Why I Chose Not to Move in Until He Proposed

It’s okay to set boundaries in romance and love.

Photo: Isaiah Bekkers, Unsplash

When I first told my friend Jerry that I required a proposal from my boyfriend before moving in, he thought I was crazy. Not just crazy but nonsensical.

“I don’t think you really know someone until you live with them,” he’d said, and looked at his wife, Sara, whose expression toward me read, well, rather impressed! It’s a dilemma for all couples, isn’t it? That we don’t really, truly know someone before we are sharing the chores with them, the same couch, the same bed. My girlfriends, too, thought the idea blasphemy, as if nowadays there was no chance that a guy would pop the question before shacking up.

But don’t get me wrong. I ,too, dated throughout my twenties and thirties thinking that moving in with my partner was just a natural progression, the next step in any relationship — you meet, you date, you mix family and friends, and eight months later you determine that the time apart is much too inconvenient than the cost of moving into a mutual space. It seems then only normal to sign a lease and move in.

And so we do! We put our belongings in boxes and merge our lives. “It’s just what kids your age do these days,” my mother had said one day when the topic came up. As if kids my age lived by a whole different set of rules. But the question I started to have was this: What kind of relationship and future did we desire for ourselves? Some women, including myself, wanted marriage, and others did not. But for those that did? Why do we set our desires aside, go through the entangling process of moving in, hoping that someday our man will propose? Why not turn the power back unto ourselves and own our desires? Lay out clearly what we want and need?

As for myself, I’d lived with three men in my life, until I met my husband in 2018. I’ll use fake names for privacy. First, in college, there was Smith. We also roomed with his brother and best friend. I remember thinking that all I wanted was more time with him, and more time meant cohabiting, bros and all. But because I never shared my desires, our relationship chugged along slowly, ultimately ending at a dead end. And then there was Lance, who I moved out to Oregon with. I thought that going along with his plans would eventually mean they’d turn into ours, but we never made plans together, they never made roots. I never shared with him what I wanted. Then lastly, I lived with Henry. He had bought a house for us. And of course, to me, that meant family. We’d work toward a family soon, a ring. But a couple years passed and nothing. In fact, the worst of my fears came true, his attention moved on to someone else.

After the breakup, I asked myself, what did all of these relationships have in common? It’s true, I never expressed what I wanted, or shared my boundaries. Although at times it might seem as if asking too much, I never allowed the men in my life to step up to meet my wants and my needs. Dear reader, if you clearly state what you want, you’ll not only communicate your desires to your man, but you will be on track to fulfilling all of the beautiful things that you want for yourself and your life, and for some of you that means marriage, kids.

But, you ask, what about that one dilemma from before? Can you truly know someone before you move in? Isn’t living with someone a great way to test drive your relationship? I hear this a lot from people and it’s a great question. But let me ask you this: Do you truly want to go through the process of combining your belongings and your life with the person you’re dating, only to discover he’s just taking you out for a spin? For me, I wanted my partner to be certain of me. I wanted my partner to truly commit if we were to forge our lives together. I wanted a partner who felt like he knew me before we took the cohabiting plunge.

Not too long after my last relationship, at age 34, I decided to own my desire for marriage. One day, I met a wonderful man, who swept me off my feet. We dated for several months and things turned serious. When he had asked about the possibility of moving in, I told him then that I wanted to be engaged first, before taking that next step. I communicated this is a non-pressuring way, as if it was just part of my manual and how I worked. And surprisingly enough, he lit up. He said he respected my boundary, found it admirable even. Almost as if all this while he had been waiting for a woman to finally and straightforwardly hand him her roadmap, a sort of happiness “how-to.” And two years later, we are married and expecting our first kid.

And deep down, I knew who he was. I knew he was a kind and gentle man. A man who kept his apartment tidy, cleaned up after himself, adored my cat. He was a man who helped me vacuum, brought flowers, took me on thoughtful dates. I knew in my bones that this was a man who truly cared about my desires and wasn’t afraid to meet the boundaries I had set before him.

For me, a proposal before moving in was an exercise in putting myself first.

Of course, this boundary isn’t for everyone. Some people need a little more time, a mutual environment where they can experience their partner before making that marital leap. For other couples, there’s a trust between them that marriage will surely happen (they just know!) But perhaps there are some women, who are weary of waiting and, as cliché as it sounds, want to grab destiny by the horns. And to these women, I encourage you to hold on to your desires, to own them, to communicate them and not settle for less. Because believe me, the right man will step up. It’s in his blood to make you happy.

Writer, love & relationship geek, explorer of the outdoors. Let’s connect! Instagram @hannahpass

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