You’re in a long-distance relationship and things are going well, or perhaps you’re in a relationship with a partner who’s about to move to another city, and you’re considering a move to be with them. It’s a big, tough decision and one I’m well familiar with. Not only is it the topic I probably receive the most letters about for my “Dear Wendy” column, I was also faced with the same decision myself a few years ago. I chose to follow my heart and move to New York to be with my long-distance boyfriend, and if you’re a regular Frisky reader, you know by now we’ll be celebrating our first wedding anniversary this summer. But just because it was the right decision for me doesn’t mean it’s the right choice for every long-distance couple. So how do you know whether it will work out well for you? Well, you don’t ever know for sure! Even when it feels right, moving for love is a total leap of faith and it certainly was one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. But there are a few questions you can ask yourself to help decide if following love to another city is a good move for you. After the jump, eight questions to ask yourself right now.1. If you move and the relationship doesn’t work out, are you going to resent your partner?
If the answer is “yes,” that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t move, but you should probably spend some good time thinking about the very real possibility that things might not work out. If that risk seems too great for you — if the idea of making such a big sacrifice without experiencing the payoff you’re hoping for leaves you feeling bitter and regretful — you probably aren’t quite ready to make the leap yet.
2. Have you discussed a long-term future together?
It doesn’t necessarily have to involve marriage, but if you and your partner aren’t discussing a long-term, serious commitment together, uprooting your life and moving to a new city is probably premature. You both need to imagine a life together at least five years in the future and not be freaked out by that idea before you start packing your bags. And if you aren’t on the same page as far as your future goes, forget about it!
3. Is the new city one you can picture yourself being happy in?
You need to accept that love doesn’t conquer all. You may love your sweetie something awful, but if you hate the town s/he lives in, there’s a good chance you’re going to be miserable there. If you aren’t sure how you feel, spend your vacation time — a week or two if you’ve got it — “playing house” at your significant other’s place and trying to imagine how you’d feel if you never left. I visited Drew in New York for long weekends every month for a year and twice for one week at a time before I decided to make the move. Knowing I loved the city and could see myself thriving here definitely made the decision to move easier for me.
4. Do you agree on living arrangements?
Will you be living with your significant other? Getting your own place? Staying with him/her before you get your own place? If so, how long will you stay? If you don’t land a job right away, do you have enough money to pay rent for a few months until you find one? If not, how long is your significant other willing/able to cover you? What if you realize after two months you don’t really like living together? These are all questions you need to discuss together and be in agreement on before you move. It’s a lot to talk about, but believe me, these discussions are much better to have before you make the move rather than after!
5. Do you have a back-up plan?
What happens if you make the move and things, for whatever reason, don’t work out? Maybe the relationship combusts. Maybe you can’t find a job. Maybe you realize you hate the city. What’s your next move? You can’t possibly anticipate every issue that might arise, nor should you be able to answer all these questions exactly, but you should have some idea what your back-up plan would be if you realize the move was a mistake. When I moved to New York, I brought my cats, laptop, and two suitcases, but left most of my belongings in storage in Chicago. I figured it would be much easier for me to return to them then pay to move everything to NYC before I’d decided 100 percent I was staying. (It took me five months before I felt certain enough to have movers bring my things.)
6. Can you financially afford to move?
This is an even more important question now than it was three years ago when I was getting ready to move. Back then, I figured I could save $5K – $7K and have enough to cover moving expenses and float me until I found a job. As soon as I moved, the economy really took a nose dive and it took me much, much longer to land steady employment than I had anticipated. I ran out of money pretty quickly and it was scary as hell. I almost returned back to Chicago where I could probably get my old job back, but I stayed put. Drew let me stay with him rent-free (this goes back to question #4), which helped a great deal. I pieced together enough freelance work to pay my student loans and buy groceries, but financially — as well as emotionally — it was a hard, hard first year here. Make it easier on yourself and have either a good job lined up or lots of money saved before you move.
7. Do you have job prospects in the new city?
This piggy-backs on the last question, but not only is having steady employment necessary for financial survival, it’s pretty important for your emotional well-being too. Anyone who has ever been unemployed for very long — and, sadly, that’s far too many people these days — can attest to how depressing it is to be out of work. Add to that the isolation you will likely feel being in a new town where maybe you don’t know many people other than your significant other, and it can be super damn lonely. Like I said, I had a lot of trouble securing work when I moved here and it took a real toll on my self-esteem. I was a depressed mess and didn’t even like going out to socialize with Drew’s friends because I felt like such a loser and hated telling people I still hadn’t found a job. I loved Drew and I loved New York, but the crappy economy almost ruined our relationship. Luckily, a job came right in the nick of time. You need to be familiar with the job market in your field in the new city. If it’s not promising, how long are you emotionally and financially prepared to be out of work?
8. Do you love this person more than the life you have where you live now?
This is a really big one and it’s so, so important. It’s pretty simple, though; if the answer’s no: do not go. Stay where you are and find someone in your own town who makes your heart sing. I had a pretty nice life in Chicago; I had a great circle of friends and I loved where I lived (five minutes from the beach!). But I loved Drew more and I knew his life in New York was much more firmly rooted than my life in Chicago, so the answer for me was a bittersweet “yes.” If the answer is “yes” for you too, make sure to address all the other questions before you make the move. This is a big decision, but I promise it has the potential to be one of the most gratifying ones of your whole life. It sure has been for me.