Why Moving In With My Girlfriend Scares The Crap Out Of Me

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man and woman moving in together

My girlfriend and I are moving in together, and I think I might throw up. Not because I don't want to live with her, or because I was bullied, tricked, or pressured into signing a lease (my deepest sympathies to the guy on Maury who was threatened at gunpoint by his future mother-in-law). But let's just say that sometimes I can be a bit, um, "skittish" when facing transitions.

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On the first wintry day of 2nd grade, for example, I refused to surrender my shorts. "But it's cold outside, Ethan," my mother tried to reason. "Today is a pants day."

Defying her logic, I attended school in a pair of gorgeous cut-offs and would regret it by 1 PM. Not solely out of embarrassment, mind you, for being the only kid in class to bear my bottom half to the elements—but also because I nearly froze my ass off at recess.

My stubborn sartorial choices would continue. The next year, I insisted on wearing a colorful safari cap every day. My mom had to literally pry it off my head once it became too filthy and tattered to wear, just in time to stave off Child Services from taking me on an involuntary vacation.

To uninformed outsiders, this behavior might be interpreted as the symptom of an eccentric fashion sense. Such was the popular assessment of my 7th-grade classmates over the orange sweatpants I would famously wear three times a week. While it was possible that I was the 13-year-old male Gaga, deep down the dread was about relinquishing control. 

Debbie and I have been dating for over two years and we both want to spend even more of each day together — clearly, our decision to share an apartment was both logical and emotionally sound. However, give me a few hours to mull it over and poke holes in our plan, and suddenly I'm transported to second grade, frozen with rigidity.

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Of course, whenever I've had trepidation over a change, I've adjusted within days, if not instants. We, the humans of Earth, are adaptive people, and I am no exception. But even the "reassuring" fact that I chose to move in with Deb is no consolation in this case.

What makes these stakes so much higher than those of a seasonal wardrobe shift is that this time it's not just the change itself that I'm fearing, it's the fact that by sharing my living space with another person. I'm forfeiting some of my everyday control, hopefully permanently. A stream of selfish questions steadily surfaces: "When will I have alone time?" "How will our sleeping patterns mesh?" "Can she keep the bathroom clean enough?" "Will I have to give up porn?"

I know that in order to experience the many exciting and wonderful benefits of cohabitation, I will need to make some sacrifices. Living with my girlfriend means that I won't be able to blast Cannibal Corpse or Pig Destroyer at any hour of the day. Midnight Frosted Mini Wheat dinners and breakfasts of leftover Linguini ai Frutti de Mare will be replaced by appropriate meals shared at reasonable hours. I will no longer be able to poop with the door open.

On top of all the freedoms I'll concede, there are the adjustments I'll need to make to her living style. The bed might not get made right away and dishes might sit in the sink for a few hours. I'll likely lose autonomy over temperature control, and I'll definitely lose closet space. My living room might fill with lady friends, box wine, and snuggies on a Friday night, while the DVR fills with all things Bachelorette (the episodes, the recaps, the reunions, the previews, the fantasy league, etc).

Thankfully, my girlfriend is a reasonable woman. More than reasonable, even. For all the sacrifices I'll be making, I know I can keep the habits and rituals that matter. For example, she's OK with my midnight vacuuming sessions. She'll turn a blind eye to at-home happy hours set to episodes of Intervention. She thinks it's funny when I talk to myself in different voices and can tolerate the occasional fart (keyword: occasional). Without judgment, she allows me to be me. 

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Of course, there are also the awesome things I'll gain from a live-in girlfriend. While the financial boons are great (half-priced cable!), I'm mostly excited about the potential experiences. I'll have a guinea pig for daring culinary experiments, and the joy of being her guinea pig on nights when I'm irresponsibly working through dinner.

Massages and compliments will become commoditized and traded. Personal trivia and deeper idiosyncrasies will be uncovered. And, potentially best of all, I'll get the benefit of waking up next to the most attractive woman I know.

Life will be different when we move in together. I know that ultimately, I'll benefit from being forced to finally leave some rigidity behind. I want to learn how to be a better compromiser. Fortunately, Debbie is patient enough to know that when it comes to compromising, I can be a slow learner. I want to be more spontaneous, and more accommodating. Our love makes that possible, I know sharing a home is just the next step.

In a recent moment of panic after being selected for jury duty (more specifically, a grand jury requiring a total of 30 days of service), I turned to a classic tome a friend of mine once recommended in times of distress: the Tao Te Ching, the text fundamental to Taoism. Huffing and puffing in frustration, I opened to a random passage and read the first line of translated Chinese: "The flexible are preserved unbroken."

Typically, I dismiss any "spiritual" writing as mumbo jumbo, but the words struck a chord. Perhaps, I was simply desperate for some confirmation that serving on a grand jury is not, in fact, a death sentence, but I instantly found great solace in the ancient maxim.

Most of us yearn for control and predictability because it's so easy to feel helpless in such a mysterious, expanding universe.

Helplessness lies at the root of those three well-known and -loved cousins: anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. But helplessness can also give us a reason to strive for greatness, to find meaning in our existence. P

erhaps most importantly, when harnessed for good, helplessness makes true love all the more beautiful and important. If you can share the struggle with another person, things might turn out alright.

Hopefully, I remember all of this the next time my girlfriend tells me it's too cold outside for shorts.

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Ethan Fixell is a writer and one half of the comedy team Dave & Ethan.