Dear Dr Ren,
Eric and I met almost five years ago and hit it off immediately. Six months later, he moved away for a job and we continued long-distance.
Now Eric has a chance to move back and wants us to move in together. Originally keen, I’m feeling increasingly apprehensive.
Our lifestyles are very different. I’m the frugal artist to Eric’s grandiose businessman. I own a small but comfortable home, while he rents luxurious condos with views. I’m happiest in my kitchen; he collects frequent-flyer miles. I could go on.
Even so, we have fun and love deeply. Never have I found anyone who so perfectly matches me sexually. When I consider this, all the rest seems inconsequential.
We worked really well long-distance. Can an exceptional sexual and intimate bond override differences in lifestyles? Can we make cohabiting work? Are we doomed, or am I just a . . .
— Nervous Groom
Dear Nervous Groom,
Your particular relationship history may well be the place to look for your answers. After a brief period in which you enjoyed limerence (new relationship energy), you were separated by distance and therefore obliged to develop a pattern that would support a great deal of independence. It sounds like you thrived individually and as a couple as you grew your love.
Now, five years later, fully committed and comfortable with your pattern, you are faced with a massive shift. You would need to be brain-dead not to have some concerns about how this will change your interactions!
Perhaps expanding your options would relieve some of the pressure. Why not live in the same city but not the same home? Do you worry that Eric will interpret this suggestion as rejection?
Believe me, you two will need to practise having many courageous conversations. You will now need to discuss how you get comfortable with togetherness, just as you previously learned to navigate distance.
Don’t be rattled. You already know your differences and similarities; they needn’t be weaknesses and strengths. Understanding that you thrive with independence can help you devise a plan that supports that knowledge.
That individuality will also foster the retention of the great sex life you mention. Too much togetherness dulls desire. Rather than finding domestic bliss, you may begin squabbling about money or housekeeping issues, and you’ll be less likely to summon your customary erotic heat. Less independent unions often become erotically challenged. Our sexual souls seem instead to crave passionate difference.
A bit more about that sexual connection: we are all unique, self-indulgent and stalwart about what we like in bed. If our sexual personalities are akin to our lover’s, we can each make little accommodations to build a solid and fulfilling sexual pattern. We learn how to honour our lover’s arousal pattern while teaching them what we need to feel desire and satisfaction. The process can be romantic and fun.
But, when the fit is there from the start, we can skip that accommodation step altogether because sex launches as already expansive, adventurous and exhilarating. Each partner, accepted and encouraged, grows and transforms. Barriers to intimacy fall. Confidence and vulnerability thrive.
This is the stuff of fairy tales, the swooning, swept-away delight of being truly known and challenged to be ever more ourselves. It is rare and precious. You would do well to value it as it deserves.
So risk those tough discussions. Consider your many options. Together, creatively design a relationship that allows you to preserve the emotional and possibly the residential distance that sustains your individuality and your heat, while allowing you the luxury of building a home together, regardless of how that real estate may look.