Moving in with Your Girlfriend: How to Save Your Relationship…and Your Manhood

Maybe your lease is up, and the landlord is raising the rent. Or maybe you just got home from bumming -- I mean backpacking -- around South America, and you need a place to crash. Or maybe there's no excuse ... but she's convinced you it would be a good idea. Whatever the reason, you're moving in with your girlfriend. Just don't blow it...

There are some benefits. She has nice towels, and this bowl of dried flowers on the back of the toilet. The place has a happy, lived-in look that seems like a step up from your old dump. You also get to share expenses, like rent and utilities, and that can't be bad!

However, there are drawbacks. Every wall seems to be adorned with artwork. There's this blue painting of a woman with a star over her head who looks like she's dancing, and a big poster with a romantic black & white photo of a guy kissing a girl. You wonder exactly what you're getting yourself into. You're not sure where you'll be able to hang up your posters of bikini girls on motorcycles, or where you'll put your wide ranging empty-beer-can collection … but you're sure this will get worked out. Relationships are all about compromise, right?

Hold up there, Hoss. Before you even pack your first bag, be sure you sit down and read

Moving in with Your Girlfriend – How to Save Your Relationship … and Your Manhood

Everything has a price. Give something, get something. Close a door, another opens. Ideally, everything you give up is going to be useless crap, and everything you gain priceless treasure.

When you move in, you are moving into a shared space. In a perfect world, you both move together into a new place, rather than one of you moving into the other's already-lived-in space. This will make it easier for both of you to compromise when it comes to what stuff you bring, how the place gets decorated, etc.

Sometimes, however, it's not a perfect world. If you move in with her, you're going to move into a colorful, flowery, sweet smelling place that will make you feel like a declawed cat. You will have to “man up” the place with a video game console and an old chair. If she moves in with you, she's going to move into a place that looks and smells like the restroom at a Texaco on the way to Las Vegas. You will have to let her give the place a “woman's touch.” Everything has a price.

Ballerina and body armor

Throw it Out

No matter who does the moving in, here are a few things you should definitely trash:

  • Posters or calendars of anyone with their shirts off (rock bands, bikini models).
  • Collections of any kind, other than CD's or DVD's. Liquor bottles, comic books, toy trains, and action figures all fall into this category.
  • Any furniture that was not designed to be furniture. Spool tables, cinder block shelves, and cardboard boxes used as tables or chairs are definite no-no's.
  • Pictures of, or anything that belongs or once belonged to, your ex.
  • Anything that is broken, chipped, cracked, bent, torn, or otherwise contributes to bad feng shui.
  • Anything with wizards or dragons on it (unless she's also a nerd).
  • Stupid, artsy stuff that you put around your old place when you & your friend were drunk, like brake drums, toy dinosaurs and other “found objects.”

Now, before you get agitated, there are some things that she needs to get rid of too. Here are the ones you should insist on:

  • Posters or calendars of “cute” guys (Hanson, Jonas Brothers, Chippendales, shirtless firefighters).
  • Enough of her clothes and toiletries that you will have some room to unpack your stuff.
  • Pictures of, or anything that belongs or once belonged to, her ex.
  • Anything flagrantly offensive, like Hannah Montana bathroom sets, Hello Kitty shower curtains, pink & lavender bedsheets.

Anything beyond this is negotiable, but keep in mind that she is a better decorator than you, and she probably also cares more about the appearance of her surroundings. Choose two or three things, and fight for them. If that old-but-comfy faux-leather easy chair is a must-keep, then keep it, but consider getting it reupholstered. If you're positive that those Star Wars action figures are going to keep rising in value, keep ‘em, but buy a sturdy storage chest or a cool display case for them.

Also, make sure there's no hypocrisy going on. If you insist on keeping your Star Wars figures, she gets to keep her Hello Kitty. Or whatever it is chicks collect.

computers

Computers & Workspace

You will both need room to work, and space is of the essence. Unless you have very different work schedules, this means setting up two computers. If you have the cash, you should both upgrade to laptops (if you don't have them already), and trash your old clunky desktops.

You also need to keep your papers organized. The easiest way is to get two separate filing drawers or cabinets, and you each file your own stuff however you like. If you are both organized and tidy people, you could probably get away with sharing a filing drawer or cabinet. You decide.

The Bedroom

Ladies like romantic bedrooms, with see-through cloth draped everywhere, and candles and crystals and unicorns. This is a personal issue that you will have to decide for yourself. If she has a white wicker canopy bed with lavender lace sheets and heart pillows, you might want to go bed shopping. If you have a mattress — and nothing else — in your bedroom, you might want to go bed shopping. Ideally, find something in between that she loves and you can live with.

Pillows

Also, for some reason, women like to “decorate” the bed with lots of pillows. Don't bother arguing.

The Kitchen

For each category of “kitchen stuff,” pick one set (his or hers) and keep it. Throw the other one out. For example, silverware. Does she have a complete set? Do you? Which one is nicer? Keep that one, throw the other one out. Same goes for dishes, towels, pots & pans, hot pads, and so on. In some cities, you have to bring your own refrigerator. Keep the one that's nicest, and give the other one to Craig. For his list.

Note: In some cases, “throw out” means “put in storage” or “send to Mom.” Be honest with yourself here. If you're going to be together for a matter of years, yeah, “throw out.” If this thing really ain't gonna last, hang onto your old stuff, “just in case.”

The Bathroom

She probably has nicer bathroom towels, so just throw yours out, or demote them to rags, and use hers. Unless hers are lavender. Then, go get a set or two for yourself, or shop together and buy something more neutral.

Pick up some Ritual “Nature Calls” toilet deodorizer drops. Or, if you're old-school, keep a box of matches by the toilet. I shouldn't have to explain this.

Chores

Guys are expected to:

  • Fix stuff
  • Change light bulbs and toilet paper rolls

If you've been reading my column, you should be pretty good at this by now.

Girls are expected to:

  • Decorate
  • Smell good

There are lots of jobs that can go either way, or can be shared. Sit down together and make a list of things that need to be done. Pick ones that 1) will always be done by one person or the other, 2) will be alternated, 3) will be done together:

  • Cooking
  • Washing Dishes
  • Laundry
  • Bills & Bookkeeping
  • Sweeping & Mopping
  • Vacuuming
  • Cleaning Bathrooms
  • Taking Out the Trash
  • Etc.

TV and Game Time

People have different tastes. She likes Grey's Anatomy and ER. You like Family Guy and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. You both like Dexter. Shouldn't be a big deal. While she watches, you do something else, and vice versa. If it becomes a problem, like you want to play video games while she wants to watch Days of Our Lives, write up a schedule. You each pick a time that you absolutely must watch. Keep doing this until you have two conflicts. Then, you each prioritize and give up a show. If it's still a problem, upgrade your Tivo or watch the shows online. Come on.

Pets

Since you're moving in together, you've probably already talked about this, but make sure that if you have a cat, she's not allergic. Make sure that if she has a cat, and you have a dog, they're not going to kill each other. And of course, make sure that the place you're moving into has a friendly pet policy.

Money

Share bills. Share rent. Don't share bank accounts or credit cards.

Breaking Up

So it didn't work out, you're breaking up, and you hate her.

Okay, no matter how mad you are, here are the things you should NOT do:

  • Post that sex video on the internet
  • Run up her credit cards or take money out of her bank account
  • Break her stuff
  • Delete files on, or otherwise sabotage her computer
  • Prevent her from getting any of the stuff that belongs to her

And here are the things you SHOULD do, no matter how mad you are:

  • Keep it civil, not personal. At least until you get your stuff out of harm's way.
  • Get your stuff out of harm's way.

Split up anything shared, or that you bought together, as best you can. Usually, the guy gets to keep more of the CD's and electronic gadgets, while the girl gets to keep a bit more of the furniture and “nice” stuff. This is always negotiable, so keep it civil.

Photo by Stillframe

Before birth, Jesse's mother decided that Jesse Stern was a great name for a writer or musician. He now lives as a touring and studio musician in Los Angeles California. He also has an 80's tribute band, The Young Guns. He plans to wait until 40 to write his first novel.