18

Background

I am 24 and my girlfriend is 25, we have been dating for 4 years now. She is from a smaller town, moved to the city for study about 6 years ago, I've been living here for my whole life. Now we both working, she is sharing 3 bedroom rented apartment in the city center with 2 other girls (friends of her from the same town) and I am still living with my parents and grandparents in our house. She is comfortable in that apartment and have enought income to pay rent and still not limit herself at her expenses. Recently my parents gave me an apartment in one of sleeping quarters of our city and I got a new job with higher salary and so I am ready to move out from parent's house to my own apartment.

The Problem

For my whole life I was living with both my parents and grandparents (my mother's parents only), so I never had a chance to stay on my own. I've had my own room, but never was alone at home and even if my parents was at work, my grandparents was always trying to communicate with me. I love my grandparents but kinda didn't have enough my personal space and was very happy to stay home alone for some time even if I wasn't doing anything special during that time.

Now when I ready to move to my own apartment, considering that me and my girlfriend are dating for a long time now, we supposed to move in together. But I notice that I don't want to. Not yet.

Notes

  • It's important to note that I love that girl and pretty sure that she loves me. I want to live with her, but just not now. There is everything ok with that girl, it's just about me.
  • I understand that such a thoughts seems strange and completely wrong and I am feeling bad and ashamed for that.
  • I am afraid that telling her all of this straightforward will hurt her and affect our relationship in a very bad way. Also I am afraid she won't understand that there is nothing wrong with her.

The Question

How can I speak to her with this topic without hurting her feelings?

Any alternative solutions of this problem will be highly appreciated.

  • 2
    Have either of you talked about moving in together before? Or about you moving out? Or has the topic never really been discussed before? – Erik Dec 7 '18 at 13:03
  • @Erik we were wondering how it would be like to live together someday. Regarding to current situation we haven't talked too much, but it seems that she suppose that we will move in together. We discuss a little about what furniture we will have in our (means my current) apartment and what pets can we take. – Dave Dec 7 '18 at 13:18
  • 3
    You don't need to feel ashamed for wanting a taste of independence. It's a natural feeling at your age, and it wouldn't be wise to totally skip that stage. One good reason is that everyone needs the chance to develop the habits of fending for themselves. How else can you get a sense of what it takes to live without parental support, and know how much responsibility each person should have when you do move in together? One strategy for saying this might be to make that promise real by mutually setting a deadline for that move-in, even if it's a ways in the future. – Euchris Dec 7 '18 at 13:50
  • @Euchris thank you. I never think about it from that point and now feeling much better about my wanting of living independently experience. Liked that idea of deadline, but I am concerned about two things: 1. I don't know what deadline will be comfortable for me. If I'll be ready to live together sooner than that deadline then ok, but what if I am not. 2. Still don't know how to talk to her about it and would she accept the whole idea of deadline. – Dave Dec 7 '18 at 14:13
9

Some background about me

I've been in the shoes of the girl. I had to move out, I asked my boyfriend if he wanted to move in together (we've been together for 3 years at that point), and he refused. He loved me, but he was living alone at the time and didn't want to give up that up yet. We moved in together 2 years later.

My response

I would be honest with her, and as soon as possible. Although you two never had a real discussion about living together, from your comment it seems there's a real possibility she thinks she'll move in with you. If she has already started the moving out process in her current apartment, things will be much harder, so tell her quickly !

There's nothing wrong or shameful about your desire to live alone, so I'd be honest with her and tell her what you've told us: that you love her, and see a future with her, but that you'd like to live on your own for a while before moving in with her. That you absolutely want to live with her at some point, just not right now.

Some tips and remarks :

1/ People take their cues from you. If you're nervous in a conversation, you'll make the other person nervous. If you talk about something terribly, they'll think something terrible is happening. If you're calm and warm, you'll put the other person at ease, and convey that there's no problem here, let's just chat. So don't be negative : don't apologize non stop, don't degrade yourself. Be warm and loving, and then keep the focus of the conversation on your reasons for wanting this, and not insisting it isn't her (when someone says "it's not you, it's me", the other person always thinks the opposite).

2/ This is a discussion. Once you've said your piece, hear her out. Listen. She'll be at least a little hurt, and she has a right to express this. This doesn't mean you're a terrible person and that you should grovel at her feet and apologize. But she deserves to be heard and to have her feelings validated. You'll also be able to reassure her more effectively.

3/ Take the opportunity to talk more broadly about the future. Having some plans, a timeline, or just knowing you're both on the same page (but that it will just take a bit more time to get there) could reassure her. But without this, I think it's important you two have a big talk about your future, because something tells me you've not really done that (hinting around living together, being "pretty sure" she loves you).

4/ Maybe ask her about her own experience, being able to live more independently (she didn't live alone, but having roommates is very different from living with family or a significant other).

Back to me

What helped me when my boyfriend told me he didn't want to live with me was him being kind, warm, telling me he loves me and explaining why he likes to live alone (the wording is important : it's not "I don't want to live with you" but "I like to live alone", the focus is on him, not on me). It still hurt, but at the end of the discussion I was secure in our relationship and I knew that he wanted us to live together, just not now. I was also able to express my needs, my insecurities and what I wished for the future (I didn't want to wait 5 years to live together, we wanted kids so there was a timeline, and he agreed with me).

3

I think your desire to live on your own is completely understandable, I was in a similar situation until a few years back when I moved out of my parents and bought my own place. I don't think this desire would be completely foreign to your girlfriend either although I can see how there could be some conflicting emotions that could confuse her.

I think this could be largely avoided if you prepared a list of how living on your own would benefit the relationship in the long run, this way you are showing her that this is not a decision you are taking lightly and that you have your future with her in mind when you are thinking about this.

Some of the benefits I would expect you could gain from living alone is that you get a better appreciation of how much work goes into maintaining a clean home, you certainly wouldn't want to move in together and end up constantly fighting about "that mess in the corner" or some such. You also get an appreciation for cooking and grocery shopping, setting your own budget for all these new expenses and managing your time on your own.

I'm sure there are more things I'm forgetting, basically think of all the responsibilities your parents and grandparents help to take care of at home, you don't want to move out without having experience taking on those responsibilities yourself.

I think Euchris's idea of a deadline could help however as you mention you may still not feel ready to move in together and you don't want to feel like you've broken a commitment so instead of a deadline I would say schedule fairly regular check ins where you and your girlfriend will sit down and talk about how you're both feeling about moving in again. This way you're not breaking any commitment if you're not ready and shows that you don't want this to be a closed conversation.

2

tl;dr: I see two good options: be direct, explaining to your girlfriend your desire to have the experience of living on your own, or be oblique and talk about living alone in a way that allows for a discussion.

The direct approach:

I love you and want our relationship to keep progressing, but I feel like I need to have experienced living on my own, at least for a while.

The direct approach is attractive because it is clear, leaving less room for (mis)interpretation on your girlfriend's part. Even if you are concerned that she will feel hurt, those concerns are non-unique to this approach. Any sort of lie, evasion, or excuse carries the exact same risks, plus the risk of additional hurt as a result of your indirection. If what you are worried about is that she will be upset you are not moving in together, and she in fact would be upset, there will be no way to avoid that if you live by yourself. I say this not to suggest that you are guaranteed to hurt your girlfriend, but that the effects of your decision will exist no matter what approach you take if the overall scenario is one she doesn't like.

The indirect approach:

I don't recommend this, because there are a thousand ways that your girlfriend could read things into the situation that you did not intend, and you won't necessarily be privy to that information (and therefore won't be able to account for/improve things). But, if you don't want to inform her of why your preference for living alone right now exists, you can casually talk about your new apartment, plans you have for it, etc.

It will be important to be ready for a conversation-- if your girlfriend objects to things, or has questions, you will need to address them or else risk appearing dismissive and uninterested in her. That will cause additional strain on your relationship, beyond this issue in itself. You may want to proactively ask about her feelings, to avoid her quietly nurturing some unhappiness, but this will quickly turn into (1) anyways, in which case you may as well be direct from the outset.

An additional risk to being indirect is ending up with your girlfriend as an informal roommate. If you maintain separate residences, but she comes over to your new place five nights a week, you may not get the "living on your own" experience you're wanting. And if you have a problem with her coming over so often, you'll need to explain why (failing to do so again risks lots of misunderstandings, which won't help your relationship). That, again, brings us back to (1).


Background:

Your worries are understandable, but are probably less pressing than you imagine. Living independently is a valuable experience, and time to yourself is important.

First, the social expectation that you are "supposed" to move in with your girlfriend by now is far from absolute. There are a lot of people that would find it scandalous and inappropriate for you two to move in together while unmarried at any point, and a lot of people that would think it's crazy you hadn't moved in together after dating for a much shorter period of time. The only perspectives that really matter are yours and your girlfriend's.

You're not required to live together at any point while dating, and my personal experience is that while cohabiting is pretty common among people by the time they reach your age many of those people regret doing so as quickly as they did. That you feel you are "supposed" to move in together because of some arbitrary criterion is a terrible reason to move in together. That probably won't remove the sense of pressure you may feel, but to the extent that you are able to not consider that feeling in making your decisions you will likely be better off. There is nothing to feel ashamed about here.

Second, while it's important to tend to your girlfriend and your relationship with her (those are separate considerations, by the way), you also need to tend to yourself. Having a need, or even a strong preference, isn't something you need to dismiss only because it's "just" for you personally. That's not to say that you should pursue your own self-interest at all times no matter what, but you don't need to feel guilty about wanting something for yourself.

The wrinkle here is that you have been "slower to launch" than your girlfriend. While living outside of your parents' house will be a new experience for you, your girlfriend has already done so for years. There are a lot of benefits to staying with your parents as you have done (presumably convenience and financial benefits), but it's unreasonable to expect that you can claim those benefits without any tradeoffs at all. If it turns out to be really important to your girlfriend that you move in together soon, you may have "missed" your opportunity to live alone while still dating her. Living alone is something that you want, generally; relationship items are things that your girlfriend needs from you, specifically. These aren't symmetrical.

If your girlfriend is fine with you living alone for a year or two, after which you start living together, then everything's great. If she's eager for your relationship to advance to living together, she may not be excited to delay things to accommodate the conveniences you've already enjoyed. A major benefit of the direct approach is that you can find out about her feelings immediately, and address them as needed.

Your desire seems reasonable to me, but your girlfriend's desires count as well. If you living alone at this point bothers her, but you insist on doing it anyways, then it's a natural consequence that your relationship will suffer a bit. It boils down to whether or not she wants this now, and if so how badly she wants it. Talking to her is the only way you're going to be able to determine and address these things.

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