In April 2021, I met a guy named Iain in front of Buckingham Palace. Much like the first verse of Taylor Swift’s “London Boy,” I saw the dimples first and then I heard the accent. From there, I fell quickly, blissfully, head-over-heels in love. The only problem? I was set to leave the U.K. in a few months, which—I feared—meant our love story was destined to be either short-lived or long-distance. There was no in-between.
Fast-forward to July 2022, when I began packing up my apartment and preparing to move back to London to live with Iain—a person for whom, for reasons both abstract and explainable, it made perfect sense to move.
“Making a move is not an easy decision or a quick act,” says dating and relationship therapist Anita Chlipala, author of First Comes Us: The Busy Couple’s Guide to Lasting Love. “It takes thought and planning. It takes time for conversations with partners, family and friends, work colleagues. It takes time for research on what this new life might look like.”
For me, the decision was relatively simple. I love London, yes, but I also love Iain. He could be based in Sydney or Shanghai or Santiago and I’d still gladly pack my life up and move to be with him—partly because my career is much more flexible, location-wise, than his (as a writer and author, I can live just about anywhere), and partly because home is where the heart is, and mine is planted firmly in the palm of Iain’s hand.
“If you don’t move, you may always wonder what could have come of your relationship,” says Chlipala. “If you do move, you’ll have your answer.”
However, that can, of course, often be much easier said than done. Leaving behind all that you know and love can be scary, so it’s smart to be proactive in finding ways to make your new life feel as fulfilling and as yours as possible.
“Start creating a list of ways to combat potential loneliness, especially if you don’t have any friends where you’re moving,” suggests Chlipala. “Although you can rely on your partner, putting 100 percent responsibility on [them] to be your social outlet isn’t realistic. Research organizations, groups, and activities that you can join to make your own social network. You want to create your own life so that you increase the chances that you’ll feel satisfied and decrease the chances that you’ll feel resentment, especially toward your partner.”
I spoke with 14 people who have moved across state lines, coasts, and continents for and with their partners about why it was the right decision for them. Here’s what they had to say.
- “My boyfriend and I had been long-distance for four years, and we both were just, like, ‘How many trains can we take? How many hours in the car can we do? How many weekends can we spend together to make up for the time that we’re missing?’ So, I decided, once my lease was up, we were 100 percent moving in together—I didn’t care where it was. Whether we were going to be in Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania, or in New York, or down where his family lives in Florida, I knew we’d be good no matter where we are. If you don’t have trust and a stable foundation before moving, it’s not going to solve the problem. But if you have that person you know you want to spend your life with, being with them is being home.”—Olivia, 25
- “I think one thing that always irked me about my choice was when friends framed it as ‘moving for him.’ Yes, he was the one who moved away. I didn’t get to choose the location. But I moved for us, and most importantly, I moved for myself. This decision was not one made lightly but considered over years. We gathered lots of information about opportunities available in Boston, sought advice from others who’d made similar choices, and communicated constantly about our future plans, regardless of how painful many of those conversations were. Criticism of my choice often felt steeped in gendered biases, as if our relationship existed in a vacuum, void of any nuance or history. ‘Don’t let a man tell you what to do,’ or ‘Don’t give up your career for some heteronormative BS.’ I think the intention behind these comments was mostly good. I would probably have given female friends the same advice! But no one knows your story but you. People might be jealous! Your friends will likely miss you! Maybe they’re feeling insecure about their own decisions. But I still chose my happiness. I chose autonomy. I chose flexibility. And I happened to choose Boston. In other words, you do you!” —Alex, 28
- “My husband and I first met on Hinge in New York, and I knew he would eventually be moving to West Africa for two years from our very first date. I’d just come out of a relationship and was just going with the flow and thought, ‘He’s a nice guy, I’ll continue to see him and we’ll see what comes of it.’ We ended up getting married a year later—a year from the day we met—and from that point, I was like, ‘Right, we’re doing this…’ It really is an adjustment—anything previously that was convenient about life is gone. But ultimately, it’s just two years of my life, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and it’s a chance to try something new. And the person makes it all worthwhile, 1000 percent.” —Jessica, 31
- “I had just completed my masters in education and accepted a brand new job in my Baltimore hometown when my fiancé matched for medical residency in Brooklyn, NY. I hated to leave my budding career behind, especially since my teaching license didn’t transfer to New York. Once we were there, however, I ended up teaching at a small private school, a job I absolutely adored but never would have pursued if we’d stayed in Baltimore. Life was good, until four years later, when my husband matched for fellowship in Pennsylvania. I was crushed once again, especially when I couldn’t find another teaching job I loved as much as the one in New York. I decided to take a few years off to be a stay-at-home mom, and finally penned the novel I’d always wanted to write. If I hadn’t moved for love, I never would have fulfilled this lifelong dream.” —Lindsay, 36
- “I moved from the city of Jos in the northern part of Nigeria to Onitsha in the east… The north and east don’t even share the same language, so that’s two different states with distinct cultures and languages for me. My partner had a more established career at the time and I was looking to get away from the north, so it just made sense to move… I think anyone who’s thinking of moving should spend around three months in the new city to get a feel for it first. What the cost of living is like (because nothing on the internet is accurate), the people, career opportunities… Just spend a trial time in the new city or country and decide for yourself if you could afford to live there long-term.” —Lily, 28
- “With [my now-husband], who’s English, it wasn’t like I was moving straight off the bat or he was moving for me. It was definitely a conversation for the better part of a year. We’d actually processed an application for him to move to America when he ended up getting a really amazing job opportunity in London… We’ve been here for three years now, and we’ve just kind of kept the conversation going, but I’ve really been enjoying it. All this to say, you might be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. It’s just all about having super open communication and being honest about what you want and need.” —Addie, 27
- “I’m the classic case—I moved for love. His life and his family were in Croatia, and he was never going to live anywhere else. So for me—someone who’d always wanted to live in Europe, anyway, ever since I’d studied abroad—it was an easy decision. I could work remotely, which was great, and now I’m just getting adjusted to the language. It’s difficult, but overall, life here is pretty easy. It’s much slower than the pace in New York or London, but I think that gives you a fresh perspective. It’s a chance to explore something different in your relationship, but also in the world.” —Gabriella, 29
- “Having dated in New York, I wasn’t finding anyone who I was connecting with on a special level. So, when I met Jerome, who’s French, and he told me, ‘Listen, I have to leave the country and I want you to come with me,’ it didn’t even cross my mind to say no because I knew how rare our connection was. It also made professional sense for me to get my masters degree in London [where we ultimately moved] at that time… We set a clear boundary, too, and decided, together, that we were going to move back to America at some point.”
“I was in a really good spot professionally when we decided to move back to the U.S., and I’m taking a huge risk, maybe even taking a demotion, because I don’t know the market or the people in the same way. But I’m doing it because that’s what we have to do.” —Elyse & Jerome, 28 and 30
- “I didn’t specifically move to Atlanta for [my now-husband], but I didn’t *not* move to Atlanta for him. He ended up having to travel for work four days of the week, so it did become pretty lonely… But it was a chance for him to prioritize his career, and it also pushed me outside of my comfort zone—professionally and otherwise. After a few years though, I was like, ‘Okay, my turn to pick where we go next.’ And we ended up moving to Florida for *my* career.” —Alex, 29
- “A lot of times, in a relationship, dreams don’t align at the same time. So, if I was given a job four years ago that was going to take me to Charlotte, NC, and four years later, I’m remote and [my boyfriend’s] getting a job that takes him back to Knoxville— which was the case for us—it was something that I needed to approach from a place of equality and partnership… We had a pretty serious conversation before we moved to Knoxville about how this was not going to be a landing pad for us—it’s probably just a little too small of a town for me to be happy in forever—and we both needed to be considerate of that. It was a very equal trade-off.” —Clare, 26
- “My boyfriend and his whole family are from Atlanta, and he didn’t really want to move. But early on, I said, ‘I don’t even like Atlanta, we’re definitely going to move if we stay together….’ We were together for three and a half-ish years before we mutually decided it was time to move to Chicago. I was feeling unhappy and unsettled and I wanted to go, and we’d become a unit at that point, and therefore, we knew we’d be happier together wherever we lived.” —Caroline, 29
- “We met in Brussels, traveling around, and a couple of months later, we reconnected when Malcolm came to the U.S. for a conference. We were inseparable after that. I knew I wanted to be in Scandinavia, wound up looking for jobs near him, and eventually landed a job in Oslo. We had to have the conversation pretty early on about whether or not we wanted to move in together—which, looking back, was pretty crazy—but it made sense for us.”
“You’ve just got to be honest, not put too many expectations on your partner, and make sure that place is the right place for both of you.” —Gentry & Malcolm, 28 and 30
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