How I Confronted My Fear of Building a Home

My boyfriend says, “What about all your stuff, where’s your stuff going to go?”

We are lying in bed, having a conversation about moving logistics. He suggests waiting until his housemate’s tenancy ends so that there’s more space for me to move in. 

I tell him, yeah, but the problem is that I’ve already told my own housemate I’m leaving and she expects me gone by the end of the month.

He says, “Okay, but it’ll be cramped.”

“It wouldn’t be so bad,” I say, “if you got rid of a few things… maybe the minidisc hi-fi system from the living room—you don’t even own any minidiscs, and even if you did, it’s not 2003.”

He seems perturbed. “Alright, don’t worry,” I say, “I don’t really own much stuff.” 

I really don’t. I am 34 and basically untethered from any material reality. I own some boxes of clothes, not good ones—old stuff from Zara, some men’s shirts stolen from ex-boyfriends, and one box of shoes.

“What about your kitchenware?” He asks. What kitchenware? I don’t even own plates. 

He looks at me across the expanse of the bed: “You don’t own anything?” 

Bedding, I tell him, but we can throw it out if he likes.

I would like to move past this particular milestone quickly, because the times I’ve approached it before (twice, to be exact), I have found myself incapable of making it happen. After my last failed attempt at moving in with someone, I spent a week doing intensive relationship therapy in Berlin.

It’s not that I think moving in with someone is a particularly big deal—there are so many other things: meeting the friends, the parents, getting a dog, buying a house, having a baby—all much bigger milestones, emotionally and materially speaking, than this particular one. It’s just that each time I’ve approached it I’ve felt—to borrow the much-reviled TikTok vernacular—“triggered.” The last time it was mooted as an option in a serious relationship, I had quite a strong reaction, which involved acid, a sex party at a commune in Willesden Junction, and the explosion of my entire mind. Like: splat! There it goes. 

I remember, when I was seeing my therapist in Berlin, telling him that this sabotaging thing is something I do only at the very particular point in a relationship when someone is about to move in or when I’m about to move in with them. He said that it sounded like a pattern, for sure, “but it’s probably more about your fear of building a home than it is about the relationships themselves.” I considered this for a while: Was I scared of building a home? 

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