After you’ve been together for some time, there’s always a kind of subdued pressure about when to take the next step. The uncertain question of cohabitation lingers over your head as you move into your second, third, or even longer year of dating. Sure, you spend half the weeknights at his place anyway. Sure, you’ve seen the most unsightly, nauseating things stuffed into the crevices of his couch. Sure, you’re shameless enough that you have underwear floating all over his room. It seems like the signs are all there – that moving in together would be seamless. But even with these signifiers, why do you still feel hesitation?
Before I moved in with my boyfriend, I felt the same way. And for the life of me, I could not understand why. Our relationship was wonderful and in a sense, we had already learned how to live with each other.
After dating for a couple months, we entered a long distance relationship from New York to England. I flew from Newcastle to Newark habitually. But during each visit, I had the crucial opportunity to stay with him for an entire week at a time. Seven days in a row we would share the same space, share all free minutes of the day. We slept together every night, woke up together every morning. We worked out together in the morning. I handled the apartment keys during the day, and greeted him when he came home. Overall, we probably “lived together” for what could be added up to about two months. I kept thinking that moving in would be a cinch compared to this. I mean, we had already figured out the workings of daily life. So what’s wrong here?
I couldn’t tell you back then. And I don’t think I figured it out until we had already moved in. But I couldn’t help acknowledging this relentless, nervous itch… It would go away and come back like a bad flu. Something was wrong, but I knew from the start that it had nothing to do with being “ready” to move in…
Finally two weeks after moving into our new apartment, I realized what it was: I was afraid he wouldn’t like me. Not what you expected? Me neither. It’s such an estranged and almost perverted thought – to be in a relationship with someone for over a year and not have expressed who I really was. I thought I must be mental, or that I was some sort of criminal for keeping a small part of myself hidden away. It was fraudulent. But the more I thought about it, the more I recognized that it had been entirely unconscious. I felt relieved that perhaps I could plead insanity as I realized that our weekly visits really helped in my crime.
As I said before, I would come to New York for an entire week, which I thought was “living together”. Staying for a week had its perks, like unlimited time that didn’t restrict us to 40-minute FaceTime calls, and the concept of cohabitation. It allowed us to see that we, indeed, worked like cogs in a machine when it came to showers, mirror time, bed space, and everyday life in general. But the one thing that was not accounted for was my own unconscious insecurities.
Living together “weekly” allowed us to work on daily routine, but also scared my more unpleasant qualities into hiding. For that week, I could hold back my controlling attitude, my ridiculous perfectionism, and my neurotic over-thinking. It was the maddening pursuit to be the best version of myself for him. Like somehow I could fix all my personality flaws before he found out I had them. Of course, no matter how hard I tried to hide them, they eventually surfaced. The only thing I can do now is continue working on them with my boyfriend by my side – a pursuit (still) to be the best version of myself, but with the exposure that I needed to face earlier in the relationship.
Many people say that the pre-move jitters happen because there’s no turning back. That moving in together is a giant step toward the point of no return, which can be unsettling. I have to believe a part of that is true, but I think a greater part of these anxieties come from a personal insecurity. It’s a deep-rooted fragility that we all share: the painstaking fear of being denied.
The uneasiness of moving in doesn’t manifest from a fear of “no return”, but instead as an aim to keep the relationship as perfect as it is right now – as perfect as you seem right now. An unrealistic expectation so brutal, it’s almost too difficult to face reality: that you’re trying to keep the relationship perfect, to mask the hideous truth that you are not.
The real question then isn’t, “Are you two ready to move in together?”
It’s… “Are you prepared to accept the ugliest parts of yourself?”