When it’s smart to stay put
Relocating is something either you or your partner has to do at some point if you want to take a long-distance relationship to the next level; but how do you know if it’s a good idea? Here are a few red flags that indicate you should probably stay put.
If the guy you’re dating didn’t for a moment consider relocating himself to accommodate your life—or decided to move on his own without asking you and making you part of the discussion, it’s not a good sign, says Terri Orbuch, Ph.D., author of Finding Love Again: 6 Simple Steps to a New and Happy Relationship and a professor of sociology at Oakland University.
His decisions affect you and the relationship, and failing to consult you about any major life moves shows that he’s not taking your needs, wants, and preferences into account like he should be if you’re going to make big changes to your life for him. “You want somebody who consults you and is interdependent with you,” she says.
When the communication and the giving is a one-way street, it makes the relationship unbalanced, whereas those that involve equal parts of give and take on both sides are more egalitarian, says Ben Michaelis, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and author of Your Next Big Thing: 10 Small Steps to Get Moving and Get Happy. “These relationships tend to be stronger and stand the test of time.”
If a guy doesn’t bring you into his tight-knit world of family and friends, then he isn’t integrating you into his life—and that points to a lack of commitment on his end and means he may not be actively planning for a future with you, says Michaelis.
“Partners who are more committed, happy, and stable are willing to talk and discuss what’s ahead,” says Orbuch. Other signs he sees things as serious (besides making sure you know the core people in his life) could range from planning a trip together to looking into buying a condo or house as a couple. If he changes the topic or just dismisses these types of conversations when you bring them up, you shouldn’t follow him anywhere.
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“One of the big predictors of stability and longevity in a relationship is being able to resolve conflict well,” says Orbuch. But if you or your guy goes silent or shuts down during tough times, it’s a bad sign, and you probably aren’t ready for the stress of moving to a new place to accommodate his life. So if either one of you currently becomes quiet during conflict, it’s best to table any talk about moving and focus on finding ways to vocalize your thoughts and feelings during disagreements first.
You don’t have to be his one and only priority, but your significant other needs to think of you and your interests when it comes to issues both big and small. If he picks restaurants without thinking about what kinds of food you like or makes plans with another couple without consulting you—even though he knows you dislike them—he isn’t giving you the consideration you deserve, says Orbuch. This applies to moving, as well. If your lease isn’t up or you aren’t prepared to leave your job just yet, he should help brainstorm ways to make the timing work.
While this may seem like a good thing, if your bond hasn’t endured challenges, then you may not be ready for a serious step like moving to be with him, says Michaelis. Some relationships have only existed in a bubble and aren’t exposed to certain pressures that determine whether it can survive a difficult situation, like a health problem or one of you losing your job. Couples who have already weathered a long-distance relationship because of a job, school, or military commitment often hold up well over time. And if you’ve seen your significant other through the loss of a loved one or something else serious, that’s usually a sign that your bond will be able to stand the test of time.
For many couples, having the same key life values (such as religion, a focus on family, or a certain approach to money) is what solidifies the relationship over the long term, says Orbuch. If you and your partner don’t see eye-to-eye on these things, it’s probably not a good idea to relocate. One big issue you shouldn’t ignore is how you allocate finances. If you pay all your bills on time and he prioritizes spending on fun stuff, it’s a red flag that you need to have a serious money discussion. Ask him how he budgets his paycheck and what kind of saving or investing he does. If may seem unsexy, but it’s an important conversation to have; if his answers don’t align with your values, you may not want to make the move.
There is one situation in which you can feel good about moving even if one or more of the warning signs above describe your relationship: If you’d be genuinely excited to live in a new place even if he’s not in the picture and you’re feeling particularly adventurous, you can still consider it as an option, says Jane Greer, Ph.D., a New York-based relationship expert and author of What About Me? Stop Selfishness From Ruining Your Relationship. Just make sure you’d be okay living in your potential new hometown on your own since it may come to that.