Dear Wayne and Wanda,
My girlfriend and I recently decided to move in together. We’re both successful adults who had been single a long time and were more than ready for this next step. I advocated for a new place and a fresh start. I admit, it bothered me — and still does — that her ex once lived with her in the small house she owns. But she convinced me to move in since she owned the place.
The logistics of this setup have been a disaster from the start. I arrived with my stuff and she basically had made no space for me, despite her promise to get rid of a bunch of stuff before I arrived. She has just two bedrooms, and while we use the larger as the master, the smaller was her office. She promised to clean out the closets in it for me. She still has not.
It hasn’t gotten much better even now, a few months later. I brought along some things that I like — like quite a bit of kitchen stuff, since I love to cook, and some art. She has remained very firm that she already had a stocked kitchen and we should just give my stuff away. Most of my clothes are draped over a couch in the office or still stacked in boxes. I have no where to hang my own art or pictures. She has made some comments like, “Oh I didn’t know that kind of stuff mattered to guys,” which feels like a passive aggressive put-down. My shoes are in a box in the mud room.
I don’t know how much longer I can live like this but she refuses to even consider another place due to the fact she’s already well into owning this property. I need advice to make this work.
You were both single for a while before meeting; the upside of that is when we spend time as adults living sufficiently and happily alone, we learn and have what we need to be happy. Yay independence! But the hard part is when we merge residences with another fully-functioning, well-established grown-up, well, it can get kind of crowded. The two of you are essentially smooshing together two fully realized lives and all your adjacent things into a relatively small space, an exercise that would frustrate even the strongest gung-ho couples.
It may feel even more frustrating for you: you show up as planned, and there’s no place to put your things, or even your clothes. Worse yet, you feel like she’s belittling and marginalizing possessions that matter to you. But let’s put ourselves in her shoes: no matter how much she loves you, you’re still arriving at her full and vibrant house with all kinds of things that seem redundant and extra in her eyes. All the logistical complications of trying to figure out how to fit you into her space likely have her feeling immobilized and helpless.
The best thing you can do is compromise and work together. Yes, you’re going to need to get rid of things, but so is she — if you both remain in her home. And in time, an even bigger compromise would be to take that leap and get a place of your own. Yes, she’s making mortgage payments. But if the two of you see this lasting, she could put the house up as a rental, or even consider selling. Because while you can make this work for now, with downsizing of possessions and plenty of patience, if the two of you are together forever, this definitely isn’t your forever home.
Since Wanda covered the Better Housekeeping angle of your new cohabitation situation, I’d love to hear how the relationship is going now that you’re sharing the same space.
You’re quite literally closer than you’ve ever been, so has that translated to a stronger relationship? How’s the communication? I mean, beyond the snark about your dirty shoes and art choices. Are you two talking more? Better planning, support and teamwork? The occasional deeper conversation about your future balanced with lots of fun small talk that you normally wouldn’t have? Or have your talks continually echoed the tension of the tight space and tough transition?
How about the intimacy? I know you’re feeling on top of one another, which if things are going well in the new housing honeymoon phase could easily turn to being on top of one another. But does that regular bumping into one another come with a warm touch and a quick kiss or a frustrating crash and some road rage?
You didn’t make this move to be roommates, split the rent, save some bucks and have some fun. You made a big decision together, presumably because you both agreed it was also the next big step in your relationship. Don’t lose focus on that. If this move and new setup doesn’t become a big-picture positive for your short-term partnership that creates an even stronger foundation for a long-term relationship, consider it a step back. And if you plan to and want to stay together — in this relationship and in a shared space — this decision should be reexamined soon.