{living in sin} But Where Will We Live? Part II

by Rachel on June 6, 2012

Read {living in sin} But Where Will We Live? Part I

When Eric and I moved in together last April, I moved to his apartment the suburbs because, well, why not? I like the ‘burbs enough. They are convenient, they feel like my hometown in Michigan, and in this case, the apartment was close enough to the city that I didn’t feel like I’d be totally cut off. Plus, my job is out here, and I love being close to work. So for the past year, I’ve been living in the suburbs (or “the country” according to my coworkers). And while I can’t say that I was exactly unhappy out here, about nine months in, I started to feel like something was just…off.

Dilemma #2: The City vs. The Country

As I said earlier, since my staying in Houston was dependent on my making it feel like home, I started putting a lot more effort into making friends and taking advantage of the cool things that the city has to offer. But after a few months of doing this, I realized that I was really far from all the people and things that were happening. Even though we are close enough to the city that we aren’t totally cut off, getting the motivation to go into said city to do said things can be really hard. I’ve been trying — we both have — but the traffic and heat make it pretty exhausting. So I just began to look forward to moving back to the city at some point.

And I realized — and this was a big “getting it” moment for me — that the only way I’ve ever really been OK with living the suburbs was by seeing them as short-term thing. The suburbs were either a relief from the city, a place to go for a little while to escape all the ways the city can suck, or a place I was stuck for longer than I wanted to be due to my family or financial situation. But I always treated living there as temporary.

When I started to think about moving back to the city, I realized I didn’t know if Eric was hoping to do the same. Actually I was pretty sure he wasn’t. I began to worry…what if it’s not temporary? What if this is it? 

So once again Eric and I had to ask ourselves: where will we live?

This time, answering that question was a lot more heated. Eric thought I liked living in the suburbs and the fact is, I do. But then I don’t. Since I was moved to Grand Blanc as a kid, after living in Chicago, I’ve felt torn between the city and the suburbs. I tried to explain to him why the suburbs were starting to become a problem for me, and, once again, I was struck by how our desired living situations so clearly reflected who we are.

Eric is low-maintenance, a homebody, not terribly concerned with keeping up with trends, and he values working hard and earning a nice, though not overly flashy, life. While he likes having the option to go into the city, he doesn’t like the grind that is living in the city. Knowing that, I totally understood why buying a house in the suburbs was part of the plan he has for himself.

While I’m also laid-back and love doing things at home, I like being that person in the midst of a chaotic city. I like trying new things and meeting new people, and I’m OK with the grind (even though I, like most city-dwellers, complain about it when I’m in the middle of it). But what really hit me during this conversation was that I’ve really started to own the fact that I am a creative, a writer, by profession, and that creatives flock to the cities for a reason. Being the ability to interact with other creatives on a regular basis, I also like the city because it provides me with new and different experiences — which provides me with new material.

Living in the city inspires me and makes me feel hungry in a way that life in the suburbs just doesn’t. That’s really what it came down to for me, and that’s why I was feeling so strongly that I needed to be back in the city. It’s not that my work was sucking, but I knew it could be better. I know it seems silly, but I was worried that by staying in the suburbs, I was just going to slide into having 2.5 kids and a minivan without even realizing it. Life in the suburbs moves slow, and I was worried I, too, was going to slow down…and then eventually grind to a halt. While I know that plenty of creatives live in the suburbs, have their 2.5 kids and a minivan, and do great work, I felt like at this point in my life, I still need the energy of a city to keep me going.

While Eric understood where I was coming from, he felt like the city would be way too expensive and way too stressful to make it worth it. And…he had a point. I couldn’t say for sure. I wanted to be able to fight hard for this, but I was scared. What if I was wrong?

And as we struggled to answer these questions and figure out how to compromise, we landed on the bigger dilemma that I’d been denying, dreading, and avoiding: renting vs. buying.

{ 34 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karissa June 6, 2012 at 11:05 am

I say buy and live a few miles outside of the city radius. I’ve never been to Houston but we live about 4 miles from downtown in a semi-suburb. There are still tons of restaurants and things to do and we can easily get into the city without much trouble. I refuse to believe it ever makes sense to rent and throw away money when you’re mortgage could be lower. The rates are SO low right now too. In ATX we’re seeing numbers like 3.5%.

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2 Mel June 6, 2012 at 11:14 am

RACHEL! These cliffhangers…you’re killing me.. :)

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3 Erin June 6, 2012 at 11:17 am

Can I just say thank you for writing this? This illustrates so clearly the fact that transitions (getting engaged, buying a house, moving, etc) are hard. Really hard. Not that they aren’t also fun and exciting, but it isn’t sunshine and rainbows all day, every day. So thank you for presenting your situation honestly!

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4 Rachel June 6, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Thank you for this!

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5 Kavi June 6, 2012 at 11:18 am

I can totally relate to this sentiment. I absolutely LOVE city life, and all the excitement that comes with it. On the other hand, I always enjoy a nice wknd at my parents’ home in the suburbs… so relaxing! It’s a tough decision. Can’t wait to hear what you decide!

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6 Amanda @ Click. The Good News June 6, 2012 at 11:26 am

I hear ya! One of the few big regrets in life is moving out of the city into Houston suburbs. I miss it terribly & we seriously considered moving back into town or to the Woodland (near friends). But for a variety of reason (my suburban job, my suburban family, our future kids, the cost), we decided to stay put in the suburbs. I think there are some great neighborhoods in Houston that put you in the mix, but still have a little bit of a neighborhood feel & local community vibe (heights or Garden oaks). The rent vs buy is a tough decision, and renting is paying for the flexibility. The rates are stupid low right now & the Houston market is so good, especially in the city, you’d have no problem buying & selling/moving within a few years if you change your mind.

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7 Jessica June 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

Thank you for putting down my thoughts in words, pretty much always.
The “cliff-hangers” are killing me!

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8 julie @ peanut butter fingers June 6, 2012 at 11:50 am

oh gosh, i relate to this post 1,000,000 percent. when my husband and i moved to ocala, florida last year, we both did so under the assumption that it was only temporary. it’s a far cry from our ideal place to live. i am like you in that i thrive in an environment that is saturated with new experiences. coming from orlando where there was a limitless amount of things to do to ocala has definitely been an adjustment. it is a good thing for us to discover though, because part of me always thought i was a “small town girl.” now we know that the place we both hope to settle needs to be in a more stimulating area or at least close to a bigger city than we ever thought before.

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9 Dori June 6, 2012 at 11:51 am

I will be forever grateful to my job for forcing me to learn about Jersey City. After being so sick of and frustrated by New York City life but still needing to be close, I am so happy I was able to move somewhere that is not in the middle of the chaos but close enough to very easily get back and forth (which I do after work almost every day). Can’t wait to read the next part!

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10 Mary June 6, 2012 at 11:58 am

You guys should just go on House Hunters! They ALWAYS figure it out!

You’re welcome!!!!!!

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11 Rachel June 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Haha, they start with their entire list of what they are looking for! It took us a long time that point!

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12 Deva @ Deva by Definition June 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm

I think for House Hunters you have to be under contract to go on. Property Virgins, OTOH, I don’t think that’s the case. We did neither, we just looked at 100+ houses two years ago, and then four last year before going under contract on the house I’m now sitting in.

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13 Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie June 6, 2012 at 12:02 pm

Well put! I think this is a really common struggle for couples, especially when they’re starting the big “buying a house” discussion. I’m the same as you, I love the city. Love love love it. But my city is also a really small, walk everywhere city (San Francisco). And as much as I love it, I still really enjoy getting out of the city. My plan is to buy a weekend house in Sonoma and eventually move to “the country” once I’m bored/exhausted by city life. :)

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14 D June 6, 2012 at 12:13 pm

How much of this did you discuss with Eric before you moved to Houston or before you guys moved in? Are you surprised by the way he feels about things? I think it would be really interesting if you wrote about the discussions you had BEFORE you moved to Houston!

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15 Rachel June 6, 2012 at 12:38 pm

Like I said on Monday, at that time it didn’t seem like a big deal — the big question was whether or not we’d even work out! We talked about whether I could live in Houston and the answer was basically like, “Well…we’ll find out!” So at that time we didn’t really get into the answers to “Do you want to stay in Houston forever? Where do you see yourself living in ten years?” because there were so many other variables at play and, for me anyway, the answers were just more questions. We didn’t really start having these conversations until we had confirmed that we wanted to marry each other (which was after we’d moved in together). To me, the most important thing was talking about them before we got engaged or married, and I feel like when we had the convos worked out just fine for us.

And I’d say I was a little surprised by how he felt at first (and I think he was surprised about my feelings too), but the more we talked, the more we realized that it made sense we each felt this way. It was definitely good for both of us to realize this stuff about ourselves and each other.

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16 Savannah June 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Oh Rachel! I am totally with you on this. My feyonce (still using this every chance I get) and I love about an hour away from the city. And while I like not living smack dab in the middle of chaos, I do miss living in the city or living much closer to the city. I’m a creative too and I NEED to be able to go to a dance class or even window shop without it being a huge production that requires an extra commute.

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17 Jessica June 6, 2012 at 12:50 pm

I vote for buying! This is what I told my husband: just because you buy doesn’t mean you’re STUCK…you can always rent your home out, have a nice little side income, and go live in a hut on the beach if that’s what you want!

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18 Megan June 6, 2012 at 12:52 pm

My husband and I are going through a bit of this right now. We currently live outside of the city because it’s cheaper, he needs easy access to freeways/highways for his commute, and my job, school, and the mass transit system are all within 1/2 mile of our apartment, letting me easily give up my car and save money.

Now that I’m done with school, though, and he has a really great paying job (mine is pretty meh, and not worth staying where we are with his 150 mile/day commute), we’re talking about where we want to go. He wants to be in or right outside of the city because “there’s so much to do!” and I want to move back to the “country” and get away from all the hipsters and otherwise douchey people this city seems to be in abundance of (Portland, OR).

It causes a lot of tension with us because our wants are so incredibly different. Plus, he wants to think about buying and I really don’t like the idea of being responsible for such a huge thing, especially since we don’t plan on having kids. I hope it was easier for you guys to figure out than it is for me!

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19 Rain June 6, 2012 at 1:29 pm

We live in the country…and there are good things, and bad things.

I am not much of a city person, but we live almost an hour away from Austin…and there are things we like to do in Austin, and one of my good friends is in Austin.
I get torn…I love the peacefulness of the country, I like that I can have my horses, and for the most part our neighbors are far enough away to not bug us….We have a large piece of property which I like for the kids….

BUT I hate the long drive if I want to go do something….the gas costs….no one wants to drive out and service anything we have at the house for a reasonable amount because we live so far out. I totally hear you on the heat and traffic/driving issue!

I would choose the suburbs over the city at this point. Close enough, but far enough away.

I think it sounds like you are a city girl right now….but if you really are thinking of your future…and of having kids soon, the suburbs or country is a much better place to raise children.

At least in my opinion :)

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20 Rachel June 6, 2012 at 1:43 pm

The children thing is definitely a big factor, and that’s why renting vs. buying came up at this point. I can totally see the argument for raising your kids in the country, but I also felt like being raised in Chicago was awesome. I think city kids are pretty happy being city kids, you know? So while that was definitely a factor in these convos, based on my own experiences, I didn’t feel like I could say definitively that the suburbs were a better place to raise kids.

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21 Meghan June 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm

I understand the dilemma, especially in Houston because there are SO many neighborhoods/suburbs. I live pretty much in the middle because I wouldn’t be able to handle the traffic and having to plan around rush hour if I wanted to come into the city. You’ve surely made your decision :) but something like the Heights would be nice!

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22 Nikki June 6, 2012 at 5:20 pm

Ugh – try to take the emotion out of the “rent vs. buy” decision. Use this calculator to see what is really the best financially and look at the real rental rates and house costs in the exact neighborhoods you want to live in – then decide. This is the LAST thing you should do (after deciding where/how you want to live and where/how you want to raise your future kids.
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/business/buy-rent-calculator.html

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23 Deva @ Deva by Definition June 6, 2012 at 8:35 pm

As you know, we bought our house last year, which took a lot of decision-making and discussion-making. LOTS. And the arguments OH THE ARGUMENTS. I never realized how passionate I was about living in the suburbs because it was all I knew until we were talking about moving to be closer to downtown, into a more urban area. For us, buying was the best option, because rental rates where we wanted to live were high and we’re getting more space in our house for what we would be paying for a 2 bedroom apartment.

Getting to the “let’s move to be walking distance to places!” point was the hard one. I’m glad we did, because it makes weekends so much more fun and easy. Though, sometimes, I wish I had a garage. It’s the little things, right?

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24 melissanibbles June 7, 2012 at 4:27 am

I don’t mean to come across negative, so please don’t take it that way. It sounds like you are doing all the compromising and bending to Eric’s wishes. Why does a move have to be permanent? Why can’t he try renting in the city for a year to see if he likes it and so you’ll have a chance to really thrive? You moved there for him and you’re making it sound like he’s done nothing to help you acclimate except do the dishes? That’s not exactly helping. He should be doing those things anyway. If you’re feeling stifled by your living situation going forward, you’re going to resent him for it and always wonder what if. He’s not going to know if he likes the city unless he gives it a try. A year isn’t that long.

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25 Rachel June 7, 2012 at 8:23 am

Well, the story isn’t over yet! I brought up the exact reasons you did — does a move have to be permanent? can’t we just find out how we like the city? — during our conversations, but that led to the renting vs. buying debate, so I planned to get into in my next post.

You’re right when you say that he should be doing the dishes anyway…and he is! I think I’ve been pretty clear in the past that we split chores evenly. The compromise (and I may not have communicated this properly) is that he’s doing extra chores (my portion of them) so I have more time free to write. He has priorities of his own, career and otherwise, so his taking time away from those to do things at home and prioritize my shit is a big deal.

Also, I have a problem making the argument that I moved here for him and so now he should do X, Y, and Z. Moving here was my choice and it wasn’t conditional on anything. It was an experiment for both of us, it really wasn’t a major sacrifice on my part. Now, staying here? Yes, I am doing that “for” him, and he should absolutely help me acclimate. That’s what all these posts have been about. But it’s all based on the fact that I’ve chosen to stay here; the fact that I moved here is, to me anyway, irrelevant.

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26 MelissaNibbles June 7, 2012 at 9:28 am

Now that you explain it that way, I understand that it’s more about you staying there. I don’t think that’s come across in your previous posts so that’s why I have the opinion that I do. Carry on!

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27 Rachel June 7, 2012 at 9:36 am

Ha…I literally laughed out loud at “Carry on!”

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28 Stephanie June 7, 2012 at 10:31 am

I’m looking to part three of this one…

The whole renting versus buying thing freaks me out because while buying seems like the more financially sound moves most times, renting gives you an out if you hate it or if something changes. My fear with buying where I live is that I will buy and then be stuck for years and years and really, at 23 I don’t want to be stuck anywhere.

Of course renting where I live is also difficult when I have a boyfriend who must have a four car garage because that seems to be his one “must have thing.” So yeah…I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out.

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29 Alexia (Dimple Snatcher) June 7, 2012 at 10:33 pm

If I were you in your place, I’d hope that we could come to a compromise so that we both get what we want! If I get married in the next few years (please Jesus!!!!), my hope is that my husband and I could live in the city temporarily until we’re ready to move to the suburbs and have chirrens and such.

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30 Shannon June 8, 2012 at 12:49 pm

This is really thought-provoking… there are so many areas of a relationship where people can differ!

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31 Nikki June 8, 2012 at 6:29 pm

For the love of god, this is like when a triology movie comes out and I haven’t read the books, and no one will spoil it for me. I’ll still love the story, I just want to know what happens!

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32 Danielle June 9, 2012 at 6:42 am

I think that you’ll make it work wherever you are. I grew up in a suburb and had very creatively productive times there. Sitting under a tree in my yard and writing poetry was blissful. I then went to NYC for film school and that was a creative time too.

I found that my biggest impediment to creativity was ‘lack of time’ – when I started working non-stop (in the business end of entertainment), I didn’t have the energy to be creative. Then, I switched to another job, which for awhile also involved me working non-stop, and which again left me exhausted. Now I’m in a job where I have a little more free time, where my brain can have the time to rest and generate new ideas. Now it seems that my biggest impediment to creativity is getting sucked into the land of technology during my free time (TV, internet, etc.)

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33 Meg O. June 10, 2012 at 11:52 am

I totally understand the whole mess of trying to get to town from the ‘burbs. We live out in the suburbs and when we were looking for a house, one of our main priorities was to get a house very close to the freeway so we could get to town easily. We found a perfect location for that but still find ourselves not wanting to make the trek (after all, I-45 REALLY sucks nowadays because of the construction they’re doing to it).

I think being in the suburbs doesn’t trap you into less creativity. I think living life, wherever and however that is, can inspire your work. I work in the creative field (I think directing high school theatre counts) – I live in the burbs with a baby and I’m inspired daily. And let’s face it, real estate is just more bang for your buck in the ‘burbs!

Perhaps renting would be good for y’all so you can get a feel for what you like before you make that big decision. Renting would give you that freedom to compromise and move into town until you have to get more serious, raise children, etc. Good luck!!

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34 Katrina June 12, 2012 at 8:40 pm

So excited for you guys! My husband and I are perpetual renters, and I’m sure committing to buy was a HUGE step. We’ve tried a couple of times, but are still working up the courage. It’s seriously scary!

Congrats on a major milestone. Can’t wait to hear more details about the new pad!

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