#616: Where should we live? & Summer Pledge Drive Day 1

Hello everyone! How are you? ICYMI, I wrote a non-spoilery (since I haven’t even watched the episode yet) piece about Doctor Who and friendship that’s up at Indiewire. Special thanks to TV editor Liz Shannon Miller, who should probably edit every single thing I write, and who constantly turns me onto cool things to watch and like. In other good news, the short film Meet In A Public Place has just been accepted into the Oakland Underground Film Festival. Oakland! I won’t make it out there for the fest, but let us hope that it is merely the first stage in world domination and travel.

And now, a question.

Hello Captain

I have an awesome boyfriend. We’ve been together for five years now. Next year both of us will have finished our educations and will be taking the Big Step into the World of the Working.

He still lives with his (equally awesome) mother, while I live full time on a boarding room. I will lose my room and therefore home once I graduate. We’ve agreed that we’d like to start living together officially once that happens. We’ve been living together half and half for the past three years: either he stays at my place or I stay at his, we alternate.

I’d love to rent an apartment together during our first years, while saving up for a proper home. He however thinks rent is a waste of money and wants me to move in with him and his mother until we can afford to buy our own place. His mother agrees with him.

I want to move in with him in our own place, not with him and his mother in their parental home. I get along well with his mother, that’s not the problem. I’m used to living independent and don’t want to go back to being mothered in a place I have no say about whatsoever. Living at his place feels like staying at a hotel instead of being home. Moving in with them would also mean that I would be dependent on either them having time to drive me to places or on the terrible local bus connection, since I’m not legally allowed to drive due to medical issues.

I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say I want to be able to go to job interviews on my own, that I want some say in what happens to the space I live in or even that I want a say in minor things like what I eat or where my stuff is.

My boyfriend, who has never lived on his own before, does not understand this. How can I make him understand?


A frustrated student

Dear Frustrated Student:

For you, your boyfriend, and people interested in probing the logical case for renting vs. buying and your boyfriend’s blanket assertion that “renting is a waste of money,” let me direct you to this video series at Khan Academy that explores the question in an entertaining way. The point I want to make is: Home ownership can be very rewarding and a good financial decision, but it’s far from a given that buying a house is a great investment for everyone, a lot of the logic surrounding question is outdated and downright negated by the events of the last decade, it’s highly subjective and situation-dependent, and even people who have the means to make this a real choice should go through a complex analysis before making a decision to do so.

Your boyfriend doubtless has his reasons for thinking as he does, and perhaps he has a sweet financial analysis spreadsheet somewhere, but he hasn’t thrown down some kind of trump card here. There are things that are more valuable to you than money, like, say, living in a place where you have maximum mobility and independence. And there are other values at play on his part, I daresay, like, not wanting to move out of his mom’s place yet. I don’t want to speculate too far, but reading the subtext it sounds like his mom might not want him to move out now (possibly ever), and he knows this. Saving up to buy a place could give him a reason to stay, for now, and the Big Adult Step of Buying A House could give him a less negotiable/more culturally approved reason to leave when the time comes. Feeling nervous about the future, wanting the security of home, wanting to stay close to his mom are understandable, human reasons–There don’t have to be any bad guys here!!!!–but this is not strictly a money conversation. It never was, it never will be.  

What you have right now is a test of how you discuss and make decisions in the face of competing values, and the stakes are high financially and emotionally. You have to be able figure this stuff out and be on the same team when you make decisions like this if you’re going to have a good life together. Love alone does not solve this stuff. You have to actively solve it and drill down to what’s important.

Some possible scenarios:

  • You and your boyfriend rent an apartment together, somewhere that is convenient and easy for you to get around but also reasonably close to his mom so that he can see her often. Attendant questions: What does this do to your planned schedule for buying a place of your own? Is it financially feasible in the short-term? Does this choice involve a lot of blowback from your boyfriend’s mom?
  • You move to your boyfriend’s city but not in with him and his mother. You get your own place or live with roommates in a neighborhood that is convenient to public transit or conducive to you walking to work, and you continue on as you have been. Attendant questions: What is the time frame for you getting a place, either bought or rented together? Is this financially feasible and possible for you?
  • You move in with him and his mom and save up a) until you both have jobs and can afford an apartment of your own (months?) or b) until you’ve saved enough for a house (years?). Attendant questions: Does your boyfriend agree to drive you around whenever and wherever you need to go, every single time you need to go there, without complaint? Can the money you save on housing be put toward using a car service (taxis, Uber/Lyft, if that stuff is even available there) so that you can be mobile without depending on them for rides? Under what circumstances can you pull the ripcord if you are not happy? What’s the planned end-date for this arrangement? How will you, he, and his mom negotiate living in a shared space when you are no longer a guest but a tenant? For instance, is there a space in the house that you can have for your own, to decorate as you like? Can you redecorate his/your shared room as a way to claim it? How will meals and household chores be apportioned and shared? 

You’ve got to be able to talk through all of this with your boyfriend. You’ve got to be able to make really boring spreadsheets together and work out the actual money involved. If you know that you straight-up do not ever want to live with his mom (and I think you do know this), you need to be able to say that to him, like “Hey, I look at living with your mom as a generous safety net, like, if we don’t get jobs right away and really need to save money to even get a rented place of our own. I rank our options like this: Best option, we rent our own (conveniently located) place and save up to buy one eventually. An ok option: We live with your mom for 3-6 months, max, and save up for our own (rented) place and then save up to buy one eventually. But within a year after we leave school, I want my/our own place, and I want to live where I can easily get where I need to go without being dependent on you, even if it means that we rent for a while. I don’t agree that renting is wasted money, if it gives me what I need to be happy in the day-to-day.” And then ask him what he envisions. If this is about more than money for your boyfriend, he needs to tell you. If it’s 100% about money for him, and he thinks that’s the most logical position, then he needs to know that money saved at the expense of your happiness and independence isn’t actually all that saved. I think you should be very wary of “thrift” that comes at great inconvenience and unhappiness to you. It’s okay if your hierarchy for making a decision is A Place Where I Can Get Around > Together, With You! > Eventual Home Ownership, and someone you want to build a life with needs to empathize with that even if he doesn’t 100% relate or understand.

Also important, when contemplating a future with this guy: His awesome mom can offer, but she is a non-voting member of this team. If she wants to support you and her son in your relationship, I think it’s great for her to say “I’d love for you to stay with me, we’ll work it out, including rides, including whatever you need to feel at home” but really NOT great to pressure you or him about that decision. Do you feel like you can talk to her about it? Like, “Thanks for the generous offer, and I will take you up on it if it becomes necessary, but my honest hope is to not have to if he and I can both get good jobs?” or “The two things that really worry me is that I will be come isolated or massively inconvenience you, transport-wise, and that I am feeling really hungry right now to put my own stamp on a place rather than be a guest in someone else’s house. What do you think?” And whatever you decide, your boyfriend has to be a team with you. A dude who prioritizes his mom’s happiness, convenience, and well-being over yours is not the dude to buy real estate with. 


You’ve got some time before you have to figure it ALL out, this is a process. Maybe schedule regular – monthly? – talks about money, where you will live, etc. so you can check in with each other and keep the conversation going. And make sure you both are putting as much energy as you can into visiting your school’s career office, applying for jobs, and otherwise making it so that you will have the most possible choices open to you. 


Finally, hello nice readers! It’s still technically summer, so while I was late out of the blocks this year, this is the week where I gently shake the tip jar in your general direction for the summer pledge drive. There is never any obligation, but if you like what we do here, support from readers who have a few $ to spare is much appreciated and makes my ability to prioritize writing and moderating the site much easier. 

134 thoughts on “#616: Where should we live? & Summer Pledge Drive Day 1

  1. It seems like a bad decision to want to buy now when you’re just graduating and don’t even have jobs yet. Get jobs first and hopefully that’s even going to be in the same city! and then figure out what to do about living situations.

    1. I think the issue is that the boyfriend wants to buy like, 2 or 3 or 5 years from now, or “someday,” which leaves the Letter Writer possibly living with him and his mom for a substantial chunk of time.

      It’s not even about “do we buy a house” it’s about “what do the next 2+ years of our lives look like.”

    2. Good lord yes. Imagining buying a house with someone who has never lived away from their mother is absolutely terrifying. Even if she moves into the mother’s house for now, I think it would be a huuuuuge risk for her to ever sign on to co-own a house with someone who has never lived outside of his mother’s domain. That just seems so, so unwise.

      1. (Hey! First time commenter, but avid reader for some time.)

        This was what struck me about this letter, too. It would be really good to “practice” living together for a while before buying a house together. Especially if this is the first time ever that the boyfriend lives away from his mom. You will most likely have some adjusting to do (chores etc.) when you first live together and if it really goes south it would be much better that happens in an appartment, where you can easily terminate the lease.

        1. Totally agree — I had roommates in the dorms in college and even so was surprised at how different sharing an apartment is, where you are responsible for cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, and common living areas, and bringing in furniture, and paying bills and utilities, and taking out the garbage and recycling, etc. etc. etc. It’s a BIG adjustment!

      2. I was about to say it worked out well in my case. (My husband and I lived with his parents after he graduated from college, and we went straight from there to buying a house.) *But* then I remembered that we had both rented places previously. He had an apartment with friends during his last year of college. He also did his last couple years of high school at boarding school, which generally teaches you to look after yourself and do your own laundry.

        So, yeah, starting off renting a place together might be wiser than going straight from parents’ to co-ownership of your own place.

      3. Well, as with everything, YMMV. That’s exactly what I did, and it worked out just fine. It could have been very sticky, as his mum had made it clear that she did not want to live in London without him. But once I made it clear that living with him in our own place was important to me, she accepted it. She ended up moving hundreds of miles away to be near his sister, but she never tried to influence my decisions or make either of us feel guilty.

        Plus I waited to broach the subject until I really did feel the need to be living with him – no point putting pressure on him until it was a real issue. I also had to get over a lot of unfair prejudice about Someone Who Lives With His Mother, Unhealthy Co-dependence, and the like.

  2. I really like Cliff Pervocracy’s “relationship negotiation” model. Essentially you schedule periodic, regular meetings in which the two of you talk about the Serious Business of a relationship. Too often, the Family Meeting only takes place when something is going (or has gone) horribly wrong, and it becomes high-stress and high-stakes to have one. A regular meeting makes it easier to handle this stuff when it is still a small problem.

    Link is not entirely worksafe:

    Cliff does not emphasize money in the list of possible topics, but you should definitely include money and all of the planets in its orbit, such as whether to buy a house and how to save up for said house.

    1. I should also have mentioned: a regular meeting solves the problem of wondering When do I bring this up? and How do I bring this up? It’s very fraught, calling a Family Meeting when there is no regular tradition of family meetings. Having one on the schedule means that you bring up your issue at the next family meeting, and you do it the same way you bring up your concerns that dishes are not being rinsed before they go into the dishwasher.

      1. I really need to start doing this. Probably one adults-only version and one kids-included version.

      2. This is such a great idea, knowing that there is a regular time and place to discuss whatever issues or concerns you may have.
        Seriously, this is a relationship saver.

  3. I encourage you to be blunt about wanting this for “selfish” reasons. Your boyfriend and his mom may say things like, “Oh, it’s no trouble to drive you, we don’t mind.” To which one has to clear the air and say, “My concern isn’t entirely that I’ll impose on you. It’s that I forsee times when I need to go places and neither of you are available, or when I’d rather be alone than stuck in a car with somebody.”

    If their response is, “You’re calling us undependable and annoying?!” then that is a HUGE RED FLAG because the conversation has stopped being about what you need and how you’ll get it, to you apologizing to them for having an opinion. If your boyfriend is good long-term partner material, he’ll accept that a) he is sometimes imperfect, like not being able to be in two places at once, or b) your needs are very important considerations here.

      1. Red flag for the LW, I feel the need to say; not necessarily for everyone ever. In some cultures, a three-way negotiation involving an older relative who has more money and resources and also a stake in one of the potential living situations is totally appropriate. But if the LW isn’t okay with it, then nope.

        1. Not only is it normal in some cultures (like mine), it’s good practice for the three way negotiations you’ll be having in 5-30 years if you guys end up partnering/marrying.

          If he is her only child/only geographically close child, a partner’s willingness to take his mother’s needs into account may be a dealbreaker for him. LW may need to find a way to assure him that she’s willing to adjust her life if his mother needed assistance.

          Spouse and I are both only children of single/widowed mothers. Our relationships with our moms is not ideal, but we are their only family, so
          Spouse and I have both had to rearrange our lives when they’ve had health issues.

          Helping to bathe his mother (who actively dislikes me) only worked with ruthless politeness. Patience with her need to assert authority over me so she could feel less helpless didn’t hurt.
          My mother lived with us for a several months between selling her home and purchasing a smaller one, Spouse’s ability to take her biting humor in stride was much appreciated.

          If you have children, most grandparents who live near their grandchildren are going to serve as childcare in some capacity, you will be negotiating with her on that as well.

  4. “A dude who prioritizes his mom’s happiness, convenience, and well-being over yours is not the dude to buy real estate with. ”

    This. Ohhhhh, this. I cannot emphasize this enough. I broke up with a guy, 20 years ago, who kept insisting he wanted to live with me but there were always Reasons why it wasn’t possible to move out from his family’s place yet. I stuck with him for three years of this, until he finally ran out of excuses and admitted to me that he just wasn’t *ready* to move out from his family’s place yet. I cried a little and then moved away, on my own… and within a month of our breakup, he’d moved out of his family’s place alone and to another city, to live with some friends of ours who’d quickly become his new partners.

    The Captain has often said, “I’m just not ready for a relationship,” ALWAYS means, “…with you.” Sometimes, “I’m just not ready to move out yet,” can mean, “…with you,” also. I’m not saying this is necessarily what’s going on here, just that it is a possibility that bears consideration. He may want you so long as it doesn’t mean he has to take a radical step like moving away from his mom, but not enough to take that step in order to make you happy. I hope that’s not true, and that he *will* be willing to take that step once you make him understand that it is absolutely necessary for you to live someplace without a mom owning the place, and with non-isolating transportation options, in order for you to be happy. But do make sure you’re not blindsided if his answer turns out to be, “I get that you won’t be happy if you have to live here, but I’m still not willing to move out, so either you’ll live here and be unhappy or we can’t live together.”

    Side note: I realize that looks as if I’m painting him as the potential bad guy. While it is a possibility, it’s not one I’m assuming is true; you’ve known this guy five years and love him enough to want to live with him, so I’m guessing he probably *isn’t* a bad guy. But it is possible, even among good people who love each other, for your “I need living-not-in-isolation-with-mom to be happy,” and his “I need to live with mom and save for home ownership to be happy,” to conflict inexorably. In that case, you may be better off not living together until you *do* have enough money to buy a home (or until he’s ready to move out of Mom’s house, if that comes sooner). You can still love each other and spend time together, but you can have your own place, paid for with your own job, if that’s what you need. (And if he tries to pressure you not to spend YOUR money from YOUR job on what you need to be happy, then he *is* the bad guy. I hope he doesn’t go there.)

    Lastly, I know couples who have been married for 35 years and still don’t live together. Because they love each other deeply and with absolute commitment, but what they each need in a living situation is completely incompatible. This is also a possibility, whether short-term or long-term or forever, and it’s one not enough people consider. Our society thinks of living together as the natural, inevitable result of loving each other and being partners, and it’s just not that universal a good move. I think we’d do better, as a culture, if more people were at least aware that they have the option of living alone, or with friends/roommates, or whatever suits them better than living with their partner does, even if they are very much in love with and committed to their partner.

    1. To your last point, YESSSSSS!!!!!!

      One perfectly cromulent answer is “I don’t want to move out from mom’s place” vs. “I really don’t want to live there!” = the LW with their own place, the boyfriend stays at Mom’s, their love survives.

      1. Yes! I know a couple who just celebrated 30 years of serious dating two weeks ago (I love that they do anniversaries even though they didn’t get married) and they both own separate houses. They found what works for them as a couple and they embrace it, no matter how it doesn’t fit with the popular narrative 🙂

      2. Absolutely agree – and would work that first point in with it too. You dont HAVE to live together LW. It may be that you end up doing it by “stealth”, but yeah, if he wont move out of his family home and sign a lease with you? Dont buy a house with him. Really. You need some time working together to deal with the nitty-gritty of financial stuff before you get on to that.

        1. I have some folks I know who have been dating 10+ years and just got married, but still and probably always will, maintain seperate bedrooms in a shared group house. It seems like an excellent compromise to me!

  5. My husband (! of one week!) and I are living with my family, in an efficiency apartment in the basement of the house I grew up in. Here are some things that are present in our situation that make this easier: 1. Our space is clearly defined and separate from my parents space. We can decide about making the bed, making food, where our possessions are kept, how we fold our laundry, etc. independently from them. 2. I’ve lived in my parents house as an adult for several years and have established an adult living-with relationship with them that carries through in the new situation. 3. All of us are good communicators
    Some things that make it harder: 1. My husband is new in town and has less of an outside network–I have to drive him places, and he’s making friends through me and my family. 2. I’ve lived with my family for years and am not as independent of them as some adults are! My husband is constantly running up against “well, this is how WE fold the laundry” or “this is just how it’s done here!” type of issues with me!
    We’re working on it–figuring out a new system for laundry/ironing, cat care, etc. My recommendation is that if you DO move in with your boyfriend’s family (or any other group of people, actually) is that you lay out as many of the boundaries around the situation as you possibly can IN ADVANCE or very soon after moving in. This includes stuff like who’s making/buying food, how you are going to request rides, who does the laundry, and other day-to-day things, but ALSO the bigger picture like how long you plan to live there, when and how you’ll chip in for rent and utilities and other things. It’s possible his mom only expects you to be there for six months–just until you find a job–or she may be imagining a happy long-term group living situation. Maybe she thinks you’ll pay her rent after a certain period of time. Either way, being open about communications is a good plan, and also laying out expectations in ADVANCE so that everyone’s clear and there’s no sense of bait-and-switch. Good luck with whatever you decide!
    Finally, despite the fact that this is working for us (so far), I second the captain’s advice that if living with your boyfriend’s mom is NOT a feasible option for you, be clear with him about that from the start rather than (kindly) pretending that it’s an option.

    1. I’m 2 weeks out of getting married, and because jobs are drying up and rent is expensive, we were gearing ourselves up to move in with my parents- but no basement apartment!

      Now… my grandmother died and her house needs someone to keep watch over it. So that’s us.

      Pros: Technically our own space and independence
      Cons: Not even close to a place we’d want to live in for even short term (if anyone has advice for making friends in the middle of nowhere- rural county, average age is about 55- please share) and I’m sure my future husband will be running up against “Do i actually belong in this space?” issues too. Shoot, *I* might feel that same intruding feeling.

      And definitely agree the big picture. It’s really hard for us because we’re basically unemployed, so getting a time frame isn’t really feasible. But everyone, me, my husband, my mom (whose house it is now), everyone knows this is not permanent or even short-long term.

      1. Celete asked, ” (if anyone has advice for making friends in the middle of nowhere- rural county, average age is about 55- please share).”

        54, living in rural, conservative area.

        1. Join a church.
        2. Get involved in your community — volunteer, attend City Council meetings, subscribe to the local paper, etc. Is there a Grange where you live? Lions? Rotary? Political organizations? Going door to door for a candidate or issue is a great way to meet a lot of people, and if everyone is older, they would love to have some young energy.
        3. Do you garden? Cook? Quilt? Look for opportunities to make friends who do this.
        4. Check Meetup and Facebook for groups in your area.
        5. Take walks and chat with the people you encounter.

        good luck!

  6. I like that you don’t demonize the wanting-to-live-at-parent’s-home guy, that there don’t have to be bad guys. I just really appreciate that. I was never that person (I looked into getting an apartment with my brother when I was 15 to get away from abusive family) but I just think it’s cool that you don’t feed into the whole stunted-growth-manchild-living-in-the-basement thing.

  7. I’m wondering if there is some sort of cultural expectation at work here on the boyfriend’s family’s side that adult children should live with their parents. For example, I know in Japanese, Italian, and some Hispanic cultures, a “good” adult child lives with the parents until marriage, and sometimes after marriage. This may not be the case here, but you might want to look at what kind of underlying cultural differences exist between the families of origin, and discuss that before moving in together.

    1. And obviously, if the LW still doesn’t want to live with their BF & his mom, that is still okay, even with cultural reasons driving his want.

    2. I was wondering that as well. In the long run, it doesn’t really matter–cross-cultural couples have to be able to successfully navigate the practicalities of life regardless of culture and your need to live not-with-his-mother is just as important as someone’s cultural traditions of living-with-parents-until-marriage–but it may inform the conversation in smaller ways.

      1. Oh, I totally agree that the LW’s culture and preferences is just as important as the boyfriend’s culture. I just wanted to point out that there may be more than just personal preference going on here. My husband and I have very different families-of-origin, and we had to have a lot of conversations about The Way Things Are Done, and we realized that a lot of it was just how our family of origin had done it.

        1. The first time you see someone who is not a family member load a dishwasher can be a huge shock to the system.

          1. So true. First time I watched my partner starting to load a dishwasher I was like, “You put -what- WHERE?!”

            Sometimes I still get surprises.

          2. Oy, yeah. My partner keeps putting big chunky concave bowls into plate slots where they reeeeeeally don’t fit, even when there’s room in bowl-space. It’s baffling.

          3. Totally off topic but my in-laws got divorced in the late 70s because she realized she was a lesbian. But, being the late 70s, she didn’t want it on the official public record that she was a lesbian. So the official reason that they are divorced, according to the state, is that he kept reloading the dishwasher.

            On a more serious note, I think the inside of all families is very different from household to household, especially the details. It’s come up many times in my 15 years of marriage and, more often, in my 8 years of parenting. What one family considers a bizarre aberration is simply s.o.p for another.

            For example: In my family, we eat meals together at a dining room table, with cloth napkins and hand quilted place mats, and we say a (pagan) grace before each meal. When my daughter’s friends come over, they are shocked and sometimes freaked out by this. (Why are the adults sitting with the kids? Where’s the kid food? What do you mean we eat the same thing the grownups eat!? What are these pieces of cloth? You can make napkins out of CLOTH? Why would I put it on my lap? That’s weird. What is GRACE?). Similarly, my daughter doesn’t take a bath every night and I’ve had other parents physically recoil from me when I mentioned that fact.

          4. I’ve never understood the dishwasher thing. The rule in our house is (beyond things like, “Don’t put cast iron or the 100-year-old steel knife in the dishwasher”) is: Whoever is doing the work of loading the dishwasher gets to do it their way.

    3. I was thinking that! If there’s a cultural issue at play here (either his family culture or his cultural background, if it’s different from yours), I would take some time to really examine the issue – is that the kind of relationship you want to have with your in-laws (not necessarily his mother, but your in-laws in general)? Is that the kind of relationship he will expect to have with children, if you think children are in your future, and if so, is that compatible with the relationship you want to have with them? What kind of help/support does he expect from his family in his life, does it come with any strings attached (taking care of his mom when she’s elderly, for instance, or always being available for command performances), and are you okay with those deals?

      Maybe this isn’t an issue at all, but it’s a good time to look at the broader picture of what being a part of his family and what making a family (with or without children) with him will entail.

    4. I was going to mention this as well. Here in the US, it’s “expected” that we move out as soon as possible after graduating (although with the economy these days, it’s becoming somewhat less expected). When I went to a friend’s wedding a few years ago in Singapore (she was marrying someone who was ethnically Indian who grew up in Singapore), everyone that I met fro the groom’s side of the family lived multiple generations in one household and that was the cultural norm. People also thought that it was extremely weird that I didn’t live with my parents, and felt bad that I must be so lonely – they took a lot of comfort when I explained that my folks actually only lived a few blocks away from me and I saw them all the time (all true, and something that my friends here in NYC on the other end of the spectrum also think is weird!).

      1. I have to say, I am fond of my current living arrangement – my boyfriend and I live together in an apartment a long (but nice) walk or a reasonable bus ride away from my parents’ house (which is where my brother also lives). Their house is also on my way home from the university I just graduated from and am now tutoring at, so I have ample opportunity to go see them when I feel like it. Sometimes that is multiple times a week, sometimes that is once a month. It also makes it easy to spend time with my parents and my brother away from either home, and means my boyfriend is not overburdened with my family and I can control how often I see them as it suits me and avoid being sucked into certain family dynamics/errand-running, or helping out, as I see fit. (My boyfriend’s family unfortunately lives in an entirely different country, so when we see them we see them in VERY HIGH DOSES, sometimes a little more than either of us would really like, and then won’t be able to see them for a year or more.)

        1. That sounds similar to ours.
          My parents live a 15 minute drive from our place. It would be possible to walk (or catch the commuter train and walk).
          We live on an alternative route home from work for them, so its not uncommon for me to suggest they pop in on their way home to say hi to Little.
          But they respect our space. They dont “just turn up” out of the blue very often (its infrequent enough that its a pleasant surprise when they do). We often see them three times a week one week, and then not at all for 10 days or more. It just depends what everyone is up to.
          My in-laws live an hours flight away (or 4 hours drive and a 3 hour ferry), so when we see them, its quite intense. If we go to them, we stay at their house. When they come to us, we see them literally all day.

  8. “What you have right now is a test of how you discuss and make decisions in the face of competing values, and the stakes are high financially and emotionally. You have to be able figure this stuff out and be on the same team when you make decisions like this if you’re going to have a good life together. Love alone does not solve this stuff. You have to actively solve it and drill down to what’s important.”

    ^^ The whole column is good, but this is the mission-critical component.

    If I could add a couple anecdotes –

    – My cousin and her baby boy stayed with her parents while her husband spent a year living with his parents in his country of origin while working and saving money for a down payment on their house. She told me it sucked. Really bad. Not just being away from her husband, but living with her parents. But looking back she’s really glad she just put her head down and got through it, because they are in a really great position financially. MUCH better than they would have been otherwise.

    – My parents kept telling me that my baby girl and I should live with them while I attend college at the state university 45 minutes away. Instead, I ran off to a different state and went to college there on my own. 10 years later, I’m almost done paying off my student loans (which include room and board cost that I wouldn’t have had to pay if I had stayed with my parents), I bought a house, and I’m the breadwinner for my family of five. I managed without my parents’ help; I’m glad I went that route because my relationship with my parents is very toxic. I would have lost my mind if I had taken my parents up on their offer.

    Hoping to help underscore the point that there is no one right answer and that there is in fact a wide range of right answers, depending on you guys and what your needs are.

    1. Another anecdote
      My SIL, her husband and their two kids moved back in with her mother (my MIL) for what was meant to be six months at most while they built a new house.
      It wound up being over 12 months.
      They struggled at times, with 4 adults and 2 kids in a 3 bedroom, 1 bathroom house.
      But they all actually miss each other now that the family have moved out into their new home.

  9. How can I make him understand?

    To be pedantic: you can’t make him understand. All you can do is to tell him your needs in the most direct way. It’s up to him to try to understand. If he can’t, maybe he’s not the guy for you (at least, not now.)

    Also, I get the impression that you are pretty clear that you don’t want to live in his mom’s house, but aren’t sure you have a right to put your needs (which you describe) ahead of his preference. If that’s so, you may need to watch out that you don’t ignore your needs in order to please him. That’s not a road you want to go down: BTDT.

    1. Seconded! It’s really tempting, when you’re in a long-term relationship and you hit one of these forks in the road, to try and make things work, because you love the other person and you’re so enmeshed in each other’s lives. LW, if you can present this to yourself like ‘we are at a time when our lives are changing and we are finding out if our long-term needs and plans and goals can work together’ I think you will be in a really good place to advocate for yourself. If you and he can’t figure out a workable solution that gets your (totally valid) needs met, then that is good information to have, even if it’s not what you are hoping for.

  10. So the boyfriend wants to live with his mom and the LW wants her own apartment and mobility. If that’s so, then I don’t see a way to reconcile those wishes with them living together. The LW should consider getting her own place.

  11. “I think you should be very wary of “thrift” that comes at great inconvenience and unhappiness to you”

    This seems to apply to me. I’m trans, and I’m living at home, where I can’t transition, and I’ve been doing that for my entire undergrad in order to save money. I’m graduating with money in the bank, which is unusual, but I think I’m going to have to make the decision against thrift next year, since I’m going to be through my twenties before I know it, and I want to experience at least some of my twenties not being constantly misgendered, even if it means the loss of most of my family.

    Anyways, I’d be really worried about living with the mom. You’d basically be captive, and it’ll get harder and harder to move out as time goes on. They’ll just be like “this isn’t so bad”.

  12. If this is about more than money for your boyfriend, he needs to tell you. If it’s 100% about money for him, and he thinks that’s the most logical position, then he needs to know that money saved at the expense of your happiness and independence isn’t actually all that saved. I think you should be very wary of “thrift” that comes at great inconvenience and unhappiness to you. It’s okay if your hierarchy for making a decision is A Place Where I Can Get Around > Together, With You! > Eventual Home Ownership, and someone you want to build a life with needs to empathize with that even if he doesn’t 100% relate or understand.


    [Disability advocate hat ON]

    It is so, so incredibly important in a relationship, if you have some type of physical or mental health issue that limits your ability to get around (whether this be “can’t drive” or “can drive, but not in major traffic/not on full-speed highways/not on ice/etc.” or “stairs are right out of Bad Idea Magazine for me, though I can technically take them” or “full-time wheelchair user, stairs are not an option” or WHATEVER IT IS) and your partner is telling you what a wonderful idea it would be to live someplace that would further exacerbate your mobility issues or limit your independent mobility – this is one of the biggest and brightest of red flags. Proceed with EXTREME caution that includes a thorough and detailed plan of exactly how you will be able to get around when, with precisely what assistance – or else SAY NO.

    I am not EVEN kidding about this. During my MSW internships, I worked with people over the phone because they literally could not get out of their homes at all on an ordinary basis and for a not-ordinary basis to occur, people had to do things “for” them that were unsafe, incredibly humiliating, or both. I won’t forget the dining room table jury-rigged to be a wheelchair ramp any time soon! If you are a legally adult non-driver, there should be an incredibly compelling reason for you to live anywhere that you can’t of your own accord, without waiting for a “favor” from friends or family, and for less cost than a taxi decide “hey, I would like to leave the house and Go Somewhere!” on at least most given days. That is a completely reasonable boundary for you to set and a completely UNreasonable one for anyone to attempt to “logic” you out of in the name of saving money.

    And I know from personal experience as a person with a mild but definitely existing mobility impairment and a mild-to-moderate, definitely existing phobia of certain driving tasks that when you can most of the time in your relationship pass as “not disabled, nope!” having to highlight that hey, you have this impairment, and it’s not just gonna go away is…really uncomfortable. (I will point to my own relationship, where my “problems with talking about sex” were really, for the most part, problems with talking about my sometimes-not-very-functional body and how nope, I can’t move that way no matter how much fun you think it would be, and I feel terrible about it and OMG CAN THIS CONVERSATION GO AWAY PLZ? But actually having that conversation meant that other stuff like, “No, I’m not hiding in the bedroom because I am being antisocial and angry, I am trying to get my bad leg to stop hurting me!” and “For real, stairs are not happening if I want to be able to walk at all tomorrow…” got easier as well.)

    If your sweetie is not clear on this, he needs to be, post-haste. If he is clear but just doesn’t care, in my opinion Evil Bees are lurking in his house.

    1. Phrasing this as a disability/access issue makes it stand out pretty clearly. I’m really of the opinion that PWD need to not have to rely on partners and family for basic daily living and community access tasks, because it warps your relationship with the people you love. Even with really great people, you can fall into thinking, “I’d tell Partner that this thing they’re doing bugs me, except I need him to drive me to work every morning this week and I don’t want those car rides to be tense so maybe I’ll just let it go.” If people are not as great, it creates an enormous power differential because if you piss them off, you suddenly lose access to this fundamental thing you need to function, like the ability to leave the house.

      1. Indeed. My health does not make being independent an option, unfortunately. And my household is pretty good about that, which is great (I get so sad when I read stories from people with severe disabilities living in bad situations but without good options, it happens far too often). But if you have a way to not be in that situation, I’d definitely recommend avoiding it. A healthy relationship often does involve some relying on each other, but it tends to feel a lot better when it’s more balanced. And it does get stressful on both sides of things when you have to mix a carer/caree relationship with a romantic or familial relationship between adults. It’s a tough thing to navigate, and I definitely wouldn’t opt for it if I had a choice.

      2. It doesn’t even have to be a disability issue in places where having a vehicle and driving licence are the assumed norm. I have a licence, but have not owned a vehicle for more than a decade because the place I live and the place I work and the shopping, leisure and other locations are easily accessible by public transit and if not I can rent a vehicle. My attitude: why would I spend the money it would cost to buy, maintain and insure a vehicle that would sit in my garage at least 85% of the time? Priorities.

        This is not the norm where I live, and I had a wake-up moment a while ago when a car-owning dear friend and I were meeting for a lecture series. She drove me home and we discussed the lecture during the trip although the bus that goes by my home stopped very near to the lecture venue. My friend made a comment that made me aware that she felt I “expected” her to drive me home while I was assuming that we were doing it so we could discuss the event. Being clear on expectations and assumptions is always necessary.

        1. This is pretty much me, only that it’s been “only” six years since my family last owned a car. It happened because of financial reasons but I’m now at a point where I don’t think I actually want a car even if I were able to afford it. Like you, public transit here is reasonable and I absolutely prioritise (a lot of) other stuff to owning a car. I know exactly two people – my mum and sister excluded – who understand that and aren’t completely and utterly baffled by it.

      3. Thirding the “relying on friends/family for access needs creates a power differential” comments. Sometimes that’s not avoidable. Most times that’s not avoidable. Interdependence is valued in a lot of disability communities. It’s only justice when everyone supports everyone else’s autonomy and bodily sovereignty, though, and when disabled people’s contributions to the community are equally valued with nondisabled people’s contributions, and that’s not always a given. That’s ableism.

        Having access to a bus pass, or money to hire cabs or a car service takes some of the emotional toll out of the equation. Money sometimes means that the emotional cost is paid; when it’s a favor, or even an agreement out of love and care, it’s usually the disabled people and younger or older people who keep paying and paying. (And that’s part of why disabled people should always support service workers’ struggle for equitable wages, but that’s another conversation for another time…)

        I do drive, but I don’t own a car. I have lived in the suburbs and in small cities–growing up in the suburbs of Boston where sidewalks and public transit are not a priority, walking anywhere was really dangerous, and I felt stuck a lot. That was a big problem when I was living with my abusive family of origin, let me tell you. Living in places with public transit and/or established networks of people to ride-share (the queer community in a small upstate NY community was pretty good about that) is 100% easier to navigate, physically and emotionally. At this point, while I can *usually* use my partner’s car, there’s always a conversation where I have to ask permission, and we have to have a brief struggle about the gas money/mileage/do I *really* need to go do that thing??? (we’re living in poverty so it’s not an unreasonable set of things to be worried about, but it’s an exhausting conversation)–and the bus costs enough that even when I am in a “I JUST NEED TO GET OUT OF HERE AND DO MY OWN THING AND I DON’T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT RIGHT NOW BECAUSE DEPRESSION” headspace, I’m still having the conversation about whether the household can afford my bus ticket and why don’t I use the car which is cheaper but do I *really* need to go do that thing…and that’s just the power dynamic. We’re both crips, so it’s not like there’s not a shared analysis of ableism and classism, but in the day-to-day, even in a conscientious lesbian feminist crip household, there’s a power dynamic to navigate. It’s no wonder that disabled women experience interpersonal violence at such high rates. Ableism poisons everything, and it’s totally intertwined with racism and classism and sexism and all the other kinds of oppression. So, LW, medical-issue-having solidarity, and your autonomous travel IS worth prioritizing, and I hope you are able to communicate what you need and have your needs respected and figure something out that works for you.

    2. I agree with this so much, coming from the perspective of a (former) caregiver of someone with mobility problems, and we dealt with a lot of transportation issues, and that was in a place with public transit and dedicated disability transit. And it was *still* a headache and problems came up, especially in the winter (winter was nothing but problems). If it had been in a place where I was responsible for actually driving all of the places… she wouldn’t have gone anywhere; I was at work. So, no social life, no doctor’s appointments. Yeah, there were taxis, but not that many and they were often unreliable. As it was, she missed stuff. And that was in the place with these structures *already there*.

    3. DINING ROOM TABLE JURY-RIGGED TO BE A WHEELCHAIR RAMP? I… don’t know whether to be more horrified or impressed with the engineering, there.

      I think MamaCheshire’s comments here are all very good. And I would like to add a word of caution: when selecting a place to stay (LW, it sounds like you are really experienced with public transportation — I was too and I still made this mistake when I moved to my area so I hope you will forgive the advice) the pros and cons of public transit are not always immediately visible. In my case, for example, I live technically a half hour/20 minute walk to the commuter train (depending on how fashed one is about catching it) — totally doable for me as a commuter.

      However, the walk includes a large section with no sidewalks. And one must cross a highway on-ramp.

      And although technically the town is supposed to plow all the public sidewalks in the winter (I checked before we moved in!), there is only one sidewalk plow. So many of the public sidewalks only get plowed days, or more than a week after snowfall. Heavy snowfall. IN –ING NEW ENGLAND.

      Since I have lived here, two people have been struck by snowplows in the street and DIED, due to this issue. Using public transportation in this town is dangerous in the winter. (I gave up on walking to the station in the first year and I drive, even though one has to pay for parking. I am very glad I have this option.)

      Also, since I have lived here, they have: closed our train station for an indefinite period (about two years) to build a parking structure we didn’t need, changed the train schedule to put in fewer and less convenient trains, etc.

      Some of this (closing the train station) is not something you can research before moving into an area, but other things (how walkable is public transportation in the winter?) is stuff you can find out by asking local people — I wish I had. (This bus schedule says it runs every ten minutes! Is that actually true…? Ask someone who takes the bus… the published schedules are only half the story.)

      And in the example I gave, this public transportation is actively discouraging to anyone not extremely able-bodied (and still managed to kill two able-bodied people). (Fingers crossed that your area is better than mine.)

    4. I agree so much with this.

      When my husband and I were looking for a house a couple of years ago, we realised quite quickly that it needed to be in town and not too far from the shops. He is a non-driver and I am a driver but we didn’t feel we needed our own car because we both work from home plus there’s a local car club for the rare occasions when we need wheels.

      I have ME/CFS and I knew that if we lived even a little bit further out, I would end being very socially isolated and would wind up not doing stuff because I wasn’t well enough to get there and back. And if we’d lived really far out and had needed to buy a car, I would have quickly ended up resenting my husband because I would have turned into a taxi service. It’s very easy to say, ‘oh, it’s no bother to drive you somewhere’ when it’s an abstract thing but when it’s a longterm thing, it’s only human to start to get irritable about it.

      So we found a place that is a five-ten minute walk to the shops and about a 15 minute walk to the train station, which means my husband can take himself off on trips to see bands in other cities without any dependance on my driving ability, which is good for both of us. And the distance into town is perfect for me – even another ten minutes up the hill would have been a struggle for me and would have resulted in isolation.

      LW, don’t let anyone talk you out of your independence; it’s so important. Your bf may not understand how it is for you – non-disabled people often don’t quite get it – but as MamaChesire so rightly pointed out, if he continues not to get it after he’s been schooled, that should give you pause for thought.

  13. I think either way it would be a good idea for you and your boyfriend to actually check out some rental places in your price range, as this could help him visualise having your own place together. Knowing what you could get for your money would also help on the budgeting side so you could compare the cost of renting straight away with how much you could save living with his mother. I also think that renting together first would be a great barometer for whether you should buy a place together.

    My partner and I are both 30 and still renting but I think 8 years worth of rent and counting is still a price I am more than happy to pay for our own space and not having to live with either of our parents. And I say that as someone who likes my parents and in-laws.

  14. It seems quite clear you don’t want to live with the mom. That’s perfectly reasonable, and I urge you to listen to what your gut is telling you — a bad living situation can make you absolutely miserable, especially when it’s not easy for you to get out of the house and go places on your own. It’ll be easy to get resentful, which will strain your relationship with boyfriend and his mom, which will make the living situation even less pleasant than it was to begin with.

    It’s not a “waste of money” to pay rent to live somewhere that makes you happy.

    Are you okay NOT living with your boyfriend? If he’s not ready to move out, could you be happy continuing to live separately? Will you resent him? Will he resent you? Is he likely to give you any difficulty about “wasting money” on rent? (That last one’s a huge red flag, btw.)

    If you’re okay continuing to live apart, for how long? Do you have a definite point by which you really, really want to be cohabitating for real? Does he? Are you going to be able to buy a house by the time you hit that point? Will he feel more okay spending money on rent once he has a job and feels more financially stable? If he’s a student who has lived at home his whole life, chances are he’s never actually had enough money of his own to live on. Once he does, that impossibly high “waste of money” might start to look a lot more doable.

    Just some things to consider if you decide to go that route.

    1. Seconding the change of budgeting once you’re done being a student. I remember when $20/week for groceries was a thing for me. Cheese, meat, off-season fruit, these things were unspeakably expensive. Now (post-grad, several years of full time work behind me) I grab up fruits and meats and things at the store without agonizing over each peach and plum. I recently bought a garbage can that cost more than my entire food budget used to be. Everything changes if your income covers your needs and has some left over.

  15. Just wanted to high-five on the idea that renting being a “waste of money” vs buying real estate being outdated and not a good choice for everyone. My partner lived at home, and then in tiny places that made him very unhappy, to save to buy a house. It’s a lovely house. It’s also in a different country from us, being rented out for barely enough to cover the mortgage payments on it. It is a huge, huge albatross around his neck that he cannot get rid of, cannot get refinanced, and cannot sell for anything but a massive loss as he bought it in 2007. Yeah.

    1. I feel that!

      I bought a one bedroom condominium that I live in. In 2004. I am still underwater. This has taught me that buying real estate isn’t for everyone. I am simply lucky that I’ve been able to make my mortgage payments the entire time and haven’t needed to move to another city for any reason.

  16. LW,

    As you get closer to the “deadline” of losing your current housing set up, you might consider investigating temporary living arrangements for yourself, such as a sublet or a month-to-month rental. A good deadline is 60 days out from your must-move date. If you haven’t come to an agreement with BF that honors your needs by then, but it looks like you might be able to get there, then finding something for yourself that doesn’t involve signing a 12-month lease can ease the deadline pressure you might otherwise feel. I have made some bad rental decisions due to end-of-lease deadlines, and the situation you describe seems like deadline pressure could make you feel like your choices are more limited than they really are.

  17. I think if you are a person who feels uncomfortable living in someone else’s house, no amount of financial benefits or carefully negotiated boundaries is going to make it okay. My husband and I lived with his parents for the first six months we were married, and they were nothing but nice about it – they’re from a culture where it’s accepted for adult children to live at home – but I was miserable because at the end of the day it just wasn’t my house. (I felt so awkward about using their kitchen that I actually kept a supply of non-perishable food in our bedroom closet, so if I was really starving, I could have an apple or some crackers without having to go downstairs.) One of the happiest days of my life was when we moved out and into our own apartment – it was worth every penny of the rent just to be able to walk in the front door at the end of a long day and know I could cook dinner in my underwear if I wanted to. If you know you feel that way, LW, don’t let yourself be pushed into doing something that will make you unhappy, even if your BF and his mom really really want it. You deserve to be comfortable and able to relax in the place where you live.

    1. The last time I had to move, I had a choice between being what amounted to a boarder in a family home or moving into a house that I shared with roommates my own age. The landlord at the former place was so desperate to find a good tenant that he offered to lower the already cheaper rent by fifty dollars a month, and I still decided to go with the second place. He was utterly bewildered when I turned him down. I tried very hard to explain how important it was for me to feel like I was, if not in a place that was purely my own, at least one in which I was on an equal footing with everyone else there. I was okay with sharing, but I was not okay with living in a place where someone could hold “my house, my rules” over me (it didn’t help that the landlord was from another culture and lived with his teenage children – I had absolutely no desire to have things like the number of people I decided to sleep with ever brought up as a “bad example”). I am so glad I made that decision I can barely express it, because shit has happened since that move where at least I know that whatever else goes on, I don’t have to worry about what the people I live with think of me.

  18. Yep. I a lot of money in the real estate bubble. I also learned that I don’t really enjoy homeownership. I like knowing exactly when I can move. I like being able to call the landlord when something breaks without worrying about how much the plumber charges. I am NOT handy, and I don’t make enough money to not sweat the cost of repairs and maintenance.

    Real estate can be a great investment, but it is NOT guaranteed. And unless you buy a house and live there long enough to pay it off, you don’t really “own” it anyway. I’m sure there are places where the actual cost of owning is less than the cost of renting, but I have yet to live in such a place.

    1. High five! I feel so much the same way (although I still own my place). Can’t stand spending my spare time on home improvements.

    2. For me, the cost of owning has been < the cost of renting something equivalent.

      The cost of owning + cost of repairs when shit breaks? That's another story.

      1. This x 100

        I reeeeealy wish Spouse and I had lived in an apt for a couple years after getting married instead of diving into new marriage/new baby/new HVAC/new roof all at once. We would have been much better of financially and emotionally.

        1. Spouse and I, six or so years after the fact, still loudly and regularly celebrate the fact that IT NO LONGER RAINS IN OUR KITCHEN.

          And that was only the beginning of the things wrong with this place. Here’s the stuff we’ve fixed so far (7 years in the place):

          – Basically replaced every single floor covering in the whole house since the whole house was done in 29-cent-a-tile linoleum that had no insulating value at all. Some mold removal was also involved.
          – Roof replacement on both the rolled-roofing half and the standard-roofing half of the house.
          – COMPLETE remodel of our bathroom (which the contractors did such a crap job of that we may need to do it again), including new tub/sink/toilet, new door, new washer (that lives in the bathroom for lack of better place to put it, etc.
          – Replaced fridge and stove, added dishwasher.
          – Repainted bathroom and two bedrooms (why nothing else? getting to that…).
          – Complete rewiring of entire house, which had a 60 amp fuse box when we bought it and now has a 200 amp breaker box.
          – Replaced most of the light fixtures in the house.
          – Redoing the venting on the gas heat so it stopped being a carbon monoxide hazard (I really don’t want to talk about how we found out about that, but I’m glad nobody died)
          – Partial remodel of kitchen and third bedroom: removing exterior door with window between these two rooms (WTF? and FirstKid managed to break that one day), moving the door to a location that caused fewer problems, building in a closet.
          – Redoing a bunch of pipes when they froze and burst last winter.

          And here’s a list of stuff that’s still wrong:

          – Aforementioned bathroom remodel that needs significant re-doing. It was not properly set up to be a room that is sometimes damp, and the attendant problems are starting to be a real problem.
          – House is badly insulated. Our power bills are absurd as a result, supposedly roughly twice what the neighbors’ are (some of that could be due to computers, but not all of it is).
          – The heating system is ancient and doesn’t do well by distributing heat everywhere (old-school big gas heater thing). Doesn’t help the power bill situation.
          – The stove has some problems thanks to damage from mice. (And the mice are still a problem, too, and I have a mouse phobia, which is NOT good at all. My Jerkbrain loves to go on about how they’re going to bite me while I sleep and I’ll get rabies and die. Logic has no place in this; it is an irrational childhood fear that never went away.)
          – The only kitchen cabinet is the sink base. We have various pasted-on solutions and a bunch of IKEA cabinets we haven’t put up yet and I don’t know how exactly that’s going to end up happening, argh.
          – The largest bedroom is existing as a storage room (for non-cloth and non-paper items) because of problems with how it was sealed that means it keeps getting damp and we’ve had issues with mildew.
          – This means we have one, tiny closet that is actually functional.
          – Cellar door has rust holes. Probably part of the mouse issue when combined with the weird air escape patterns in an old house.
          – Weird crap like the previous owner having put on fake wood paneling and then painted over it. We wanted to take it down but Spouse discovered it had been stuck on with tar and he’s not sure he can deal with what’s behind it adequately. And also some horrible ugly wallpaper borders (ridiculous “fancy dining” pigs in the kitchen that I can’t even with).
          – And the bedroom that is currently ours has no door. Which is annoying because privacy???

          1. Slightly off topic, but I so feel you on the mouse-phobia. Ugh they are the worst!

            One thing that has helped with the problem in my rental (which my landlord will not deal with!) is when I got a snake for a pet. Not only do I get the satisfaction of watching her devour feeder rodents, it seems like the smell of either the dead mice or the snake keeps the live ones away. I also take her poop and shed skin and bury it in my garden and near entrances, seems to help.

          2. You have all my sympathy fist bumps of home ownership

            The wallpaper *shudders*
            Kitchen was pigs farming grain with a clashing border of geese in love with big blue and red hearts all over it. It took us a year to strip the wallpaper, clean the glue (so much glue, the wallpaper must have known it was an abomination and tried to resist being hung), repair the holes in the drywall, and paint.
            In the bathrooms, one is stripped, but still covered in glue. The other is adorned with an eye-searing pattern I can only compare to the tights of a pro wrestler from the 1980’s, and a border in florescent stripes.

            The carpet was soaked in eau de cat pee and covered in candle wax and burn marks. We had to replace most of the subfloor when we put in laminate flooring.

            The appliances were original to the house. The stove sometimes caught fire, the disposal was lazy and the running the dishwasher would make big spouts of water and bits of food shoot out of the sink.
            Sometimes water would pour out of the dispenser in the refrigerator and flood the kitchen/dining room. The microwave leaked condensed steam (hopefully nothing else)
            It took us 6 years to replace them all.

            Also the Immortal Tree that has grown into our home. It sprouts numerous saplings in a ring all around the foundation. We removed the giant yard engulfing, poison ivy harboring, gutter pillaging, parent tree, but the root system can’t be dug out without destroying the house,

            This was the good house that only needed minor updating.

    3. Yeah… common in lots of rural America, where there is cheap land and almost no rental market (and a lot of rental market is consequently extremely dodgy). But anywhere with much of a population? Much less likely. Especially if you live in a country without an excessive obsession with home ownership and government policies that push/incentivise it.

  19. I also can’t drive for medical reasons. If those medical reasons are likely to be really long-lasting, then I think it is very important that your boyfriend understand them and be on board with accommodating them if living together is going to work, especially if you have limitations on other methods of transportation (which you may or may not, but I also can’t ride a bicycle or walk long distances). And ability to get places comes up all the time. You’re low on milk… can you get to a grocery store? And without a car, you can only buy a smaller amount of groceries at one time (although if you can manage a rolling cart that you can walk and have a grocery store in walking distance and the weather doesn’t make that a terrible idea, you can bring back a fair amount). Do you have a doctor’s appointment to get to? Is it when other people have to work? It’s just an endless array of tiny little things that people not facing the issue often don’t think about or realize how much it can come up. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to make sure that your safety and ability to maintain your own needs is under your control. There’s an emotional toll to having to ask somebody else to run to the store every single time you want something from the store. And, realistically, sometimes you won’t get the item you want simply because you don’t want to make somebody else fetch it, when you might be willing to fetch it yourself.

    I just think that the long-term health of this relationship is probably going to partially depend on the boyfriend getting that. On the boyfriend understanding that when you have medical limitations, you need to adjust things to work for them. I’d worry that if he doesn’t get that, then this will come up again later anyway, such as when deciding where to buy a house. My medical limitations have set numerous constraints on where I am willing to live. This includes things like would I move to location X if my partner got a job there and trade-offs on his commute time versus my ability to get to places on my own when I want to. If it’s going to be an ongoing limitation, then it really needs to be accepted as an ongoing constraint on where the two of them live together. Basically, this is a compromise that needs to be worked out, because it will come up any time you want to move, whether you are buying or renting, especially as usually the places with good public transit are more expensive, so you will need an understanding of what your independence is financially worth. If you two value that highly differently, it’s not likely to be a problem that goes away. Although, I do agree that living apart can be fine and may work for their relationship. It’s certainly one of the options worth discussing.

    1. Although I see an issue with living apart, if she is living in an accessible-for-her-needs location and he is not. Not totally insurmountable, but more difficult in the long run certainly, and it gives him a sizeable degree of extra control over the relationship even if not as much over her. That still should be addressed, in my opinion.

  20. Chalk up another one in the “buying has been a nightmare” column. If I could go back in time and undo it, I would. Between the economic hit our neighborhood has taken (the house across the street in foreclosure, one of many, sold for $20,000) and the constant replacing of appliances in our poorly built house, I cannot imagine a way in the next 10 years where we will be able to sell our house without losing ALL THE MONEY.

    While that, in and of itself, is annoying, it’s also complicated my graduate school application process, because I really don’t want to be far away from my husband. Buying can tie you down in a way that renting doesn’t, so unless you KNOW you want to stay in a place for an extended period of time, I would caution against it.

  21. Just wanted to say that I could not, in a million, zillion, kabillion, years, EVER live with my s/o and his mother. I would likely end up on an episode of “Snapped.” Dear LW, it is not unreasonable at all to not want to do this, nor is renting wasting your money. Hope you two can figure out a good solution – good luck!

    1. Same here. I can deal with my dude’s mom for a few days at a time. Once or twice a year. But whenever we visit it always seems like their whole house is in a state of complete pandemonium and disarray, we’re never given our own space to retreat to (even though said space exists, it’s just…full of disarray, for some reason? For years on end?), there are people coming in and out all the time, and I feel like I’m always being badgered with random questions. Living there…would be the end of me. I would probably end up running off into the woods one night and never coming back, and in 100 years I’d be the basis for another Appalachian ghost story.

  22. Unfortunately the comments about being underwater post bubble can be read the opposite way: buy now, real estate is well priced. Real estate bubbles aren’t new (early 80’s) and there are reasonable ways to make sure you aren’t in one. (in 2004 renting was cheaper than buying, good sign prices were inflated). Mobility balances against how rentable your property is, and if you’re on a subway/ college line, you’re probably fine, esp if MIL can provide some backup if you need to move out of state. Are there some great reasons not to buy, yes, but they mostly involve having a better place to put your savings/ not having any savings.

    All that said, it seems very cart before horse when I assume neither of you have actual jobs yet. You don’t mention loans, most college dorms are pretty cheap compared to city apartments on good subway lines. And what if one/both hate the first job or are working part time? You can do some research into apartment costs, average starting salaries, and put together a budget that includes taxes, food, rent, savings, though it can vary a lot depending on where you get a job. Having a family member you can crash with is better than a lot of group housing, long bus ride, cheap choices that people deal with that first year. If you can afford better, great, but if it means taking out loans or maxing your credit card, think again.

    1. “Are there some great reasons not to buy, yes, but they mostly involve having a better place to put your savings/ not having any savings.”

      I completely disagree and think it kind of goes against the point CA was making on her response — that buying/renting is a hugely complicated issue that is not simply about finances, and even if it was, buying real estate is no longer a straightforward way of keeping your money (instead of “throwing it away” on rent).

      “Having a family member you can crash with is better than…”

      Again, I think it depends entirely on the person, the family member, and lots of other considerations.

      I kind of feel like people who think “where to live” decisions are just about money are pretty lucky to have never lived in a situation that was toxic, soul-crushing, isolating, or otherwise bad.

      1. I have lived in toxic situations, and they weren’t with family. I don’t hear LW saying that bfs mother is like that at all.

        As far as rent/own, I agree with you that I am forcefully disagreeing with CA. I don’t know why people think that houses were a great deal and are now a bad deal. Its the same deal today as it was 25 years ago, its an object you buy for your use which will, as objects do, depreciate over time. But, by the same logic that owning a car is cheaper than renting, the long term is unequivocal. Along with various artificial reasons- governments have put into place some benefits to home owners. It really isn’t complicated or controversial, on the financial level, simply because landlords would have no reason to exist, long term, if buying was a terrible deal. And hey, I rented during the bubble and in new jobs and while unsure what my long term would be. I am not saying all rent is money down the drain, in the least.

        Not that it actually matters in the next 1-5 years for LW. Whether or not LW want to buy a home eventually, they should be looking at a living arrangements which will create savings of some kind. Whether its paying off college loans, building a one year emergency fund, saving a deposit for a home, wedding money, having money for cabs and parttime employment, or putting money into their retirement fund, its simply a bad idea to have a budget that doesn’t have any wiggle room. In this case, the entire budget is hypothetical, as is the commute since neither of them have job offers. Its great to have conversations and be on the same page about what you want, but I suspect reality will whittle these hypothetical down. I’m thinking of my city, DC, and starting salaries at my great but not amazing corporation. Of the 16 people who started the job in 2005, with fresh out of college salaries, how many could afford the in town, good subway line (none), and how many were living at home or in suburbia with a hour long commute? I was higher up, and I was still spending 40% of income for my postage stamp, two metro stops from work, not big enough for two people. I justified it with overtime and cutting the rest of my budget to the bone – but no loans or credit cards needed.

        1. Owning is a “great deal” and a way to build wealth:

          If you have the money to make a down payment in the first place,
          If you have the credit rating to get a decent mortgage rate,
          If you have the credit rating & income to get a mortgage AT ALL,
          If you have enough financial cushion and income to make necessary repairs & handle upkeep,
          If you have enough financial cushion and income to make monthly mortgage payments, make the extra yearly payment toward principal, and pay property taxes,
          If you are physically and mentally able and willing to take care of a house, yard, etc.,
          If you want to own a house, if that’s something that you think will make you happy,
          If the house you can afford is in or near where you want to live,
          If the house you can afford is a house you want to live in,
          If that’s a place that you know that you want to stay in for a while,
          If your relationship with the people you are buying the house with is a happy, stable one and you know you want to keep living with them for the long-term,
          If the real estate market is liquid enough that you could unload it if you had to,
          If the labor market is robust where you live, and you don’t anticipate having to move for work,
          If you want to own a house so badly that you will sacrifice other concerns to make it happen (for the LW, who has a disability that affects their ability to drive, the financial tradeoff of home ownership might never be worth living somewhere with no public transport even for a short time)

          If all those factors line up for someone, than the cost benefit analysis on the sweet spreadsheets will guide them, and you’ll get no argument from me whatsoever. If all of your “ifs” line up, a downmarket like now is a great time to buy. That’s a lot of “ifs”, though, which is why I questioned the boyfriend’s “rent is a waste of money” argument pretty hard.

          1. Someone should embroider this on pillows and give them to everyone who wants to buy a home. So many friends of mine have bought a house because that was the thing to do next on the check list of adulthood and they are regretting it for so many many reasons.

          2. Also:

            –If you are white (so the bank does not classify you as qualifying only for a predatory loan)
            –If you are in a male-female relationship and thus have access to straight privilege (we got turned down on financing when all our straight friends got great deals FROM THE SAME BANK when their combined incomes were LOWER than ours)
            –If you are middle-class and well-educated enough to not “fall for” predatory lending (both of us were middle-class. I have a Ph.D/she is a professional with an M.S./ABD. We wound up with a predatory loan due to a mortgage broker with no morals and it took three re-financings to get out from under it. Neither of our families bothered to educate us about finances because we were girls and it’s FUCKING HARD to self-educate when you are being bum-rushed into huge financial decisions and no one WANTS to explain terms to you.)
            –If you have savings (Hi, grad school! Hi, student loans where if you have savings THEY DEDUCT THEM FROM YOUR LOANS!)
            –If you know anything about house inspection (our house inspector SCREWED US BIGTIME or was possibly just way incompetent, who can tell?)
            –If you know your rights about home valuing estimation (like, having your home devalued by FIFTY PERCENT by one estimator because he was an asshole/probably homophobic but that’s not really provable is it)
            –If you really want to learn a lot about carpentering, painting, etc.
            –Or get a lot of contacts to fix things which WILL go wrong, and expensively, no matter how “good” shape the house was in when you bought it.

        2. “Of the 16 people who started the job in 2005, with fresh out of college salaries, how many could afford the in town, good subway line (none), and how many were living at home or in suburbia with a hour long commute?”

          Why do you assume one is better than the other?

        3. Also, it’s an extremely privileged viewpoint to be able to prioritize long-term savings over short-term affordability. It’s like those people who are like “just buy in bulk and store all the extra food in your downstairs freezer and save money in the long term!”

      2. Agreed, that was a very privileged response. I live overseas and am stressed financially, admittedly enough. I’ve been here for a year. I lived with my parents a year and a half prior and I’m still recovering from that experience. Being able to come home to MY apartment, feeling safe at home. Not constantly being on edge, dealing with explosive anger, not being able to leave the house because of transportation issues. Very lucky indeed.

  23. I’m not sure if the LW’s boyfriend necessarily means that renting is a waste of money in general (in which case he is wrong), or if he just means in this specific case where they have the option of living with his mother rent-free (in which case he is perhaps less wrong). Living with parents isn’t impossible, though it can be difficult, certainly. I lived with my parents until I moved in with my partner 2 1/2 years ago, and I was pretty ok with it, though it had the unfortunate side effect of my parents treating me like a child when it suited them, and like an adult when it again suited them, unless I really asserted myself. When we’d been in our apartment for just over a month, there was a fire, and partner and I had to move in with my parents while the cleanup and repairs were done. It actually wasn’t that bad, but it was still awkward, even though the fact that I was now Paired Off Like A Grown Up meant that my parents seriously backed off on the treating me like a child thing, and were very welcoming and mostly discreet and allowed us a good amount of privacy – unfortunately the most private place for us to stay was my old bedroom, which was next to my brother’s and attached to the master bath and across the hall from the kitchen (the only other options would have been the den, or for my parents to give up their bedroom so we could have the top floor to ourselves, which would honestly have been more awkward). The do-ability of living with parents has a lot to do with the amount of privacy available to you, how comfortable you are with them, and how willing they are to actually respect that privacy. It can be difficult to navigate even if living with them is otherwise the most excellent of ideas.

    However, clearly the LW has a number of other reasons why living with her boyfriend’s mother isn’t really ideal, like the transportation issue. That’s an incredibly important thing that he really needs to understand – no matter how much you love someone, the ability to move around independently of them is pretty important to most people.

  24. Another adult non-driver here. Have you ever lived in a place without transportation before? I can tell you from experience that it is one of the most smothering, soul-crushing things imaginable, and that’s not even getting into the “living with my SO’s mom” aspect. I’m a homebody, so you’d think that I’d be okay with it, but big NOPE to that. I’ve lived in suburbia for two non-consecutive years as an adult, and I will never do it again under any circumstances. Most places without bus service are also not walker/biker friendly, so you may wind up spending every day trapped in the house. Even if you’re an introvert, even if you have a lot of indoorsy hobbies, even if you have a great SO… none of that cancels out the sheer stir-craziness of being effectively housebound. At least, it didn’t for me. During my second round of suburban living, I would walk for almost an hour along basically a highway to go to Target just to walk around out of the house. I never bought anything. I’d do this two or three times a week at least. I couldn’t get a job in that area because I couldn’t promise reliable transportation. That’s no way to spend your twenties.

    But if you do decide to go along with this plan: timelines, timelines, timelines. Figure out exactly how much you have to put down, figure out how much you have to save every month (I don’t know how you’d manage to do that since neither of you have jobs yet), and set an absolute drop dead date by which you WILL be out of the house, either to a new house or to a rental. Keep a spreadsheet of the gains you’re making. Make all finances absolutely transparent.

    I don’t necessarily think he’s using this as an excuse not to move away from Mom’s house, I think he honestly thinks the house is a good investment and Something Adults Do. Many baby boomers think that rent is a waste of money because they came of age at a time when home ownership was far more attainable. I know my parents think rent is a waste. But it’s not if renting is the only way to feasibly have the life you want to have in a place that works for you. If you can’t get a job because you’re trapped in suburbia, then you might as well rent and live close to the bone for years until you can save up a down payment. Think of it this way: if you can’t get a job for transportation reasons and he does, then you’re making, say, a combined $30k. Since Mom will be footing most expenses, say he can save $25k of that per year. But if you live in the city and both get jobs making the same amount, you’re making a combined $60k. Say rent is $15k/year and other expenses are $10k. You’re now saving $35k a year, MORE than you would under the first plan, AND you’re not endangering your mental health by living in the boonies with his mom and not having any of your own money. If he’s the kind of logical guy I assume he is, then he should see the wisdom of this plan. And if he doesn’t, then you might have to have a more serious kind of discussion.

    1. Yes! to your point about homebodies still needing the option to get out. Staying in most of the time because you want to is very different from not being able to leave.

    2. This is very well said. Yes, rent can be expensive in the most convenient areas of a city, but if you can share a one bedroom apartment you’re actually going to be saving a good deal of money compared to many people who are just out of college. I live in a trendy (and bus/bike/pedestrian friendly) area of a fairly expensive city, and even though I’m in an entry-level job and my partner’s in grad school, we’ve saved up a hefty chunk of change over the last few years.

      Plus, buying and owning property is a Big Deal legally and financially; it’s not a bad idea to practice having a household in a rental for a few years before you take that plunge alone or with a partner. Dealing with bills, plumbing emergencies, accidental holes in the wall, and so on without a parent’s assistance is good practice for owning your own place.

    3. Oh God yes, that feeling is the worst! My mum lives out in the middle of nowhere and for the first couple of years after I moved away just visiting for more than a few hours made me feel trapped. These days I quite like visiting and can stay for a couple of days, but I moved out in 2006 and I think it helps that my mum has moved to a different house (in the same area) so the house isn’t filled with angsty teen memories for me.

    4. I’m a non driver by choice + financial reasons, so I’m not going to pretend I know anything about what it’s like to have a mobility issue preventing me from driving, but this has been my experience with suburban living too. I feel baseline uncomfortable if I can’t walk to shops and public transport within a certain amount of time, and I also can’t stand living farther than about 5 km from my job, to the point that if I change jobs and the new one is farther than that I will move or not take that job in the first place.

      LW, definitely don’t be afraid to state your needs in this area. If you know ultimately you won’t feel ok and won’t be able to move around the way you want and need to if you live with your bf’s mom, don’t feel pressured to make a huge compromise.

      1. Another non-driver by choice. I don’t live near my job currently, but I do live on an exceedingly reliable bus route that takes me right to the door of it. Public transportation access to a job is a Big Deal in terms of whether I’ll take it. I want it to either be so close I can walk to it, or easily and affordably reached on a bus/train. It was a big factor in my taking this one! 🙂

        Some years ago, my ex and I had to move from a really centrally located apartment with great “walkability” in a big hurry (horrible landlord dramaz), and because of our haste and having a scary-breed dog, we couldn’t be all that picky about location. The new place was just enough farther away to make walking a bigger production every time, if I wanted to go somewhere when the buses were done for the day or whatever. Add to that, it was just less walkable in those intangible ways pedestrians notice: lots of blocks without sidewalks, no shade, etc. I started going stir-crazy and it was a big strain on the relationship, especially since Ex became a bigger homebody at the same time due to the new place actually being nicer (other than the transportation thing). I snapped at one point and asked him, “Do you ever LEAVE?” He wanted to be home all the time, and I felt stuck at home all the time, and so I didn’t get the alone time I craved. It sucked.

    5. Co-assigned x 1000. I lived with my folks for about a year a half, after having lived overseas. Less than a week before my flight back to the states, my sister asked me, in passing, “Did you know we’re down to one car?” Let me tell you, I would have not come back had I known that.

      I have a toxic, stressed relationship with my parents, that’s bad enough. Add having no access to a car, having to walk about 45 minutes to the train station, no bus stop within walking distance (mind you, I consider 45 minutes to the train station to be “walking distance”). July 2012 was the hottest July in American history, so I literally could not leave the house, couldn’t even go the library. AND I lived in a suburb of a major metropolitan area, I can’t imagine if i had to live in middle-of-nowhere.

      I left the country last September and I feel like i’m still trying to rebuild my confidence and self-worth from that time. I’m struggling here in part because I don’t what to fathom what would happen if I had to live in their house again.

    6. Concurred. I can’t drive, and we moved out to the suburbs during a winter with especially heavy snowfall. So heavy that the city plows couldn’t keep up with it.

      Y helo thar “walk in the street because it’s less exhausting than walking through knee-high crusted snow”, I’d like you to meet “accept that some places are offlimits for a month because they are next to major throughfares and the plows that *have* gone by means the pedestrian spaces are knee- to thigh-high swaths of compressed ice.” The two of you can bring me to tears together.

      Your last paragraph is very cogent. I tip my hat to you.

    7. OMG, yes! I can drive, but for several years in my relationship with my ex, I was without my own car. It wasn’t terrible at first, because we were in a walkable neighborhood with public transportation that didn’t completely suck. Then we moved further out. Suddenly, my bus commute was over an hour, and outside of normal “commute hours,” the buses only ran once per hour. I worked part-time and didn’t start work until 10:30 AM, so if I missed my bus, I would be over an hour late for work. I couldn’t get anywhere. I had sold my (paid for) car to cover some emergency expenses, but the promises that I would have access to the other car and/or rides anytime I wanted evaporated after a few months, but my carlessness lasted 3 years (including a year and a half at the place with shitty transportation.) By the time I could afford a new car, I was absolutely frantic to have one. That was several years ago. Last year, I was without a car for a few months in an area with so-so transportation, and those frantic, suffocated feelings came back after a month, even though I rented a car about every 3rd weekend. I would have to live in a place with STELLAR public transportation in order to be without a car without going stir crazy. And I’m a total homebody.

  25. The way I think about this stuff (and might be an easy way to explain to bf) is that buying a home is not just a financial decision, it’s a lifestyle decision. Even if it’s a great financial decision (like, you’ll end up with lots more money in the end), it’s still not the best decision for everyone because of the lifestyle reasons. Some lifestyle reasons (in my mind) that would make buying a bad option – your job involves moving around geographically, you think that some time soon you may want to change careers/go back to uni/do a PhD/do something else that involves being poor for a while, you don’t want to live in the kinds of neighborhoods you could afford to buy a place in, you want more spare money to travel or pursue expensive hobbies, or, yes, you don’t want to live with your mother-in-law indefinetely. That your bf doesn’t seem to get this reflects quite a bit of immaturity on his part, and that he seems to be putting even a discussion of it off the table is a worry. I hope you guys work it out, best of luck!

  26. Explain to your boyfriend that you can still buy a house in Detroit for $1 (plus back taxes). Ergo, living anywhere other than a crumbling ruin with no city services in a dangerous Detroit neighborhood is “throwing away money” and you should move there post-haste.

    “But I want to feel comfortable and live close to people and things important to me, it’s worth paying money for that.”

    And so do you, and so it is.

    1. Hummingbear, this argument is so awesome that I am de-lurking to tell you how awesome it is. We obtain money to spend it on things that make us happy! Life is not a video game with your bank balance as your high score.

      Spouse and I just bought a house after two years of living with family in order to survive/recover from unemployment. Some days I was tearing out my hair thinking that anything would be better than always having my mom THAT CLOSE, and I fantasized about just renting a tiny place we could have just to ourselves, but we have three kids, and they seemed happy, and I didn’t want to make them move again, so I stuck it out. So I guess I would say, make it very clear to boyfriend that living with his mom would be A SACRIFICE you are making to your current happiness toward the eventual goal of buying a house, not just a smart money-saving choice you’ll barely notice. Really express in no uncertain terms the things you would be giving up to do this.

    2. Hey, using Detroit like that, as a cautionary tale or the epitome of a place no one wants to be, is racist. Racism and classism are behind the loss of housing for the long-time Black residents whose homes you can buy for back taxes, racism is behind the lack of city services and city planning to make life comfortable for people to live there, and local Black folks are the people organizing to make it better/mitigate some of the damage to the community–while white gentrifiers are coming in and scooping up those foreclosures. Your point that the LW and her partner need to prioritize what is important to them is fine, but don’t make your point like that. Not like that.

    3. I’m with Warm Fuzzy Dyke. Ixnay on the “Detroit As Bogeyman” arguments-ay here. And we’re not going to debate this point, just, everyone stop doing that here right now, today. Thank you.

      1. Sorry – I do know that Detroit gets used as a bogeyman but wasn’t thinking about it as I was writing from personal decisionmaking experience. I grew up an hour from Detroit and I actually have thought semi-seriously about moving back in my frustration with the California real estate market – to the point of looking at houses in both abandoned and still-functional neighborhoods. I do know there are a lot of amazing things going on in the city. Ultimately though, the weather rather than any of the city’s problems has always been the “not worth it” factor for me.

    4. If you want to make that point without the racial overtones that warmfuzzydyke pointed out, you can buy a house in rural PA for $20,000 and in some parts of West Virginia for $15,000. I don’t know what the housing market is like where you are, but compared to most places, that’s extremely low. Even in higher-market areas, you can buy a foreclosure that’s in horrible shape for not very much money. But there are always other costs, whether they’re financial (fixing up the run-down house, more gas for commutes, limited job opportunities) or emotional (being isolated and miserable).

      1. About 40/50 years ago some of the most beautiful properties in Boston were sold for $1 each (they were in terrible shape). It has to do with racism, fear of immigrants, unwillingness to invest in urban property, etc.

        One of those properties was purchased as a condo by a friend of mine at the same time I purchased my tumbledown three-story Victorian in the boonies. He got three rooms on the first floor; I got a three story house. He paid more. It’s politics.

      2. Yeah, this might be a better analogy. I wasn’t thinking of the race/class overtones originally, maybe because I do come from rural PA (where you can indeed buy a house in good condition for 20k) so it was more like “place I don’t want to live even if I can afford it.” FWIW, I would much rather live in Detroit than rural PA.

        1. Heh….small world. I’m from northwest PA, specifically McKean County, what part of PA are you from? (Since “rural PA” pretty much means “not Philly or its suburbs, Pittsburgh, or Erie”)

          And yeah, I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my hometown.

  27. LW, I don’t think renting is a waste a money, and here’s my reason why. I’m a recent homeowner here. While I have good experiences with my home so far and love the fact that my monthly expenses don’t even come close to what I was paying to rent an apartment, I still consider the experience I gained renting helpful. It gave me time to learn how to manage a reduced set of chores like cleaning and cooking before I had to learn how to take care of a yard or plumbing breaks.

    Renting also gave me enough time to negotiate a good deal on a home I knew was going to need a bit of work done. Because none of the damaged parts of my home were a surprise to me, I was able to plan a budget and schedule for my home improvement projects, and I look forward to them instead of being stressed out by them. I could not imagine trying to handle homeownership straight from a boarding room or from living with parents. There would have been too many crises popping up to make owning a home worth it. I needed those three years of renting experience. Even the experience of going through two rental contracts helped me deal with the idea of a mortgage contract.

  28. An argument that you can raise about the “whole rent is a waste of money” thing is that a few studies have shown that in the long run there is no larger benefit to owning over renting if you’re also able to invest in things that aren’t property. Things like shares/stocks and bonds could make saving for your own home much faster as they also generate passive income. Of course this depends on how you work it – is what you would pay in rent less than what you would pay in a mortgage? If so then the difference is your investment.

    The passive income can either a)go towards offsetting the cost of rent, or b) get you out of his mothers house faster.

    The big question here is the motivation for the “waste of money statement.” Is he generally careful/ tries to be financially literate? Or is it in excuse?

  29. Hi LW you refer to “what you eat” and “where your stuff is” as minor things. Those aren’t minor at all! I work with the public in what can be a stressful place. I’ve had shared workspaces (four of us rotating through two desks/computer) and that was stressful. Going home and knowing that all my stiff would be where I left it was a huge balm to my soul. Knowing that I was equally able to spend two hours preparing a gourmet vegan dinner or I can eat a bowl of sugary cereal in front of Netflix and no one will say anything, that is essential to my mental health. You don’t know what job you will get or what your work situation will be like, but you may really need the sanctum of a controlled oasis at home.

    I’m married now and fortunate that my husband likes cereal and gourmet food equally well, doesn’t move my yarn if I don’t move his tools, and we communicate really well about everything else. But it also helped that we both lived on our own/with roommates for years and knew what we needed in a home situation and after work routine. Of course now we are trying to work baby into that and that’s a whole new calculus.

    1. My ex used to eat my food which drove me nuts because we couldn’t eat the same stuff, and even though he worked at a supermarket he never remembered to replace the stuff that he ate. I ended up hiding my food around the house which… that’s not ideal.

      So yeah. I agree that knowing where your stuff is and being able to eat what you want/know that food boundaries will be respected is so very important.

    2. Yeah, the “not being judged on what you eat” thing: major. When I was growing up my parents were super-nitpicky about all of that stuff (my mom would frequently make fun of my snack choices, even after saying that making fun of other people’s food was rude…maybe I wasn’t a person?) and then that bled into having friends and exes in high school and college who would also engage in this behavior, which I fought against but also accepted as the way of the world, I’m a freak, oh well. So when I lived with roommates after college, I was always terrified of that judgement, and I really probably never ate enough. I’ve managed to quiet down that part of me with my fiancé (partially because he’s honestly as weird and experimental as I am), but around his family: NO. I am almost always hungry at their house.

  30. I think that BEFORE you contemplate buying a house together with another person? You need to spend some time living with that person! Co-owning is a huge, complicated commitment, it is not step 1 in a long term relationship at all!

    Either you live alone for a while, or you rent together for a while (not in his mum’s house either!). THEN, when you’re sure you’re compatible home makers, that you’re comfortable sharing a HOME, you can begin contemplating buying anything at all together.

    From what I’ve heard, the biggest two factors in divorces is having children and buying houses – that’s not how you start a relationship, that’s what you do when you know that your relationship is rock solid. Get to that point first!

    1. Agreed! Leaving aside the financial issues, which seem to have been covered, I really recommend against purchasing a house before you’ve lived together for at least a year. You say We’ve been living together half and half for the past three years: either he stays at my place or I stay at his, we alternate but with all due respect, that is not really living together.

      Living together isn’t just waking up in the same bed. It’s deciding what groceries to buy, and who picks them up, or maybe you get them together. It’s paying for cable (and deciding what package to get,) it’s deciding what you WATCH on cable, it’s compromising on where you set the thermostat (SO MANY ARGUMENTS ABOUT THE THERMOSTAT,) it’s loading the dishwasher and doing laundry and locking up the house before you go to bed. It’s leaving laundry on the floor, or not doing that; it’s making the bed every morning, or not doing that. When you’re staying at someone’s place, that person is the de facto decision maker. Even if you’re kind and considerate & whatnot. When you live together, everything has to be a compromise.

      And that’s not even considering the bills! Who pays them, how do you figure that out equitably, etc etc.

      My husband and I bought a house to live in together, and it was rough. If he had been moving in directly from living with his mom — having had no experience living independently at all — I most likely would have strangled him at some point. As it was, it was pretty rough. (Seriously with the thermostat.)

    2. Totally agree with atma. Frankly, I’d be enclined to go a little further – make sure that bf lives on his own a minimal amount of time before you even agree to move in together. I’d give it at least 6 months and preferably a year. Because a bf who agrees whole-heartedly with mom on a very important but dicey thing like the pros and cons of owning and renting doesn’t sound like the most thoughtful sort of person. Especially in contrast to someone like yourself who sounds like she has very reasonable ideas about what adult life is like. And in my experience there’s nothing like living alone to either hasten maturity or make it clear that it’s never going to happen, information that’s crucial if you’re contemplating moving in with someone. I don’t mean he should be living alone as in no other people there, roomates are fine, and even desirable in teaching getting along with others, but I mean as in no potentially coddling person present. The best mom in the world can be less than stellar in teaching you to take the consequences of your non/actions. No visits by mom to do the housework or deliver groceries so he can look better when you visit either, if you get my drift, no visits to her with laundry in tow.

      I don’t mean at all that bf is a horrible person, but there’s often a lag in male maturity which is most significant at your age, and it’d be best if you could ensure that you won’t get trapped in a horrible real-estate situation with a hopeless mama’s boy (and possibly his mama as co-signer). I’ll spare you the details of my own real-estate story, but just know that I was spared 2008 only because of how charred I still was from my early-90s drama. It happens, it happens to well-meaning innocents. But you can still enjoy a future with a nice mother-in-law in the picture while ensuring that your one and only comes up to snuff in some other way than getting you locked up off a bad bus line. I second the suggestion to arrange to rent something for yourself way before you get tossed out on your ear and feel panic at the lack of choices.

      1. Good point! Has this guy ever had to do his own cleaning & cooking? If not, he might not be a good housemate or husband.

  31. My nice ex had the same ideas about renting as your bf, and while it seemed logical and his parents were lovely, living in his bedroom at their house was not at all great for the old self esteem and grown-up independence thing. We’d lived together in a flat I was renting until I lost my job, and even then we seemed to spend half the time at his parents’ – now *that* was wasted money and so frustrating. Nothing beats the comfort of your own space :).
    If you decided to rent on your own or with him, could you see yourself doing similar and how would you feel about that?

  32. (I either got eaten by the spam filter or did something wrong, I try again)

    Just want to add the point that BUYING A HOUSE is not the first step in living together! It’s an enormous, complicated legal thing to own a house together. First you need to make sure you’re compatible as cohabitants in your own home.

    Or live apart – it is not the end of the world!

  33. LW, I’m n’thing all the wonderful advice offered by the Cap and the Army and just adding my own bit of anecdata –

    My husband and I have been renting together for four years and am not looking to buy in the future, near or far. Recently, he’s run into some financial difficulties and had problems paying rent and we’ve had to have the ‘what if we can’t afford to live here’ conversation a few times. My initial reaction was ‘if it comes to it, we can move in with your parents’. This is reasonably sensible – they live quite near, they have a 3 bed house, they are lovely, he’s cohabited with them and a partner before. On the surface and LOGICALLY, it makes sense.

    Emotionally and mentally for me though – it would be a relationship-ender. I was kicked out at 17 and am now estranged from my FoO. Sharing a space with any parental figures, however lovely, would be extremely anxiety and stress-inducing and possibly even trigger a mental health crisis. On top of that, my FiL has just been diagnosed with mild dementia and my MiL has hoarding tendencies. It is not a relaxing, stress-free space.

    Saying to my husband, ‘you could move in with them but I would go somewhere else’ was hard and scary. Having him be kinda horrified at the thought that we wouldn’t be living together (however temporarily) and offended that I didn’t want to live with his parents was also hard and scary. Advocating for myself and my health, you’ve guessed it, hard and scary. But my need to be well outweighs pretty much every other consideration in my life because I have lived a life where that need was not attended to and that way (literal) madness lies. Even the horror of OMG-we-are-married-but-we-do-not-live-together-right-now-what-would-the neighbours-think-also-I-feel-weird-and-not-like-a-proper-manly-husband does not outweigh my health.

    Your needs are real and concrete and your partner doesn’t not win the argument by being more logical. You are not a bad/selfish person for having some things that cannot be compromised on. I’m not sure my husband fully understands why I couldn’t live with his parents. But him not understanding doesn’t undermine my reasoning.

    I think sometimes we can be distracted by trying to make people understand our decisions – that if we can’t prove or justify our reasoning, then the decision itself doesn’t hold water. That is not true. If your partner doesn’t understand, that’s actually OK. There are probably lots of things he doesn’t understand (e.g., Japanese, nuclear physics). That doesn’t make them any less real. What’s important is that he isn’t dismissive, that he doesn’t attempt to undermine it or you, or make fun or call you crazy. Or even just keep talking or pressuring until you change your mind.

    Being able to have the conversation of ‘no, I’m not moving in with you and your mum but here are alternatives A, B and C that mean we still get to be in a relationship and see each other on the reg’ and having his reply be along the lines of ‘OK, I don’t 100% get why but cool, I like B the best, because I like you and being in a relationship with you and seeing you on the reg’ is a good indicator of how future tough conversations might go. Anything along the lines of ‘but that doesn’t make sense and here’s 70 million reasons why and you’re crazy and my mum would be upset and that’s more important that your health and what would people thiiiiiiink and relationship nooooooorrrrmmmms’ is for real a red flag and also a good indicator of how future tough conversations might go.

    TLDR: You’re cool LW and your reasons and decisions are also cool.

    1. “Your needs are real and concrete and your partner doesn’t win the argument by being more logical.”


  34. I know some people successfully live with parents to save a deposit and get a financial leg up – it works for them – but oh gosh it does not work for me. It sounds like it might not be your thing either LW and that is OK.

    Personally, I’m a fan of finding out if you can live with someone *before* you enter into a mortgage, if only because it’s so much easier to get out of a rental lease. Likewise, renting is a good way to work out what you guys want in a house and neighbourhood, in preparation for future buying.

    Finally, the best financial option is not necessarily the best option. Your mobility, independence, ability to control your own space etc. are also valid and important. Money is nice to have but so is a pleasant living situation.

  35. My platonic partner and I bought a house after the crash for Not That Much, All Things Considered. We bought in our mid-thirties, when we were both totally confident that we desperately wanted to live where we do and we were both worried about being priced out of the city due to gentrification. We live in the house. We like it. We could sell it and pretty much get our money out of it.

    And oh my god, it is a non-stop money pit. One year a giant tree fell and it cost us $6000 to remove it. One year some plumbing broke and it cost about $2000 to fix and it’s still not quite right. Our refrigerator died and had to be replaced. We had to reseat the toilet. We had to have the basement drain roto-rootered and were damn lucky we didn’t have to jackhammer up the concrete floor to do work on it. And in another ten or fifteen years, we’ll have to figure out how to pay for new siding and a new roof. Plus our wiring is really old and should be replaced, except that would cost as much as I make in a year before taxes. And if we ever get all that done, well, we have only one bathroom and it was last redone in maybe the very early eighties.

    We did not anticipate this level of expense when we bought.

    And of course our yard looks like it belongs in La Belle Au Boise Dormant, because between working and trying to fix up the inside, we don’t have any time for that either. Plus neither of us are actually very fixing-things people, so it goes slow and we keep being tempted by books and the internet. And oh my god, the rises in property taxes, the various assessments from the city about fixing the sidewalk, etc.

    Unless you own a very new house built to high standards, you will be spending ridiculous amounts of time and money fixing and maintaining it. This may have been concealed from you – as it was from me – by having handy parents who didn’t talk about money much.

    There are up-sides to our house – assuming we both stay employed, we won’t get forced out to the suburbs as rents rise; we’re right on several bus lines; I like our neighborhood and we’re really central; we get to have a cat, while we’d had terrible trouble finding cat-friendly rentals before. Our house has a great layout and two – count them, two! – staircases. I think buying was a pretty good choice.

    But! If you don’t know where you want to live permanently or if you’ll be settling somewhere permanently, if you’re not determined to live in a city with rising rental costs….seriously, it is almost certainly cheaper to rent and have your landlord fix all the trees and electricity and stoves and just be aggressive with saving and financial planning. And much, much less aggravating.

  36. I think there is also a lot of value in living by yourself for a while to see what you like and don’t like and learn to create habits that work for you. Moving from mom’s house into a house with you without ever living by himself means that he might not make the realization that there really isn’t a housekeeping fairy keeping things clean and it is now all on him. I know the first time I lived by myself I was overwhelmed with all the stuff that used to magically get done by my parents and now I was responsible for. If I had moved in with someone it would have been really tempting to just let them take care of it. (What can I say, my natural state is more towards lazy). But since i was forced to take care of it on my own I ended up figuring out how to do it.

    1. Yes to the lack of housekeeping fairy. (my fiance and i like to watch ghost-hunter shows and we often discuss how strange it is that there are never ghosts who unload the dishwaher. then it occurred to us that anyone with a ghost like that would never mention it and never move)

      LW doesn’t say what BF does vis a vis chores, but even if he is thoroughly equal with regular upkeep, it isn’t the same as being a homeowner. His mother almost certainly does things that he never sees.

      1. That would be my kind of ghost! Seriously, if I had a ghost like that, I’d start looking into ways to get it to *stay.* A bowl of milk is for brownies, right? Wonder what ghosts like…

        But yeah, this is only part of why I would probably never even date someone who had never lived on his own. I encounter people like that on campus quite a bit, and I’m sure the decision works great for them right now, but it makes their lives and worldviews so drastically different from mine in ways that I don’t necessarily think would be conducive to a good relationship. I could be wrong, of course, and maybe at some point I’ll meet and fall head-over-heels for a guy who has always lived with his parents, but for right now… dealbreaker. Sorry.

  37. I really think living together – or apart, even! – somewhere that isn’t boyfriend’s mom’s house for awhile before buying a home is absolutely crucial. When my H and I first moved in together, he had been renting a room from a family member who owned their own home, and had never managed an apartment on his own, and the whole experience was initially kind of infuriating for me. There were SO! MANY! THINGS! that he just didn’t think about/remember/know he had to do/know how to do, and he expected me to just take care of everything (like cable and utilities and making sure the rent was paid on time, etc.) with no work on his part, because he’d always lived in someone else’s house and never had any responsibility for any of it.

    I had to be extremely specific about delegating things to him, and I had to make sure that anything I delegated to him was something I could live without if he failed to follow through in a timely fashion (and we went two weeks without cable because it didn’t occur to him to call the cable company to set up an installation appointment before we moved in). We figured things out, and he’s much better now, but I can’t imagine how things would’ve gone down if we’d been trying to manage an actual house together. In an apartment, there are a limited number of things the occupants are responsible for – basically, just utilities and cable – so there’s some wiggle room if you screw up the setup of those things. In a home, there is so much more that can go wrong – there’s yard maintenance, and property taxes, and building codes to comply with, and home repairs and maintenance, and roofs that get damaged in storms, and gutters that need to be cleaned, and just a million other things that you have to be able to (a) identify in the first place, and then (b) either figure out how to do yourself or figure out how to find someone you can pay to do it for you.

    You both need to practice household management – together, separately, whatever – in a lower-stakes situation for a while before committing to the unholy clusterfluck that home ownership can potentially turn into. I live in a part of the country where lots of people do the mom’s-basement-straight-to-a-house thing, and the house-related horror stories are legion (as are the at-least-somewhat-house-related-relationship-problems). People love to tell my H and I that we’re “throwing money away” on rent, but if I added up the cost of every mechanical/plumbing/etc. problem my landlord has fixed in the last 3 years, plus the cost of regular landscaping services, plus the money we would’ve lost selling our house because we moved two years into living together because we ended up really disliking the neighborhood we thought we loved, we’re substantially better off having “thrown money away” on rent.

    LW, hold your ground, and don’t let your b/f “logic” you into a plan that, while *possibly* advantageous financially, is incredibly likely to leave you worse off than you both would be renting for awhile in basically every other way imaginable.

  38. Captain’s right again. Think about the thrift in allowing for your autonomy.

    Coupledom is about sharing and interdependance and co-operation, for sure. In LW’s case, autonomy sounds like a particularly key component in maintaining a keen level of mental health.

    We don’t know too much about SO’s mother, but since she describes staying there as being similar to staying in an hotel, it is safe to say that the environment will be stifling.

    This doesn’t make SO’s mother a bad person.

    My ex’s mother was delightful. I still have warm relations with her family many years after parting ways and my ex is still dear to me.

    But after staying in the same holiday cabin for two weeks (where it rained the entire time) it taught me that no matter how much you assert your autonomy, you sometimes just can’t get it.

    Case in point; ex and her mother complained (jokingly) that i hadn’t cooked during the vacation yet. (Certainly I had helped in the kitchen, preparing meals, but not one that I had cooked entirely on my own, alone for them)

    I told them it would be impossible to do so without them meddling and that their wanting to ‘control’ my process and interfere would prevent this and that cooking a meal that I could claim sole responsibility for would be a ‘miracle’.

    So we challenged each other.

    I told them, you stay out of the kitchen and let me cook the *entire* meal until I set the plates down on the table.

    The whole time, they stood on the threshold of the kitchen twitching! –Twitching to get involved. It was a comic scene as I implored that they remain behind the line to allow me to do my “job” and put to rest their joking digs about me not cooking.

    Not possible.

    Sure enough, as soon as I stepped out of the kitchen to get something (with two minutes to go before lift off!), they replaced me at the hearth, hands on the spoons and before I could stop them, both of them swirling my meal with vigorous stirs (as if i don’t know how to stir a pot) and despite my protest, they had taken over and were now de facto cooks.

    So I put it back to them: you won’t let me cook. Or do anything by myself. Please don’t complain that i don’t want to. It’s because you won’t let me.

    I’m careful about the language I use on this site, but for all intents and purposes, be careful around people who are ‘controllers’ if autonomy is something that is important to you.

    However, for all we know, SO’s mother might be wonderfully aloof and laissez-faire.

    But I doubt it.

  39. I absolutely believe that it is possible to live in the kind of arrangement the LW’s boyfriend would apparently prefer, however, that probably only works if the child in question doesn’t actually live there in the position of a child but as an adult roommate. I have such an arrangement with my mother, who needs help with quite a few things because of medical reasons and as such is happy to have someone around. And it only occured to me reading all the comments here that the level of involvement I have in… well, everything apparently isn’t the norm for adult children living with parents. I feel pretty confident in saying that if I had to live on my own come next week I wouldn’t have any of the problems described in other comments (like household work or organising phone and internet stuff or double-checking all the bills; in fact, I’m the primary person handling our bank and finance stuff) because I’ve already been dealing with all of them despite living with my mum. So these two aren’t automatically mutually exclusive, but only LW can be the judge of whether boyfriend is in one or the other arrangement.

    That being said, it seems pretty clear from you letter, LW, that you don’t actually want to live with your boyfriend’s mother. And what I want to say is: That’s okay! That’s absolutely, 100% okay! I kind of get the feeling that – with making sure to describe both of them as absolutely great – you maybe feel like you can’t think both your boyfriend and his mother are fantastic people and at the same time not want to live with them. And that isn’t the case at all! Saying “I’m sorry, boyfriend, but I really don’t want to live at your mother’s place” doesn’t mean you’re secretly saying or implying “Boyfriend, I hate your mother!”. Maybe I’m overanalysing or reading something into your letter that isn’t there, but I wanted to make sure that that is clear. Your feelings on living or not living with someone do in no way express your feelings towards that actual person.

  40. Oh…oh, this letter was so timely for me. I feel you very hard, LW. I’m in a similar situation…my awesome boyfriend has never moved out of his (also awesome!) mother’s house, and has actually a pretty fabulous living space there of the sort I doubt we could afford on our own for some time. I am only just getting back on my feet financially after some unemployment and don’t have a place of my own, and am residing with family. He would like us to start living together officially…in his mother’s house. And I want to start living officially with him…renting an apartment that is anywhere but his mother’s house.

    His mother is wonderful, and it WOULD be “smarter” financially to just move in with them, but everything in my body does not want that. Because I would never feel like the place is really mine. He has pretty much no boundaries when it comes to family, and his mother is awesome and helpful and has her hands in everything he does, and I just…I’m almost thirty, and I want us to start building our *own* household, not just an extension of someone else’s, which is what his place feels like. Worse…right now, he is essentially a tenant in his mothers house; his family is encouraging him to save up, buy the house, and then have her as a tenant in his house. There is a lot that is very reasonable about this decision! It is a beautiful home that I could maybe even someday see myself living in although I really don’t want to commit to that right now! I REALLY need my boyfriend to move SOMEPLACE ELSE with me and learn how to live on our own and what it is like to have boundaries and build our own household before any of that would be okay with me!

    If I wanted to have someone coming in and rearranging all my dishes for me, or trying to pick out my furniture, or volunteer me for various tasks at their convenience, I could just as easily live in MY mother’s house. And since it has always been his, I feel like I don’t get to have the kind of say in things that I would if we were building a place together, like in what color to paint the bedroom or whose couch goes in the living room. I guess what I’m trying to express is…that desire for independence, for wanting something of your OWN, is very real and valid. You are allowed to have it be a real need. Given how isolated you might end up at his mothers, I think its even more important for you. Don’t let yourself get talked out of those needs…I think you’ll be utterly miserable if you do.

  41. Just one more recommendation: to the extent that it’s useful to figure out the actual financial implications of renting v. buying, the New York Times website has a very comprehensive calculator that can help you out:

    It asks you to estimate many of the costs (property tax, maintenaince, foregone income from alternate investments, cost of real estate agents when selling, etc) that are easy to overlook in making these calculations. Plus, what it tells you is how long you need to live in the house/apartment/whatever in order to come out ahead financially. This is helpful because it speaks directly to the issue of context – for the very same house/apartment/whatever, buying is going to work out better financially for some people than for others.

    I agree with everyone else who notes that it’s not just about the finances. However, if *part* of it is about the finances, this might be a helpful tool to think about that piece of it.

    1. One of the reasons I like owning my own home is that I can be as involved with animal rescue as I want to be. No landlord is going to approve the fostering of a mom and 7 kittens – but it’s my house and I say it’s just fine. Yeah the house comes with expenses and responsibilities I don’t like, and now that I am divorced I am thinking that in a few years I might want to move into a condo. But then I think about the fact that i can say “yes – I will take that animal for 2 weeks until space at a sanctuary opens up” and I realize it is all about trade offs.

  42. This is very timely for me to read!
    I am working on moving back to my home country after 7+ years abroad, and my mom is really shitting on the idea of renting/trying to convince me to buy a place.
    I do not WANT to buy property, and a lot of the discussion here will be very very useful in countering all that.

    For the LW: As most have already said, follow your gut. Moving is hard even before you start packing boxes, you are allowed to not know all the answers immediately and have long discussions.
    Best awkward wishes!

    1. All of this will help you in convos with your mom, but also, don’t forget – unless your mom is in some way directly involved in your living arrangements (i.e. she’s paying for them/you’re living with her), she actually gets zero say in where you live and what you spend your money on. “I don’t want to own property and if you keep belaboring this point I’m going to hang up the phone” is a completely legitimate way to shut down these conversations. If you want to talk it through with her because she’s a helpful person to talk things through with, go for it! But if she’s a pain in the ass who doesn’t have your best interests at heart and is pushing her own personal agenda on you for reasons that have nothing at all to do with what actually works for you? You don’t owe her any more than “not going to buy, conversation closed, ::insert unrelated topic here::”. Don’t make yourself crazy trying to logic her into agreeing with you.

      Note: All this said as someone who has a mom obsessed with me buying a home – my marriage is a mess, I’m in the middle of a job-change, I’m still digging out from under huge student loans, and I *might* want to pick up and move to a foreign country for like 6-12 months sometime soon – but mom wants me to buy a house with H so that we’re “stuck” (her word, srsly) in a town 20 minutes from hers, so by golly, she’s going to logic me into buying a home! Ummm, nope, Mom. Nope. But there’s no convincing her – the only thing that got her to stop was saying “we’re not buying right now, so there’s no point in this conversation, so tell me, how’s work?” At first she wasn’t cool with the subject change, and I did hang up on her a few times (“This conversation doesn’t seem to be going anywhere good, how about we try again tomorrow?”), and she still drops hints about what a great value homes are in Town right now, but we’re no longer involved in a protracted debate about whether or not I should be renting, so I’m counting that as a win for us.

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