She Said, He Said: If your partner moves in, make sure their dependent patterns don’t persist
She Said, He Said
Dear Lori and Jeff,
My boyfriend and I have been together for seven months and recently he’s been advocating to move in with me. We have a lot in common, and I appreciate that he helps me have fun. He’s also incredibly loyal and tells me all of the time how much he loves me. However, I’ve spent my 20s and early 30s building a successful career and becoming financially independent. He’s still “enjoying” life and has been slower to figure out what he wants to do. As a result, I foot the bill for most of our dates and vacations. I wouldn’t mind if he was in school or actively working toward a career, but he spends a lot of time on the couch. I don’t want to become his bank account. However, he insists that if we live together, he’ll be more motivated and I wonder if this is the opportunity he needs to get his life on track.
Lori and Jeff: Seven months is a solid amount of time to have invested in a relationship with someone. Where did you imagine this was headed? Many who stay in a relationship this long see “Mr. Right” potential. Some, including you, are even more attached to the potential than the reality. If you just want a fun buddy, he, and the arrangement you currently have, sound acceptable. But being in a long-term, committed relationship that is actually healthy and sustainable requires both partners to stand on their own two feet.
Lori: Women in your scenario immediately make me want to explore self-worth. Specifically, do you have a low bar for partners because you’re not sure you could do better? Let’s be honest, we all have to make compromises in some places and no one, including ourselves, is perfect. But to be in a relationship in your 30s with a partner who needs you makes me wonder if you don’t believe that a guy who has his life together could really want you. I’m not trying to bag on your boy. I know everyone has their own path to adulting and I respect that. Where I have issues is his insinuation that you, and what you can provide, will be the magic fix he needs to grow up. Someone really on the cusp of maturity is actually becoming more self-sufficient.
If you decide to have him move in, make sure you’re doing so because it’s in alignment with your values and what you want in your life, not because of guilt or feeling like a bad person if you let him down. Be honest with yourself and with him about what you are willing to give to the relationship and in support of him. Not being clear here will only lead to hurts and resentment down the road. And lastly, for the love of (insert your deity of choice here), protect your wealth. You have worked hard to set a strong and healthy foundation for your financial future. Do not let your credit or savings suffer for anyone you’re dating.
Jeff: Before I talk about what your boyfriend might be going through as a way to help give you some insight into your decision, I first want to address your mindset. You are simply putting the cart before the horse. It will not be your allowing him to move in that creates the catalyst he needs to get his “house” in order, but the other way around. He should have to get started on his path before he earns the right to equally share your space.
As for your boyfriend, it sounds like he is struggling with issues that men are facing more and more these days. It has long been the expectation that we be the breadwinners and the holders of safety and security in relationships. Thankfully this ethos has been changing, but with it comes the confusion and uncertainty as to what exactly we are supposed to do now and what are the expectations of our new roles. This is in no way a get-out-of-jail-free card, but it may mean that some men need to be given a bit more time to find themselves and figure out where their life path may lie. One of the challenges in this process is that, without an established road map, many men are getting lost or distracted along the way. Eventually some may lose confidence in being on the “right” path and in their ability to ever catch up to those who found their paths way sooner. In response, they simply give up and seek refuge on the couch, Xbox controller in hand. If your non-negotiable list for a partner includes him having logged more mileage on his chosen career path, then don’t compromise. Stick with your current living situation and set some stronger boundaries.
Lori and Jeff: If you do choose to offer up your space, whether it’s now or after he’s taken some convincing initial steps forward, make sure you have an exit strategy. Consider how you may need to disentangle yourself from him physically, emotionally and financially. After he’s moved in, it will be much more difficult to ask him to leave if his dependent patterns persist and he fails to launch.
Lori and Jeff are married, licensed psychotherapists and couple-to-couple coaches at Aspen Relationship Institute. Submit your relationship questions to info@AspenRelationshipCoaching.com and your query may be selected for a future column.
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