Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!

Q. I’ve been dating my boyfriend for just over a year, and our relationship is amazing. We rarely fight, we get along with each other’s friends, and we have a great time together. My boyfriend’s lease is almost up, and he suggested that we should live together after he moves out. Don’t get me wrong — I’m not scared to take our relationship to the next level — but I just don’t really want to live with him. Maybe I’ll change my mind in another year or two, but I’ve never lived with a boyfriend, and I simply enjoy living on my own right now. Is it weird that I don’t want to move in with him? And how do I explain it to him without offending him?

A. Good for you that you find yourself in an amazing relationship with what sounds like many strengths! It seems that you and your boyfriend are contemplating the deepening of your commitment to each other — taking it to the next level as you say — now that your first year of dating has passed.

Possibly for your boyfriend, moving in together is the next logical progression towards commitment, and he may be thinking that it is also a timely decision based on his expiring lease. For you, though, moving in together feels unnecessary as a symbol of deepening commitment.

Not only does this present an opportunity for you two to explore commitment, but it also offers you an opportunity to deepen your trust in each other and in your relationship, depending on how you navigate some possible conflict. Trust builds when you’re able to discuss differing opinions respectfully and open-heartedly. Your last question indicates that you are wanting to express your perspective on this decision in a way that is thoughtful of your boyfriend’s feelings, and that’s an excellent approach to help the conversation go well.

As you consider how best to talk about this with your boyfriend, I wonder if you fear that cohabiting might have a bad effect on your good relationship? You don’t have any previous experience living with a boyfriend, and sometimes the unfamiliar can bring up worries and hesitations. If this is the case, you may find it helpful to do some reflecting on your own as to what exactly your fears or concerns may be. If you and your boyfriend were to move in together, what problems or troubles do you imagine may arise? It would also be good for you to clarify what it is exactly that you like about living on your own, and what you perceive you may have to give up if you two were to move in together.

Once you have explored more specifically your own opinions on your boyfriend’s idea to move in together, I encourage you to ask him if he’d be open to hearing your thoughts and letting you hear his. Listening to each other’s hopes and worries will be easier for both of you if you stick with exploring and understanding each other’s perspectives first, as opposed to trying to persuade each other or going straight into problem-solving without each of you first feeling well-understood.

As you talk, keep in mind that understanding each other must precede problem-solving. Consider how different it is to participate in an engaging tour, as opposed to arguing in a debate. The better path is to “take a tour” of each other’s hopes and worries. Also, as you begin to talk, it would be reassuring to your boyfriend to know that you look forward to your relationship growing and deepening and that that process is separate from this decision for you. You are clear about being together while exploring whether or not that means actually living together at this time.

You might want to use a helpful conversation guide called 52 Questions Before Marriage or Moving in Together available here. If you are able to dialogue about this and come to some understanding or consensus about what to do at this time regarding your living arrangement, it bodes well for you as a couple to deepen your trust and commitment with each other. This will likely lead to an opportunity in the future when you are able to revisit this topic and be able to make the decision to move in together when the time is right for both of you.

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  • Jonathan Shippey

    LMFT, Certified Gottman Therapist

    Jonathan Shippey is a Certified Gottman Therapist and Master Trainer with The Gottman Institute. He lives in Louisville, KY and has been a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice since 2000, specializing in couples therapy and also personalized multi-day couples intensives/private retreats. Prior to becoming a therapist, Jonathan was an army officer in Germany, serving first as a combat medic platoon leader and later as the company commander of the Heidelberg Army Hospital during Operation Desert Storm. If you would like more of these tips, visit Jonathan at www.jshippeylmft.com.