Carolyn Hax: Moving in with a new boyfriend; questions about affluence

Columnist


Hey, Carolyn:

I’m a gainfully employed graduate in my early 20s, and my parents and I have a pretty open and trusting relationship — almost daily contact, despite the 3,000-mile gap between us.

Carolyn Hax started her advice column in 1997, after five years as a copy editor and news editor in Style and none as a therapist. The column includes cartoons by "relationship cartoonist" Nick Galifianakis -- Carolyn's ex-husband -- and appears in over 200 newspapers. View Archive

I’m hoping to soon move into a new place with my boyfriend of four months, and I’m not sure how to tell them. Mostly because romantic relationships are the one aspect of my life I don’t discuss with them. How do I bring this up? I guess I should just live with the resulting awkwardness?

Awkward

Awkwardness with your new boyfriend, when it dawns on you that you shacked up too soon?

You’re not sure how to tell your parents because you’re afraid to, because you know they’re going to react the same way I did.

But they will feel too invested in their relationship to blurt out “For the love of gratuitous commingling, don’t do it!!” — instead going . . . silent for a beat while they form tactful questions, like, “Oh, ah, how did this all come about?”

I have no such investment. So, for the love of gratuitous commingling, don’t do it. Your instincts might be absolutely right about this guy and a long and satisfying union might be underway. But even in the age of crushing rents and staying over every night anyway, the pragmatic answer still is to postpone making any choices that fit these two parameters: 1. tempting now; 2. painful to reverse later.

On this topic, people often can’t help themselves and blurt phrases about free milk and cow-buying, and statistics on the high divorce rate among people who cohabitate before marriage. These don’t factor into my thinking, because the former is dated, sexist piffle and the latter obscure important cause-and-effect distinctions.

But just because the mainstream objections are easy to dismiss as anachronistic or ideological mutterings, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an excellent reason to wait.

Before you move in, inertia keeps you apart. After you move in, inertia keeps you together. To me, at least, it makes sense that the bond you create by overcoming inertia is going to be stronger than the one inertia creates. Too many people feel inclined to break up but don’t because the thought of it all is too daunting.

There are also the much less abstract reasons, that at four months you’re just getting to know each other, and in your mid-20s you’re just getting to know yourself. If you think you’re an exception, remember, most do — and few are.

Go ahead, start building your life, even one with this guy, but preempt regrets by leaving ample room to grow. Ideally, two separate ones.

Dear Carolyn:

I live on the cusp of a very affluent community — homes range from $200,000 to over $2 million. When people find out I live here, too, they invariably ask, “Where?” I reply in a cheerful voice but then nothing more is said, which makes me think they asked just to see how much money we make. I’ve been vague, saying, “Just up the road,” but then they still say, “Where?”

Most people are nice, but I would like a quip for the nosy snobs.

I Thought We Left High School

Nondefensively: “You mean which side of the tracks?” You’ll bust the social-climbers and amuse the rest.

Write to Carolyn Hax, Style, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or tellme@washpost.com. Subscribe at www.facebook.com/
carolynhax
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