There comes a time in every committed relationship, when you’re faced with the next step: moving in. The pressure can come from anywhere—your partner, friends, overeager parents, or even yourself—but it doesn’t matter. If you’re not ready, you’re not ready.
Nobody can force you into something you’re not ready to do, although sometimes it can feel like you don’t have a choice. There’s always a choice. You can love your partner, say no to the big ask, and still salvage the relationship. It won’t be easy for every relationship, but it’s doable. Here’s how.
Ask for time to consider your options.
It’s completely reasonable to need time to think when someone poses you a question that has real life consequences. Tell them you need to consider before you commit. Assure them you’re not just putting them off, but that you can’t take the leap without considering all angles. Remind them that you do love them and that whatever your answer is doesn’t affect your feelings for them. Saying no to moving in does not necessarily mean you have to break up. Let them know that!
Come up with your pros and cons.
Make a complete list of your considerations and take equal time on the pros and cons. You’re with this person for a reason, many reasons probably. Those are worth noting and will come in handy in the big conversation, especially if things get a little raw. Your pros can be as simple as you like the way they treat you or that you love them deeply. Just brainstorm things you’d write in a Valentine’s Day card and you’ll be good.
Now, for the cons. These will be different for everybody, but make sure to get them all down. These can be things like apprehension about sharing finances, worries about personal space, or even just simple messiness. Remember, unexpected things come out when you live with someone.
Schedule a time to talk.
When you’re ready, reach out to your partner and let them know you want to talk. Because you asked for time to think, it’s your responsibility to bring up the conversation again. Don’t wait for them to broach the subject again.
Lead with the good…
In personal matters like this, it’s easy to get hurt. If you want to keep seeing your partner, it’s best to start with the things you love about them. This can be summed up in the pros from your list in step two, but don’t be afraid to share from the heart, too. It’s tough to capture every feeling in a list.
…then the less good.
Now, for the tough part. Give them all your considerations with as delicate wording as you can find. Start with the line items that are rooted in your fears: you don’t know if you’re ready for that level of commitment, you’re scared, you’ve never moved in with a partner before.
Then, you’ll have to talk about the them stuff: you think they’re too messy, you think they’re a little neurotic, you don’t know if the lack of space is good thing. The second type of cons are harder to talk about, because they probably point to flaws elsewhere in the relationship. They’ll likely start a deeper conversation but stay on topic for now. You can always pick that talk up later. And you can say all that. But as always, tread lightly when you’re discussing what you take to be your partner’s flaws. It’s a slippery slope to hurt feelings, and as The Dude says, “That’s just, like, your opinion, man.”
Remind them that no for now, doesn’t mean no forever…
Of course, you’re not saying no for all time and let them know that, too. You’re not ready now, the keyword being now. Feel free to tell them when you might be ready, even if it’s not a hard commitment. Feel free to tell them what might help you be ready, maybe they can start working on that and get you to a place where you feel comfortable taking the big leap.
… unless it does mean no forever.
If you know that you’ll never want to move in with someone, and that you’re happy with the relationships as-is and don’t want to take things further, you need to be honest about that too. For your partner, moving in together might be about much more than simply sharing space. Most likely, they want the relationship to take a major step forward and for you to give them a forever level of commitment. If you know you’ll never be able to give that to them, it’s important to say so. Otherwise you could be stringing someone along or giving them false hopes for a level of commitment that you’ll never want with them.
Nobody likes to be rejected by someone they care about. No matter how gentle the conversation, there’s room for your partner’s feelings to be hurt. It’s your responsibility to make them feel the love. Help them lick their wounds and reassure them that your relationship is still solid. This means romantic dates, quality time, and backrubs. Break out all the stops.
Remember, the conversation won’t be easy, but moving in has to be the right move for both of you. Ultimately, your partner will understand that. Be as reasonable and kind as possible, without giving up your ground. And remember, your partner needs to be true to what they want and need from the relationship too. It may be that not taking the relationship to the next level is a real problem for them, and it could mean you need to have a bigger conversation. But, no matter what happens, respect where they’re coming from and how they feel. Stick to what you feel is right, and you’ll get through it. Things will be okay.