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House Warning

Emily Flake

By Mink Stole | Posted 10/10/2001

Just how long does it take for a love affair to go from passionate to played out? Two years ago, when we started dating, he brought me candy and flowers, took me out to dinner, plays, and movies, and couldn't keep his hands off me. We had really stimulating conversations all the time about anything and everything. Now about the only thing we still do regularly is talk. His job is demanding, and I'm in grad school with a part-time job, so we don't have lots of time together, but when I suggest an evening out, he balks. The only times we even get to a movie are when his best friend, whom I don't much like, gets free tickets and takes us, which makes it less than a special event for me. We're still very affectionate, lots of hugs, but our lovemaking has become much less frequent, almost perfunctory, and pretty much one-sided--his. I know it's normal for even the most intense affairs to move into a comfortable stage, but I'm only 22 (he's 28) and I think that's a little too young to settle into a life of recliners, remotes, and reruns. I love him, but should I stay?

Not Old Yet

Dear Not Old:
Some guys have only enough romantic energy in them to last through courtship. Once a woman has been wooed and won, they feel they've earned the right to relax, take a load off, romantically speaking, and focus their attentions elsewhere, with the occasional check-in to see if you're still breathing. And some guys expect that the cash they coughed up for a couple of months' worth of dinners and flowers was a short-term investment that should pay long-term dividends. If your guy is either of these, run away fast. On the other hand, if you've been expecting him to devote all of what little free time he has solely to your amusement and pay for it too, that's not completely fair either. Offer to treat, see if you can't get him to a movie alone, then take him home and rock his world. Romantic maintenance isn't just one person's job, you know. If, after your best efforts, he persists in treating you like an old college pal, nice to have around but nothing special, you better move on.

My girlfriend and I have been dating for several months, and we definitely want to live together. I own my house and she rents, so I think the obvious thing would be for her to move in with me. But she's not sure she'd feel like it would really be her home. She thinks it would be a better idea to look for something we could buy together that would start out as our home rather than try to fit herself into mine, especially since she's a writer and works at home. I've been here four years, and to be honest I am pretty well settled in, but I love her and I think we could make it work. We're both women in our 40s and ready to commit to something permanent. I'll move if I have to, but I love my house. What do you think?

Homebody in Love

Dear Homebody:
My heartfelt congratulations and condolences. The first because it's always wonderful when two people old enough to know what they want fall in love; the second because, if you're even remotely as territorial as I am, it will be harder than hell to give up total mastery of your domain. You love having her there so much now you may not think so, but when it comes time to give her half your closet space, it's gonna hurt worse than a pair of cheap shoes. For the sake of starting from neutral corners, so to speak, it would probably be best to get a new place together, but, if your house is really too good to give up, you'll need to be willing to negotiate some compromises. For instance, if you must display your precious porcelain-cat collection in the living room, she should have the right to hang that LeRoy Neiman print she's had since her dorm days in the bathroom.

Another major thing to consider is how you plan to consolidate your expenses. You certainly won't want to sign over half your ownership in the house to her immediately, but she'll feel a lot more like it's her home if she has some sort of financial equity in it. I'm not a lawyer or a real-estate expert, but there may be some legal way to have her participate in the mortgage, so that if she pays in she could conceivably get something back if the worst happens and you split up. Otherwise, any money she pays toward the mortgage would effectively be rent, which would make you her landlord, and that can throw even a good relationship out of whack.

Blending households is doable, obviously--people do it all the time--but you'd be wise to spend a little of your billing and cooing time in frank discussion of what each of you really needs in a living situation, and what you're willing to do to get it. Love may conquer all, but it takes a carpenter to build new closets.

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