In September last year the LOML popped the question, or rather, made a suggestion: maybe we should move in together. It was a beautiful Summer’s day in Montauk and we’d just spent the morning discussing the timing of something big – when I would take a sabbatical and for how long. Taking a sabbatical to travel the world is something I’ve always wanted to do but when I had casually announced in the first few months of our relationship that I’d be taking off sometime soon it hadn’t gone down so well. He was not anti the principal of me exploring the world without him but hurt that I didn’t seem to be considering how he would be affected. Fair enough. To give this the proper consideration, it took me another 6 months to broach the subject with him again in a more thoughtful way. The conversation had gone well and we’d settled on me taking about 4 months off starting September 2015 so that we could have the US Summer together and get used to the idea of being apart.
Lying on the beach with him after that discussion I felt so grateful to be with someone who would give me the freedom to explore my own dreams and support me in all the little things I do, like write this blog where I sometimes mention him. I wanted to tell him how appreciative I was and that if he ever felt like I was pushing the boundaries too far he should tell me. He said that everything was fine, he liked my independent pursuits. But then after a long time of silent basking in the sun he said, “Actually there is something I want us to talk about…”
Oh crap, I thought, I knew it!
“Maybe we should think about living together”
I had to remove my large sunglasses and look him in his eyes to confirm he was serious. This was the last thing I had expected him to say. Our lives were great in our separate apartments. We saw each other all the time but still had our freedom. He loves time alone. I love time with my friends. We had a system. And because I didn’t think he was going to bring this up for another year I wasn’t prepared with my own feelings. I knew I wanted to be with him forever but I also wanted to savour this special dating phase for as long as possible. I equated living together with monotony and romance killing conversations like whose turn it was to buy milk. But I didn’t want to deflate his enthusiasm so I told him I was thrilled he’d asked and that I needed some time to digest it.
And for the next few weeks, I thought. Which involved calling my sister. She thought that if I knew I wanted to be with him then he should put a ring on it if he wanted to live with me. That made sense. Then I called my friend Jess in Sydney and she said I shouldn’t let fear stand in the way of love. Here was the man of my dreams wanting to share every waking moment with me – I should embrace that. Gathering friends’ perspectives is valuable but is no substitute for one’s own opinion. Deep down, I knew what I wanted – a committment to a life together. I didn’t want to move in with someone if there was a chance I’d have to move out again some day. I also wanted to be sure that he liked South Africa before we made any committments. He hadn’t visited yet and if for some reason he didn’t like the Motherland I could see it being a potential issue. So we agreed to postpone the discussion until after our planned visit in November.
Our Thanksgiving holidays were spent in Joburg, Cape Town, Prince Albert and Plettenberg Bay/Keurbooms. Naturally, he loved it – because South Africa is AWESOME! He also loved meeting my mom and dad for the first time and seeing how the locals live. While in SA, I got a pep talk by a good family friend who also happens to be a very successful real estate agent. “Bokkie’ (term of endearment meaning little buck in Afrikaans), she said, “he clearly loves you. And neither of you are young anymore. Now is not the time to treat him like your best friend and tell him all your secrets, this is the time to be strategic. You need to CLOSE! ” I knew what she was getting at, I just didn’t have a lot of experience with manipulating and keeping secrets from him. But then I thought, you’re a woman and you have all the cards right now – use them for good not evil.
As agreed, we returned from South Africa and I raised the subject of living together. My monologue went something like this: ‘I love you very much and I really want to live with you. However, I also want it to feel special and I want you to know that this is a big decision for me. My version of closing went like this: “I don’t want to be one of those women, who, in two years time, when people are asking them ‘Do you think you’ll get married?’ I have to say, ‘I don’t know, I hope so.’ ” I think he understood. He said he would need some time to think about how to make it special. Afterwards, I summarized my speech to a guy friend and his response was “Oh, shit, poor J-dog!” Apparently in man language, my message had been pretty clear. Good, I hadnt ‘closed’ but I felt like I had agreed to what he wanted without completely compromising what I wanted.
And so I relaxed and waited for him to find a way to make it special.