Ok, so here’s a question for you. My boyfriend of three years and I have lived together for a little over a year, and our home is just miserable. We fight all the time, we don’t treat each other like we’re special, and things seem to just be falling apart. It’s hard to feel attractive to someone who sees you in zit cream every night. I’m contemplating moving out in an effort to save our relationship. Do you think this is a good idea? Does this ever work out?
This is a really tough decision to make in a relationship and I don’t envy you. No matter what decision you make, it’s going to hurt. And before I admire you on being willing to take a societal “step back” in order to help your relationship, let me first ask you if you actually do want to stay in the relationship.
Because of the several people I have known that have wanted to move out but not break up, most of them actually wanted to break up but were too scared of conflict to just actually break up. I call it the “slow leave”. You think it’ll hurt too much if you do it all at once, so you break up with someone slowly, over say, a year. (NEVER DO THIS) So my very first suggestion is to look down, deep within yourself, and be absolutely sure that you want to stay in this relationship. When you think about yourself living apart from your boyfriend, being alone, how do you feel? Relieved? Calm? Sad? Do you feel like you guys just need some distance to get perspective on how you can be a couple again, or do you feel like you just want him the hell out of your face?
Assuming that you have really really thought about it and still feel like you need some type of change in order to jumpstart the relationship, what have you tried at home? A lot of couples complain about the loss of magic that occurs when you move in with someone, how you see all their grooming habits and it’s a bit like watching a behind the scenes featurette on a movie that has a lot of impressive special effects. If this has hit your relationship especially hard, perhaps try to rediscover some of that mystery. Wear lingerie around the house, don’t take your makeup off and put on yoga gear as soon as you walk in the door. Do something other than watch TV together, even if it’s watching YouTube videos together. Make him wait for you outside for a minute if you’re going somewhere together, and then present yourself as if he just picked you up for a date. If this all sounds incredibly cheesy and women’s magazine-y, I apologize, but the main point is to do something different. Don’t complain that things aren’t changing if you aren’t changing anything yourself.
If you’ve just reached the end of your pile of ideas and moving out to save the relationship is the solution you have chosen, then do it. Discuss discuss discuss what the rules will be. Acknowledge that this is somewhat of a different step in your relationship, but the point is that you strengthen yourselves now so that you can remain strong when and if you move back in together. Set up rules about shared belongings, times that you’ll see each other, regular dates, and communication, and then be aware that things will be very weird and painful for a bit. Make a list of things you want to improve, and make it specific. No “you don’t seem excited to see me”. “I feel ignored when you don’t acknowledge me with a kiss when I get home from work” is much more specific and tells him what you want. While you’re apart, don’t just shy away and ignore the issues that were so prevalent in your relationship when you lived together. Tackle them, but slowly, and with a bit of distance. Set a date to re-evaluate, basically a State of the Union address, and when that date comes, talk about what you see improving and what you think still needs work.
And be ready to be honest with him, and yourself. Good luck.