The difference is in settling for the devil you know, versus the unknown.
Addie Pray July 19, 2012, 8:16 pm
When I was in college I wanted to move for a boy. I wanted to transfer schools from Chicago to Boston, right before my senior year, all for a boyfriend of two months, and I had never even been to his school, or Boston for that matter, I hadn’t applied in time (or at all), and nothing made sense, and we didn’t address any of the 8 items on the list. Thank god he was responsible and was like “um no, dummy.”
Vmarie July 19, 2012, 8:46 pm
Wendy, I couldn’t agree with this post more — esp. #7. I moved for my bf about a year ago from Miami to San Diego. I got a job before I moved to CA and didnt take any time off in between. It was good to keep my mind busy which didn’t leave me much time to be homesick. Having a job also made it easier to make friends and gave me something to talk about when I came home. It was risky to move across the country, but it’s worked out for the best.
theattack July 20, 2012, 1:19 am
Okay, Seriously. How in the world did you manage to get a job before making the move? I think I might just be missing some basic understanding of the way the world works, but I’m trying to find a job in the city I’ll be moving to in about a month, and I just don’t see how that’s possible! How do you do interviews from so far away? Will anyone even offer you interviews? Please enlighten me.
Savannah July 20, 2012, 2:14 am
I interviewed for (and got) a job based in DC while on a small island in Thailand via Skype. It’s pretty common to request a phone interview as well so you definitely don’t need to be in person at the company/organization to get an interview or the job.
Nina July 20, 2012, 11:19 am
My boyfriend and I are in the same situation, theattack! We leave in one month plus a week and he’s yet to secure a job. He has experience, is educated, and a great worker! Ugh!
Good luck to you. Just keep applying, make it painfully clear you are coming to the new city no matter what, and maybe have some friends/family proof-read applications? I even thought of putting the new city address of a friend/family member just to to help…
Hang in there!!
MandaNoA July 20, 2012, 11:59 am
I got offered my first job after college while living 4 hours away. We did an email interview first and then a phone interview. I ended up going there for an in person interview and while I was there looked at places to live and such and made a weekend out of it. They offered me the job 2 weeks later and I made the move. I have several friends who did similar things after school and one who actually got offered a job several states away even when she told them she couldn’t come in for an in person interview. Its not entirely uncommon you just have to find the right company who is willing to work with you.
Vmarie July 20, 2012, 12:32 pm
I sent resumes out for two months and had a few telephone interviews but I ended up doing what Nina suggested: using my bf’s address on my resume and then advising the prospective employer I was in the process of moving to the state when they called. Also, if you have a chance to visit your new city (ie: your s.o. already lives there) try to schedule interviews for the week you’ll be visiting. Finally, this is where #6 comes into play — saving money was key. once they called me for the final interview, I had to book a flight back to SD with a weeks notice.
Kim January 26, 2019, 10:11 am
What if you anticipate your life in 5 years to be with the one you love, but you also anticipate your aging parents to need you too? I love all of them. How can you choose where to live then??
Skyblossom January 27, 2019, 11:12 am
Can you move your aging parents to live with you? Their current location doesn’t have to be their final location. You can also hire people to help them. Or the person you love might be able to move closer to your parents. If no one is willing to be flexible then you have to choose whichever path works best for your long term happiness. If no one is willing to be flexible then you might need to rethink your relationships.
Rmarie May 8, 2019, 5:48 pm
Alright everyone, I’ve learned a lot from this post and the comment threads but I could still use your advice. I’m in a relationship of about 3 months that feels like way longer. We hit it off right away and have spent at least 3 nights together a week since the very start, so basically half-living with each other. We are each others’ “best” by far, and both see a lot of long-term potential for the relationship. He has inspired me to think of the future so much more and work even harder on improving myself. When we first met, he told me that he both works a lot and his work requires that he moves but if would be a couple years down the road or so.
Fast forward to now, he was offered to move districts much sooner than expected. Ironically he was officially offered it on the same day I was laid off along with my whole office, and on my birthday. Back to his offer, it’s an awesome propellant of his career. The district is still in the same state, but it will be a good distance away. We have agreed that we can’t do a long distance relationship. We both still want to make it work and really see a future with each other, but the main concern that has been brought up is how long we’ve been together thus far. Part of it as well is we are currently in a big city, but the move would be to a much smaller mountain town. I also do not drive and currently rely on public transportation. On one hand, I’ve always wanted to live in the mountains and really need to finish getting my license anyway. I also have plenty of money saved up, and because I do not yet have a degree and have varied experience, where I can work is somewhat flexible. I have also considered the option of starting remote work because I’ve also wanted to do that for a long time.
We’re both very independent and responsible people, and we understand that following all of the pointers above would be super important for making things work. He’s half-lived with someone before, and I’ve fully lived with someone I was dating previously thus have learned from prior mistakes. So I guess my question is, would I be crazy to follow him, all things considered?
Dear Wendy May 9, 2019, 8:08 am
The post you reference – 8 Things You Need to Do Before You Move For Love — lays it out for you really well. If you can’t read through it and enthusiastically feel ready for the challenge and potential pitfalls of moving for love, then you aren’t ready. And it makes sense that you wouldn’t be – you’ve only known this person for three months. The lifestyle change alone I moving from a big city to a small mountain town would be enough to give couples who have been together a lot longer some pause, particularly if one doesn’t know how to drive.
None of this is to say you couldn’t be happy moving where your boyfriend is going. You could learn to drive, you could find a new job there or a remote job that you could do from there. But, it doesn’t sound like you are sure enough. You haven’t had enough time. And, frankly, I have to wonder about why you are so opposed to long distance, at least temporarily? If you took, say, 6-12 months to date long distance, that would give you time to continue getting to know each other, you could learn how to drive, and both of you could get a sense of this new mountain town and make sure it would be a good fit for you. Whatever reasons make this an unappealing option for you — so much so that you’ve ruled it out immediately — are likely reasons that would make picking up your life and moving to such a difference place for a guy you’ve known a few months a little – well, you said it – crazy.
Bottom line: if you can’t commit to each other a few more months across the distance of a single state to make sure that moving in the right move, then moving isn’t the right move – now or in the future.