Taking your queer relationship to the next level. Should we start living together?
From spending more time together, to sorting through the junk mail and paying your gas bills, to sharing a bed and a wi-fi password. Taking the decision to move in together can seem like an important milestone in any relationship.
But are LGBTQ people and their partners any different to straight couples, when it comes to taking that decision?
Abuse from neighbours, having to explain yourself to utility companies, and worrying about if your landlord is going to be “queer friendly” can sometimes be unique barriers that LGBTQ people and their partners need to overcome.
It can make or break a relationship, as those who spoke with Means Happy can attest. Yet, when it comes down to it, love and wanting to spend more time together seems to melt away any trepidation.
When is the right time to move in?
“We dated for three months and then we both had the opportunity to move to London,” recalls Jamie, 24. “We both seemed to assume that we’d be living together as it made sense, both financially and logically.”
Logistics also played a part in Helen, 38, and her now wife moving in together. The pair have been together since January 2006, and “officially” moved in during the November of that year.
“We wanted to live together partly because we just wanted to be with each other all the time,” explains Helen. “And we lived on opposite ends of the Northern line!”
Is there such thing as too soon? Helen disagrees. “There was no doubt in my mind whatsoever, being honest. None of us know what will happen looking further into the future, but at the time we knew we wanted to be together for the foreseeable future.”
23 year-old Li says that moving in with their partner felt right. “We dated for about two months before moving in together.”
“Moving in together changed our relationship because we had more time to spend with each other,” says Li of what motivated them to move in with their partner. “We also got more of a glimpse to what the other one was like.”
Make or break?
Helen says that the move helped to strengthen her relationship – the couple are now married and have two children.
Her demanding job not only meant it was challenging to see her partner outside of working hours when they lived apart, but the move allowed her to have somebody to come home to after a difficult shift.
“It’s not the same for everyone, but for me – working my first job as a doctor – having a non-medical partner who was there at home after a bad day was really valuable.”
Sharing a postcode also allowed the couple to spend more quality time together. “Waking up together on a Saturday morning when I had a weekend off was just perfect.”
But is it always plain sailing? “Definitely there are challenges to living together,” acknowledges Helen, who thinks that living with a partner is less challenging than living in a house share. “Definitely no passive aggressive smiley-face post-it notes on the fridge!” she laughs.
The experience also allowed her to reflect on her own habits, as well as those of her partner. “Realising your partner isn’t perfect, and neither are you. Plus working through all the usual boring necessities of cleaning the loo, and working out money.”
Yet not everybody has such a positive experience when taking the leap to move in with their partner.
“Ours crumbled!” says Jamie of how moving in impacted his relationship with his then boyfriend. “We lived together for a total of 6 months. It ended after 3 months.”
“We had a really nice set up before moving in together, we’d spend all the weekend together and it would be awesome,” he explains. “We assumed living together would therefore be equally as awesome as our weekends – but that wasn’t the case.”
Jamie describes moving in together as the “ultimate test” for any relationship, and that moving in changed the dynamic between him and his partner.
Living together for three months after their relationship came to end was “quite horrible” and “became quite abusive”, leaving Jamie wary of taking the leap again.
“Moving in together does catapult you forward in the relationship,” he warns.
Being queer and living together
Li says queer couples continue to face challenges based on their sexuality or gender expression, and feels fortunate to have not have first-hand experience of this.
“We lived in a flat and rarely saw any of our neighbours, so we we’re lucky in that sense,” they recall. “I think we would be more concerned to live in a house, or in an area, where everyone knows each other in the neighbourhood.”
Helen and her partner remembers “coming out to utility companies, and having to explain the situation multiple times, and dealing with assumptions” when they started living together.
However, she thinks that progress has been made in that regard.
“There is always a fear though initially whether your landlord or landlady is going to be outwardly cool with the situation,” says Helen. “And an element of vulnerability about that that a straight couple would not encounter.”
She explains how the couple made a conscious decision to live in an area with other same-sex couples, and to enrol their children at a school where they aren’t the only LGBTQ couple at the school gates.
“That’s an amazing position to be in,” she says of the progress made during the 13 years that they’ve been together.
What if you’re thinking about moving in together?
“What to remember when moving in together is that physical time is actually irrelevant,” explains Justin Myers, sex and relationship columnist for British GQ. “It’s the emotional side of things you need to consider. Once you live with someone you will know them in a wholly different way. So are there wrong and right times to move in? No, but there are wrong and right reasons.”
“Might as well, my lease is up soon,” is not a valid reason for moving in with a partner, argues Justin. Convenience, attempting to fix your relationship, or wanting to get a dog, aren’t reasons either.
As for the right reasons? “Because the time you spend together isn’t enough. You’re ready to share everything, not just the dates and the parties and the special time you’re together,” believes Justin. “And because you feel you’re better off together than apart. But still, do get a dog anyway.”
“It can be a shock to see them in ‘regular mode’ rather than trying to impress you or making the most of your time together,” says Justin of how moving in can affect a relationship. “The arguments will seem much more serious at first, because there is more at stake, but the love can grow too. You will also find yourself very forgiving of their bad habits, for a time, anyway.”
Moving in together can be a challenging and exciting time for any couple, with some LGBTQ couples feeling more strain than their straight neighbours.
Timing and reasons behind wanting to take that next step can be things to think about when making the decision to move in.
But for any couple looking for more advice, Relate, a charity that provides relationship support to people across the UK, might be your first port of call.