Q. I moved into the same home my boyfriend and his ex lived in for five years. The goal was to live together for a couple of months while we were finding a home to buy. He's up for a promotion, decided it was too stressful to move at this moment and asked if we could stay put for another year. I said OK, but I'm sorry I did. This house is a constant reminder of what was "theirs." He even asked me not to attend a party across the street while he was at work because they were HER friends. I explained how displaced I feel and he said I could redecorate every room in the house. He doesn't understand that it's more than paint and curtains. This is his place, not mine, not ours. We have to move. What's good ex-etiquette?
A. If at all possible, it's always best to start fresh rather than move into to one or the other's home. People can be very territorial and the longer you live somewhere the more "mine" it becomes. When someone moves in, both partners can feel displaced -- you because you have no place that feels like your own; him, because you are encroaching on his previously established space. Add his former relationship history -- a home that THEY found together, where relationships with neighbors were already established, and if you're not careful and don't have a plan for survival, things can get out of control very quickly.
Your first agreement was to live together for a few months until you found something you both liked. You made the agreement to stay longer than you expected to help your boyfriend cope with the stress of a promotion. That's commendable, but to do this comfortably, establish some boundaries about which you can both agree. I'd write down the exact agreement in contract form. What's the plan? Establish a time frame. Sign it and stick to the agreement in good faith. By doing this you can release your anxiety about moving and so can your boyfriend. Every month it will not be, "We have to move." Or, "I have no space of my own here." When you get stressed you will know exactly how much longer you will be in the home. If at the end of your agreed upon time, your boyfriend is still not ready to move, then that's a red flag.
It is true, things happen to upset our plans, but if excuses keep popping up even after a formal agreement has been made, time to not only take a look at your living situation, but your relationship, as well. His inability to move may be indicative of his inability to commit to a life together. Only you know the true motivation there. You may have some choices to make.
Finally, when you disagree and you want to stay together, it's all about compromise. (Good ex-etiquette rule No. 10). Just as you compromised and stayed until he feels comfortable to move, it's his job to compromise to help you feel at home while staying. You're in this together -- hopefully. That's good ex-etiquette.
(Dr. Jann Blackstone is the author of "Ex-etiquette for Parents: Good Behavior After Divorce or Separation," and the founder of Bonus Families, www.bonusfamilies.com. Email her at the Ex-Etiquette website www.exetiquette.com at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
(c)2020 Jann Blackstone
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