Reader question #70: Stability (maybe) vs. Love (maybe)

Dear Captain Awkward,

I’m 24 and preparing to finally move out of my parents’ house for good (I know – a successful adult, I’m not). Unfortunately I don’t have a job right now; I’ve got some money saved up from when I did have one, but not enough to be able to rent an apartment all by myself for very long. Fortunately, I have two lovely friends who have offered to let me move in with them. Which is, actually, where the problem comes in. I like Friend A a lot, and moving in with her would in many ways be the sensible decision. But I have a long-standing crush on Friend B which I have recently learned is reciprocated, which makes moving in with her simultaneously tempting and potentially a Really Bad Idea.

To elaborate further on the situation:

A lives on the other side of the country from my current residence. Such a big move might be complicated and expensive, but her city is one I’ve always wanted to live in, and it also has lots of job opportunities in my field. A doesn’t actually need a flatmate in order to afford the rent (although I’m sure having someone to split the payment with wouldn’t hurt). I’ve known her since high school, so the chances of nasty surprises, big fallings-out, or other drastic changes in our relationship are low. B, meanwhile, lives closer to my current residence – not very close, but at a distance where it’s still reasonable to drive there rather than flying. The city she lives in is a bit smaller and has fewer relevant job options (although it should be noted that both cities have more than the place I live currently). B does need someone to share the rent with (she had another flatmate, but said flatmate is moving out soon), which leads me to feel that moving in with A would be letting B down a bit, though I’m sure she’d understand.

But enough of these dry technical details, and on to the juicy part with all the messy confusing “feelings” stuff. I don’t really know how to quantify or qualify my feelings where B is concerned without sounding like an idiot teenager, or maybe just an idiot, but I have had a crush on her for years now and am… amazed, I think is the best word, and very happy that she feels similarly. (Usually, it seems, I fall for people who aren’t interested in me, and then I date people I really would rather be friends with just because they are interested in me. So this “mutual attraction” thing is kind of new and exciting.) 

However, I’m well aware that an attempt to change the nature of our relationship might end up exploding horribly, or at least sort of awkwardly fizzling out, and if that happens, living with her is probably not going to be very comfortable. On the other hand, if I move in with A – a six-hour flight from where B lives – B and I are probably not going to see each other in person anytime soon. And we’ve both proven to be pretty terrible at long-distance relationships in the past, so that option’s not looking good. And I really would miss her… not that we see each other all that frequently as it is, but still.

I know moving in with A is probably a better career move and a more stable living situation, but I can’t help feeling that if I do, I’ll be missing a chance that I’d really regret not taking. Although I have a sinking feeling that I already know the answer, do you have any words of sage advice that might make this decision easier?

– Head vs. Heart (and/or Other Organs)

Dear Head, Heart, and Other Organs:

I don’t know where you should live.

I think you should let go of the shame of living with your parents while you save up money for your next step in life.  Stop apologizing for it.

A sounds like the logical, safe, stable choice, but it’s not going to work if you don’t really LIVE there because you’re spending all your time skyping with B. and spending all your money on plane tickets.  B sounds like the romantic, exciting choice – but love could fall apart and leave you up shit creek and wishing you had some stability.

So yeah, I don’t know where you should move to.

But I do know that this is not an OMG IRREVOCABLE CHOICE.  You could move to one place, decide you don’t like it, and then move to the other (or a Comedy Third City).

Also, I think you should probably drive out to where Person B lives right now, this weekend, today, and screw her brains out figure out if this crush you have going on is actually a thing, and you should NOT live with her until you do that.  Do not move in with her under this pretense that you are friends.  Just act on the crush already.  Start dating now while you are still within driving distance and keep saving up your money for the eventual big move.  Start applying for jobs in both cities and see where you get a bite.  It’s easier to be in B’s city in person to interview for things if you do get called, you can use her address as yours on your resume, etc., but if you move there make it because you are moving in with your girlfriend.

But man, I don’t know how to help you.  Pick a place and move there, and then dig in – invest in your new life where you live and let the other option go.  You’re going to be fine either way.


15 thoughts on “Reader question #70: Stability (maybe) vs. Love (maybe)

  1. I like the captain’s advice. I was going to recommend pursuing B, since (as mercenary as it sounds) as long as you’re not running from a bad situation with B to A, A could be a good backup–but the Captain’s right. Stay at home while you get settled (no sense in jumping out if your parachute isn’t quite ready to deploy simply because you’re feeling guilty you haven’t jumped already, if you’re just going to hit bottom) and go work things out with B while you look for a job. And good luck.

  2. As long as you aren’t sponging off your parents, I don’t see why you should feel guilty living with them. Unless they’re putting pressure on you to leave, which is a different issue all together.

    However, I am going to give you my personal advice from my own adventures in apartment owning. Living on your own is one thing; living with roommates is another situation entirely, and it comes with its own series of complications that can go well beyond the benefit of cheaper rent. In this case, because the relationship is so complicated to begin with, I’m going to agree with the Captain that you need to establish the dynamic before you make any decisions as big as a lease together. Sure, you’ll be fine if things ultimately don’t go as planned, but do you really want to be dealing with all of the emotional intricacies of a undecided crush when you’re first learning to hold your own in the world?

    1. I did have an off-campus apartment with a housemate in college, so I’m aware of the difficulties that can come with. (In fact, I’ve never actually lived alone, and I’m not sure I’d want to.) But anyway, you’re right that it’s complicated enough without the maybe-romantic-maybe-not angle.

  3. Hullo! Anon that referred Head, Heart, Other Organs here. As I suspected, the Captain’s advice is much more sound than my own and gives a lot more leeway regarding how strongly you, the letter writer, feel.

    The point about a choice not being irrevocable is a good one. If you move in and things don’t work out you will either a) have a job by then and possibly the means to move out on your own or b) still have the option of taking A up on her offer if things don’t pan out and you don’t have a job to tie you to the city. Likewise, if you move in with A and get a job in your field, you could rack up enough experience and monies to relocate to B’s city should you find your heart still leading you there.

    Whatever you do settle on H,H,&OO I wish you all the best.

  4. As a lonely 25 year old man still living with my parents, my suggestion is to seriously think about moving in with person B. Intense mutual attraction is rare, and feels awesome. The Captain’s advice about seeing and dating her first is terrific and will help you decide whether moving in would be a mistake.

    There is never a guarentee things will work out. See how happy you make each other first and then take the risk of moving in!

  5. So I’ve got a bit of a different take on the situation: it all depends on your current life at home and your relationship with your parents, which you didn’t really talk about, but it’s important to figure out whether you will continue living there.

    If, while you are living at home, you are able to save, live your life, and your relationship with your parents is great, then you are in a great position to save up. Then definitely apply for jobs first and see how that goes.

    If, however, you are feeling guilty because your parents are guilting you, or not really allowing you to save by making you pay market price for your room, or interfering with your personal life, or whatever myriad other reasons there could be to make the living relationship unhealthy, then focus on moving out.

    In terms of the better living arrangement: 1) I agree with the Captain: go visit B now, and good luck! I would NOT recommend moving in with her, in a new city, while looking for a job, when she would need you for the rent, unless you knew that what you had was pretty solid, which could take some time.

    2) I’d argue for moving to wherever you get a job first – is it possible that your job will pay enough for you to live alone in either city, especially if you get a loan to cover your move? Cause when you get an offer, it could be a complete game-changer.

    3) On the other hand, if while you are looking for a job, you and B figure out that you have something solid, then focus your job hunting on B’s city. See whether you have the option to date B while living elsewhere, and then maybe eventually moving together to a new place.

    1. My relationship with my family is somewhere between the two extremes. On the one hand, they’re not making me pay rent or yelling at me or anything. It’s just that… well, for starters, they gave my bedroom to my brother while I was at college and didn’t give it back when I came back, so I’ve basically been sleeping on the couch, and I’d like to have my own space again. And they keep saying “you know, it would be easier to find a job in [city] if you actually lived there,” asking me how my plans with aforementioned friends are coming along, and otherwise sort of gently nudging me towards the door. They’re both pretty successful people who were out on their own years earlier than this, and I get the impression that, although they’re trying to be supportive, they can’t quite understand why I’m not moving along already. So basically, it’s not an untenable position by any means, but I’m a little tired of it.

      As far as saving money goes, in order to save money I would have to actually be making money, and there are no jobs around here. As it is, my savings are only shrinking (albeit slowly), so I figure if I wait around I’ll have less money, not more.

      … and I’m sorry, I don’t know why I’m bothering you with all this when you’ve given your advice already. I guess I just want to talk about it.

      1. You’re not bothering us.

        Okay, yeah, your parents definitely want you to move out. You’re sleeping on a couch.

        There are NO jobs in your area? Not a paper route? Not a grocery store bagger? Landscaping? Starbucks? No fast food cashier jobs? NO JOBS? Or “no jobs in your field you went to college for that pay what you think you deserve”? This might be a time for Riding-Your-Bike-To-A-Minimum-Wage-Job-Desperate-Measures.

        I mean, there could be no jobs…I’m just trying to imagine a place without Craigslist (:shudder:)

        Your parents are right that a job search is easier in a city where you actually live, and that you’ll probably do well to plan dates to visit each city, send a bunch of resumes and cover letters in advance and try to land some interviews, sign up for temp agencies, talk to all of your college friends and ask them if they know of any listings, etc., and they are probably right to say “Just Go, Already.”

        A is looking better to me all the time, in that career is the more urgent thing to figure out right now, though B is somewhere you could drive tomorrow and start pounding the pavement.

        1. I think I’ve given a slightly wrong impression here, so let me back up a bit and try again.

          I finished grad school about a year ago; since then I’ve been applying for jobs in pretty much any place I thought I could possibly stand to live, including the two cities that my friends live in. I’ve networked, I’ve watched the major job listing sites, I’ve watched sites relating to the specific kind of job I want… I’ve probably sent out over a hundred applications by now, but I’ve had no luck (obviously).

          Living with my parents was always supposed to be a temporary, just-until-one-of-these-jobs-pans-out thing, which is also part of the reason that I haven’t gotten/looked for a shitty minimum-wage job here. I mean, I kept thinking “well, I might get a job in another state tomorrow, and then I’d just have to leave and it’d be more trouble for everyone!” Which is pretty naive and dumb, but. (I admit that the other part of it was, in fact, not wanting to swallow my pride and go back to being a cashier or a telemarketer or something like that. Which is also dumb.)

          So recently I just went “screw it, if I wait around until I find a job I’m probably going to be a leech forever, so I might as well just move to one of the places I’ve been offered space and see what happens.” Thus leading to the current situation.

          Anyway, wherever I end up you’re probably right that I should be prepared to suck it up and take a crappy job if better jobs continue to… not be forthcoming.

          1. This is good information, and I’m sorry I yelled at you like a Cranky Grampa!

            Listen, the more you post here, the more it seems like a) your parents are smart and b) what you have is not an options problem, it’s a momentum problem. Not a “you did something wrong” momentum problem, but a “If you get started in any direction, momentum is better on its own than making the theoretical ‘correct’ decision.” Like, pick a city, move there, immediately try to secure some kind of temp/retail/office work so you have a paycheck coming in, and then really ramp up your job search in your field.

            So I’m officially leaning toward City A, because it’s the one you can go to now with the least amount of complication. If you suddenly put moving out on hold until you can figure out what’s going on with B., that’s maybe another thing that slows you down, right now? Don’t worry about the perfect decision, and honestly, don’t worry about B. If B. were not in the picture at all, where would you go?

            Think about yourself a year from now, doing what you really want to do, in a big thriving city with lots of options where you feel good and alive. You’ll get a bigger payoff from picking a city now, changing your address on your resume to that local address, and throwing yourself into it (even if it’s ultimately not the right place for you and you end up moving again down the road) than by taking a retail job and trying to woo B. from your parents’ couch, yes?

            If you read that, and thought, BUT I REALLY WANT B., YOU JERK, then that’s an answer, too. Make it happen. Say “30 days from now I will live _______” and buy the plane tickets.

  6. (This is the letter-writer; I’m too lazy to type the full pseudonym and HH&OO looks silly. So I’m hydrogen peroxide, I guess.)

    I’m sorry I came across as wanting you to tell me what decision I should make. Of course, part of me would love nothing more than to have someone say “do this thing!” and be absolved of all responsibility, but realistically I know that it’s A Choice Only I Can Make. Mostly I just wanted an outside perspective on things – which I got, and it was very sensible and helpful (and fast!), so thanks.

  7. Is there any possibility of moving to Friend B’s city, but with a different roommate (e.g., looking for a room on Craigslist)? That way, you could be in the same city as her and pursue a relationship, without the hazard of an awkward situation if it fails.

  8. I moved across the country three and a half years ago when I was the OP’s age, and it was a far more difficult process than I thought it would be but I’m happy now.

    My advice would be this: don’t move in with either one of them. Not right away, at least. It doesn’t matter if you have known someone forever- living with them is different. One of my closest friends and I almost stopped being friends because we were awful roommates- another of my best friends was only an acquaintance when we moved in together- she ended up being the best roommate I ever had and we are still close. The thing is, I’ve had a LOT of roommates. A LOT. I never went to college before now, but I moved out my parents’ house right after high school and let me tell you- you never know until you’re sharing a kitchen/bathroom in a place you pay for yourselves what it will be like.

    So here is what you do: give yourself a year. Seriously. In that year, find a job not in your field- you can be a host at a restaurant for instance, which usually pays $8-$12 an hour depending on fanciness and city, and requires only math and patience. Save as much as you can. It only took me three months to spend my moving capital ($3000), which I saved up for almost a year. Visit both cities and decide which city you like best, regardless of which friend lives where. Then, when you are ready to move, start with a sublet or a month/month lease. See how you like it in your new city! Try to find a job! And make some friends.

    I love my husband, and I love my city, but I could have been saved a lot of cyclical depression and lack of self-esteem etc if I had told myself this. Also, we could have started our relationship with a lot less stress. Moving in with someone when you’ve only been dating a few months, long distance? Yeah. That will either make or break you, for sure. And we only just barely made it, those first few months. They were rough.

  9. I was in a situation something like B and while it failed in a spectacular way, I now live in an amazing place, and I’ve learned lots about myself.
    Best of luck

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