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:
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at [email protected] and be sure to follow me on Twitter.
NOLAGirl July 20, 2011, 3:05 pm
100% agree Wendy. Sometimes you have to swallow your fears and take a gamble now and then. Especially if you’re gambling on something that seems like a relatively safe bet.
Bethany July 20, 2011, 3:28 pm
I totally agree with Wendy. I liked this part the best: “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.”
Greebo July 20, 2011, 3:39 pm
People who love each support each other. That isn’t weakness or “anti-feminist”. That’s just what loving family and friends do for each other. He helps you now, someday, somehow, you’ll help him.
Yozi July 20, 2011, 3:46 pm
Since the LW doesn’t seem to have much to lose I’d say go for it, but not without hesitation. If LW’s circumstances were different I’d rethink things. I was in a LDR for a year and a half, and considered moving for the guy. I had a good job, friends, and professional contacts in my city. He considered moving to where I was but it wouldn’t really work for his career. Anywho, I got so close to moving that I was packed up. But then I really thought about it and I realized it wasn’t worth it. Not in my case. Anyway fast forward two years and I got promoted, bought my own house, got a dog, met an amazing man locally who is even bettter than the other guy-he moved in 6 months ago and it’s going great. Do I have any regrets. NO! omg no, Not a single one. Not for a second. I would have sabatoged my life for that guy. I thank my lucky stars I didn’t move for him…So that’s the other side of the LDR coin. I figure if you have something to lose, think about it really hard before you put your life on the line for someone who at the end of the day you don’t know very well yet. My mother always told me, you don’t know someone til you’ve lived with them. And I’ve found it to be *incredibly* true in my own experience.
SpaceySteph July 20, 2011, 4:15 pm
LW I don’t understand this version of feminism. I consider myself a feminist. I have dreams and wishes and a cool career and I don’t need a man to validate my existence.
Feminism to me means that I am equal and capable. It does not, however, mean that I don’t need help. I don’t think it diminishes you to recognize that you are not superwoman and accept help. On the contrary, refusing help just because you must be a feminist and do it all on your own that makes you seem immature, like a child stomping her foot.
So, LW, if you think you have a good future in your boyfriend’s city, I say do it. Accept his help, temporarily move in with him. Keep looking for a job (and then if you get one, decide then whether you want your own place). Maintain yourself as an independent person- find your own friends in the new city, keep your own interests. As long as you continue chasing your dreams, you are not being antifeminist to accept help that is offered.
SpaceySteph July 20, 2011, 4:19 pm
Whoops, didn’t mean this as a reply to Yozi.
Morgan July 20, 2011, 4:23 pm
I would thumbs up you from every computer in my building if I could
justpeachy July 20, 2011, 3:05 pm
Sounds like this LW definitely asked the expert on this one! Great advice! I think the main thing she needs to remember is she can always tell her boyfriend that she will only “stay” with him temporary until she can get on her feet in case things go badly. But who knows? Things could be amazing!
haggith July 20, 2011, 4:42 pm
you need feminism 101 if you think it means being so arrogant that you refuse help that is meant for the benefit of both parties
Elizabeth July 20, 2011, 4:53 pm
I think feminism oftentimes gets confused with this “i need no one, only a sperm donor” rationale. The point of feminism is to establish the equality of women, especially in a partnership. But equality in a partnership isn’t about a 50/50 split of chores/money etc. More often than not, one person’s job is so busy that the other person has to take a 75/25 role, or even 90/10 role. And then it can reverse. The “equal partners” that we seek means each person is just as important to the relationship as the other. My strengths benefit the team, while my weaknesses are helped out by the strengths of my partner. None of that patriarchal “I’m the man, I make the decisions because I know what’s best for you,” bullcrap.
In addition to doing the things Wendy has said, one of the most important is to TALK to your boyfriend about it. Tell him the plan. Keep him in the loop. Make it your plan together. And while you’re at it, talk about your spending habits, desire for children (or not), values etc etc. All those touchy things that too often get avoided.
Addie Pray July 20, 2011, 10:25 pm
BeccaAnne July 20, 2011, 5:20 pm
To me this is like saying both of you want pickles. And you are trying to open the pickle jar but the damn thing is stuck. Sure you’ll be able to open it- after 10 minutes and twisting your hands raw- or you could just hand it to your bf and you both get pickles in like 2 seconds!
There are certain things that are really worth doing for yourself, but for getting things off of tall shelves, opening tough jars, fixing my computer and in your case moving to the city- it’s great to have someone to help you!
SpaceySteph July 20, 2011, 5:26 pm
I agree. I think she’s trying to martyr herself for the cause.
Oh look at me I worked two jobs, I sacrificed, I scrimped and saved just to move to the city my boyfriend lived in. But I did it all myself because I’m a feminist!
Maybe its because I’m a practical engineer type, but I agree with you… why put myself through stuff for the sake of being independent, when the desired result is the same either way? Just give me the goddamn pickle already!
Elizabeth July 20, 2011, 6:45 pm
SpaceySTeph, you’re an engineer too? What kind? I’m Materials
SpaceySteph July 20, 2011, 10:58 pm
Aerospace. Hello, fellow nerd!
Elizabeth July 21, 2011, 9:06 am
I started out as Aero, but switched (since the programs were relatively the same in the MMAE department for the first two years).
mcminnem July 20, 2011, 5:39 pm
I think my boyfriend may be getting tired of hearing “hey, wanna come be manly and open this for me?” Especially since I’m really the only one who eats the pickles. But I love it!
Natasia Rose July 20, 2011, 4:29 pm
Great advice! The LW can always move out once she is on her feet in the new city if she feels like she moved in too fast. There is no law saying a couple can’t live separately without breaking up, even if they lived together before.
Good luck and take the time to enjoy the adventure!
Rachelgrace53 July 20, 2011, 5:39 pm
I really can’t stand when women say it “isn’t feminist” to do things that really have nothing to do with feminism… If you want a future together, why can’t he help work toward that goal? Being closer to each other is the next logical step in your relationship.
It’s like Wendy said about her and Drew being a team. It’s not JUST about you anymore, so get over it and get over the idea of “I shouldn’t ever let a man help me.” It’s not as if you’re just letting him take care of you without getting a job of your own. I say save up some money and do what Wendy did–move in on a temporary basis and see where it goes from there… Good luck!
TaraMonster July 20, 2011, 5:42 pm
I agree with other commenters that feminism does not mean doing everything on your own and refusing help, but I get where the LW is coming from. She’s making a big decision and some degree of autonomy is obviously important to her. She’s just trying to make sure she’s assessing her situation correctly: weighing the pros and cons. It doesn’t mean she believes that all feminism is about is a woman never accepting help when it’s offered just because it’s offered by a man. I think it just means she’s wary- as she should be. At face value her situation is that she’s leaving her home with little money, largely for a relationship. That is scary, but considering all the other elements of her situation, totally worth it, and not at all anti-feminist. She just needs to hear that.
I don’t think we can glean from this letter the complexities of her feminist beliefs. I do think we can glean that just the very act of writing in for advice means she knows how to ask for help and consider accepting it. So while she does need to hear that that accepting he bf’s help is not anti-feminist, I don’t think a referendum on her self-identified feminism is fair.
Spark July 20, 2011, 6:27 pm
Very well said!
Turtledove July 20, 2011, 8:06 pm
When I was dating my husband long distance and I graduated from grad school he asked me how long it would take me to save up the money to be able to move in with him. He figured out how much he spent coming to see me during the same time period– it was enough for him to help me move and support me for 3 months while I looked for a job. This is just to point out that if it’s the money the LW is worried about, he’s going to spend it anyway and he gets a lot out of you being there.
Guy Friday July 21, 2011, 10:13 am
“This is just to point out that if it’s the money the LW is worried about, he’s going to spend it anyway and he gets a lot out of you being there.”
Amen! I mean, maybe there’s a difference and I don’t see it, but if he’s spending X dollars a visit to come out to see you, why can’t he just throw that into a pot for moving expenses and such? It’s not like it’s magically tax-deductible or anything; he’s spending the money without expecting a return. If it’s a big issue, ask him to keep a spreadsheet with what he spends on your move, and then treat it like a loan with a deferred start date for payments. Slap a low interest rate on there if it will make you feel better (though I suspect he’d object to that); you can easily set a rate of, say, 3% or so, which would be MUCH lower than any bank would give you on a loan but MUCH higher than if he put it in a savings account or most CDs (I think, but don’t quote me on the CD part).
I know a lot of people have said it, but it bears echoing: Feminism isn’t supposed to be about a single woman struggling against the world; it’s about being put on an equal playing field with men. Now, if you have a moral objection to receiving financial assistance from ANYONE, then, sure, that’s a different story. But just because a choice you make ends up similar to one that could come about in a patriarchal, “women are inferior” environment doesn’t mean it’s the same; if you accept his help, you’re certainly not doing it without having thoroughly thought it through and drawing your own independent conclusion.
RavageMaladie July 20, 2011, 8:46 pm
LW, I totally understand where you’re coming from, and I don’t think you’re being overly (or misguidedly) ‘feminist’ about the matter – just apprehensive.
Putting myself in your shoes I would be apprehensive too, mainly because of the possible repercussions of a ‘supported’ move (which by no means would have to occur in real life!): a perceived loss of independence, moving to a new place with your boyfriend as the main focal point – both because he’s the reason you were willing AND able to move in the first place, and because you know nobody else there; possible power shifts; a sense of being ‘indebted’ to the other person; fear of putting too much pressure on your still budding relationship by moving in, etc etc.
I know I, as a very – perhaps overly – independent (and paranoid?:)) person, would definitely have all those fears. And this is where I agree with all the other commenters: your relationship and a move could very well be worth overcoming those fears. You’ll never know unless you take the leap.
So maybe you could do it in a way that would be least likely to make you feel like a Cheever-character? You could make any money your boyfriend pays towards the move a loan (or at least discuss that). You could envision, as a kind of worst case scenario, if you would still like to live there without your boyfriend – could you have a good life in this place no matter what? Could you hold your own there? If you can, then you have nothing to lose, do you?
I know this all may sound a little mistrusting and unromantic. But I know very well what it’s like for an independent person to take those first steps towards becoming a ‘we’ – for me, it was really scary (but worth it!).
So yeah, you’re apprehensive. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing ‘feminist’ about it either, in my opinion.
Only you know the integrity of his and your intentions and desires with this move. And only you can decide if you trust those intentions, if you have the guts to act upon them and if you can do it in a way that won’t make you feel too vulnerable or out of character. I personally think it might be better to regret things you did, than regret letting fear hold you back from things you didn’t do.
Ofcourse Wendy’s story is proof that there might not be anything to regret, anyway – and a lot to gain:). Good luck!!
Christy July 21, 2011, 7:11 pm
I can understand the apprehension, too, because it may not feel very “feminist” to move for love. But being feminist means having the power to make your own decisions, and not be forced to move because you need a husband to survive. You have a life where you are, but your life could be better in the city–you’d have him and you would have better job prospects. Even without the job, if it’s going to improve your life to be with him, feel empowered to make that choice.
What RM says here is perfect: “You could envision, as a kind of worst case scenario, if you would still like to live there without your boyfriend – could you have a good life in this place no matter what? Could you hold your own there? If you can, then you have nothing to lose, do you?”
I recently moved out of the city where I attend grad school to be closer to my boyfriend. It takes more gas to commute to campus, but I’m happier because I get to spend more time with him. AND I like the new city (and my huge apartment) much better, so even if we don’t stay together I’m happy there.
Lindsay July 20, 2011, 9:54 pm
Think about it this way: If the situation were reversed, would you think it was silly if your boyfriend refused help moving because he thought it would make him less manly? You guys have a common goal, so you should pool your resources to make it happen. If one of you, in this case your boyfriend, has more resources, then that’s just how it goes. Be grateful that you’re clearly both excited about your move and about you being closer to him.
katie July 20, 2011, 11:06 pm
thats such a good point- and also, what if she was a lesbian and it was her girlfriend who wanted to help her move? does it still become anti-feminist to accept help? or what if it was just a friend helping her, or her parents? would all her thoughts still be there?
David Jay July 20, 2011, 10:19 pm
The offer to pay sounds like a friendly gesture from a friend. The 60’s are over, so you can bury the “F” word. Everybody’s equal now… we all get it. Go have a great love life! 🙂
Lydia July 21, 2011, 10:10 am
Although I agree that accepting her boyfriend’s help is not unfeminist, and the sixties ARE over, I could not disagree more with your assertion that we can bury feminism now. Everybody is NOT equal now, far from it. There is still a significant pay gap between men and women, hate crimes are still perpetrated against women, there are many places where gay and lesbian couples can’t marry the person they love… Seriously, we still have SUCH a long way to go.
TaraMonster July 21, 2011, 11:13 am
Oy. Don’t respond to David Jay’s bate. He’s always on DW blathering about how women shouldn’t be giving the milk away for free or no one will buy the cow. Lol. So, yah, he says to bury the “F” word (come on! the “F” word!? Really?!) and I say that happens when he stops being living proof that Feminism can stick around.
Lydia July 21, 2011, 1:00 pm
Yeah, I know DJ probably won’t be too impressed, but I hear this so often that I still have to reply to it – if not for DJ, then for the many others who don’t say it but silently agree with him.
katie July 20, 2011, 11:01 pm
“OUR future. Because we’re a team. We’re partners.”
i think this is the most important part. i know with my boyfriend and I, this is how we view our lives together. were in it together, and if that means helping out one, or one working more hours, or whatever, it doesn’t matter who. its not about a boy works and brings home the bacon/girl stays home with children kind of thing. its about the partnership and what is best for it. feminism and/or macho men thoughts don’t enter into any part of it.
i would just say to think that if you dont do this, what you will wonder for the rest of your life… you can always go back, you can always get out, but you cant ever get back something you didnt attempt. this guy may be the future father of your kids, the man you will meet at an alter to be married to, or whatever… and he might be just some guy that wont matter to you in 5 years. but we all take that gamble in the wonderful world of dating, dont we?
Skyblossom July 21, 2011, 7:01 am
This is a proceed with caution situation. You’ve known him for less than a year and then only seen him about once every six weeks. That means that you’ve probably spent maybe 45 to 55 days with him or less than a total of two months time. I know you text and call but that’s not the same as seeing someone in real life. When he comes to visit you it’s like he’s on a mini vacation so you see him when he’s relaxed but never see him when he is working hard or stressed. You don’t see his day to day life and how he handles it. You don’t know whether he comes home from work in a great mood or bad mood most days. Have you met any of his family?
I’d say it’s a good sign if he has some long term friends that he sees regularly. If he has time for them he’ll have time for you and if he can maintain friendships he can probably maintain a romance. Also, has he had long term relationships with previous girlfriends. If he has that’s good if he hasn’t then be wary.
I’d try to visit him at least for one week when he is having a regular or busy work week and see how he handles stress and whether he has time on an average week for a relationship. Also, you could use that week for job interviews if you planned ahead and had some interviews lined up before you arrived.
SpaceySteph July 21, 2011, 11:20 am
“I’d try to visit him at least for one week when he is having a regular or busy work week and see how he handles stress and whether he has time on an average week for a relationship.”
I don’t know that I fully agree with this. When my ex and I were doing LDR there was always so much pressure to *be together* during the times we had visits that everything was more stressful. A visiting long distance gf does not fit into your life the same way a local gf does, because you want to try to get every last drop of that visit that you can. With my current, local bf, if he’s busy one night or I am, there’s more of a feeling that there’s “always tomorrow night,” something that is not true in an LDR. I wouldn’t put so much pressure on a week long visit as if it were indicative of your whole future together if you moved there.
Though I do think that going to visit him for a week and doing some job interviews would be good, I just don’t think it should be such a test for the relationship.
belongsomewhere July 21, 2011, 11:30 am
There is nothing unfeminist about accepting help from a man, especially when accepting his help will open up more opportunities for you. Unless you think you’ll feel like you “owe” him something, or that power dynamics in your relationship will shift in some way because he’s helped you (which has much more to do with the kind of person your boyfriend is than anything else), if you feel that moving to be with him is the right thing to do for you, your relationship, and your career (which it seems, from your letter, you do—on all counts), you shouldn’t let the idea that accepting financial support from a man is “unfeminist” hold you back.
Amber July 21, 2011, 12:23 pm
“So … get over yourself”
That pretty much sums up what I was thinking, too.
atlimbo July 21, 2011, 12:46 pm
I love everything about Wendy’s advice/story. I moved for love four months ago (from the South to Boston) and was absolutely terrified about all of these issues and more. And yet, once I got here and saw how amazing it was just being in the same city as my boyfriend – let alone getting to fall asleep next to him! Wake up with him all grumpy in the mornings! – I can’t imagine what I was afraid of at all. It’s hard to put the faith in your partner that they won’t resent you or hate you for being any sort of burden (especially financially), but once you take the leap of faith, you’ll be amazed how strong you feel.