*This article is a work of nonfiction based on actual events recounted to me by a friend who witnessed them firsthand; used with permission
Dating a partner you love and trying to figure out if your goals match and if you want the same things for the future can become a challenge when they still live with their family, and you can't see them on their own that much.
And if you ask them to move in with you and they blame you for doing everything too fast, is that an indication your relationship won't last, or should you wait some more until they decide to take that step for you? How much does age difference matter when you decide to move in with a partner, and do parents have a say on when it happens?
My friend Alex has been dating her boyfriend Holden for three years. They met while taking the same classes in Phoenix, Arizona. Alex is 33 and is going back to school to get promoted at work, while Hayden is 23 and is a student. They got along great from the first time they met, and they were soon doing all their projects together.
"At first, I thought we would be only friends, but things moved fast, and I realized he liked me a lot more than that. And I was very interested to see where this could go. I didn't mind the age difference, and he didn't care about it either," Alex said.
They started dating two months after they first met. They checked out different restaurants and also went on short trips together. Hayden only has a part-time job, so he couldn't always pay when they went out, not even half. But Alex's salary is quite high, so she didn't mind covering their expenses most of the time.
"It wasn't about money at all. I wanted to see if we'd make each other happy. We laughed a lot and had a good time dancing. And when they saw us, most people didn't even notice I was older. They immediately assumed we were both in college, which was so nice," Alex said.
Even though they were not affected by the ten years between them, their families didn't feel the same way. Alex's parents agreed to meet Hayden, but they felt he wasn't old enough even to consider having a family someday with their daughter.
"There's no way he could support her if she got pregnant and they wanted to have a home of their own. There's just no point in going out with someone that much younger than her," Lilly, Alex's mom, said.
Hayden's parents were also surprised to find out who his girlfriend was. This time, their doubts were about not having enough grandkids because of her age.
"He's our only child, and we were hoping to have at least three grandkids. I don't think that can happen with Alex. She's already 33, and they're not even engaged or married yet. If that takes two more years and they wait on becoming parents, I think one grandkid is the most we could have. That's not fair, and I don't think my son would be happy," Ina, Hayden's mom, said.
Despite the attitude they've seen from both families, Alex and Hayden still wanted to be together, and they kept dating. However, Alex became uncomfortable with the talks about kids that started every time she came to see Hayden in his parents' home. So, she asked him to move in together so they could spend more time in the same place and avoid awkward conversations.
"I thought that made sense to move forward with our relationship too. I couldn't visit him all the time over there and pick him up for our dates while his mom was frowning. He did meet me in the city sometimes, but I wanted to share more and see if we could adjust to having the same space," Alex said.
For that to happen, she did point out to Hayden that he needed to contribute half the expenses and try to find a full-time job. She was willing to pay for everything for the first month until he got a higher salary, but not longer. And his name would be put on the lease, so he was going to be responsible for his part of the costs.
Hayden wasn't that excited about it.
"He was interested when I mentioned living together, but when he realized it meant finding a better job and covering half the costs, he had a lot of doubts. He said it wasn't about us and that he still loved me. But he wasn't ready to work long hours yet, and he wanted to postpone grown-up responsibilities for a while. I know he was used to his mom and dad taking care of everything, but in a relationship, things change," Alex said.
She tried to explain to him what being in a relationship was all about and that it had to do with getting a job and being responsible, but Hayden got upset and said he didn't want to be rushed into anything. He needed more time to think about it, and he also wanted to talk about it to his parents, particularly his mom.
"She knows more about these things than I do. And I don't want my parents to think I don't love them anymore. When it's time to move out, I would like them to approve of what I'm doing," Hayden said.
Alex is confused by his attitude and is wondering if it's worth waiting to see how his mom feels about the move since she doesn't really like her anyway. And she isn't pleased about having to consult everything in their relationship with Hayden's parents.
'"He lives with his parents and refused to move in with me; he feels rushed. And now he wants to check in with his mom before he gives me a final answer. I don't want to move with her; I want to be with him, and he won't do anything unless she says yes. Am I going to marry her or him? How is this going to be long-term?" Alex said.
Things are tense for now because Hayden hasn't talked to his parents yet, and Alex doesn't understand why he needs to do that before making up his mind.
What do you think about this situation? Is it fair for Hayden to avoid giving a clear answer and blame his girlfriend for rushing him instead of agreeing to get a job? Should Alex move on and find someone her age who can take into account money-related issues too, and not need his mom's approval for every step he takes?
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