Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: My significant other and I have been dating almost two years and have, in the last few months, become more committed to each other and more open/trusting of each other. We are seriously discussing marriage. I love her, and there are just so many great things about her … one of which is that she cares so much about other people, and tries to do so much good in her job as a pastor.
However, she lives in the parsonage right next to the church. The idea of moving into the parsonage feels somewhat oppressive to me — particularly because she has lived there as a single person for several years, but also because of the proximity to her job, which is not just a 9-to-5, keep-work-separate-from-home position. We are thinking about potential solutions, but it is still a difficult situation.
Do you have any advice at all? Specifically, any ideas about how not to feel like I’m just “fitting in” to her existing life by moving in around the edges of the parsonage and the job? I want to feel like we’re starting our new life together, but it’s difficult to get past how established her life is in the parsonage.
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Don’t Want to Live in the Parsonage
I’ve actually lived a version of this — teacher/boarding school, not pastor/parsonage, but the similarities are strong: housing that’s part of a job that isn’t neatly 9 to 5, where he was already established before I arrived.
From that perspective, I think you’re overthinking. Or overdreading, maybe.
For one, when the job doesn’t fit in a neat 9-to-5 box, it’s actually better to be living right there. Otherwise you would be in your nice, shared, private home never actually seeing your significant other because she’d always be at work, or commuting to or from. Not the effect you’re going for, I expect.
And, just because the space is attached to the job doesn’t mean it can’t be yours, too. Let yourself see the shared home as your private space, or even see just parts of it as belonging to you and your significant other, even if you don’t own it and you’re just temporary occupants. Go out of your way, together, to set up the space to your tastes; even if occasional relocations are part of the job, you can just think like a renter and make choices that are easy to move. See the person as your home, not the place.
And, simplistic as it sounds, be yourself there, too; don’t constantly bemoan that work is right outside the window, or edit yourself because you came later and therefore it’s not your space.
Look at it this way: More people are starting to live this way, not fewer, with telecommuting and shared office spaces and ever more blurring of lines. When she gets called to work, just remind yourself to be grateful she wastes only a minute getting there and a minute getting back, which maximizes your time together.
If you simply can’t imagine the ever-present job, though, then this might not be the person for you. You really do need to buy into the idea that loving her means sharing her ungrudgingly with her work.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.