Q: My boyfriend has asked me to move into his house. We both have good jobs and stable incomes. We’re in our mid-thirties, and both of us have failed marriages. He doesn’t have children, I do, and that complicates things. He swears he’ll do whatever it takes to make it work. He loves me and wants us to be real couple twenty-four seven. I really love him, but I’m not sure if this is the best thing for us right now. My kids come first in my life, and I have to think of them. I’m torn. He’s a really great guy, and the kids love him. Any suggestions?

A: The fact you aren’t making this decision impulsively speaks well of you. There are several comments in your question that concern me. You’re not sure if this is the best thing to do. What is it that worries you? Is it your loss of independence? If you’ve been on your own for a while, you’ve been living under your terms, making your own decisions, doing what’s best for you and your children. Are you prepared to compromise your freedom to be a family because you won’t be a couple, no matter what he thinks? If you say no, how will this affect your relationship? Will it go on as it has or will he cut his losses? You need to know the answer to that. If this is some form of emotional blackmail, then get out of Dodge and don’t look back!

That brings up concern number two. He wants you to be a couple—his words? Where do your children fit in? I assume you’ve got primary custody and they live with you most of the time. I noticed you said he asked you “to move into his house” not move in together. This sounds like a controlling statement. Once you move in, it’ll be your house, your children’s home as well as his. Kids are noisy, messy, wonderful little people with minds and personalities of their own. If your ex has visiting rights and takes them periodically you may have couple-time, but you’ll be a family twenty-four seven, not a couple.

You mentioned you’d both been married and it hadn’t worked out. Again, why? You know why your marriage failed, but do you know why his did? Are there similarities there? I know moving in together isn’t a traditional marriage, but in the eyes of the law, in many states and countries, common law relationships can be as binding, and like marriage, they carry additional baggage. Have you met the rest of his family? What do they think of the idea? What does your family think?

Now, we get to the crux of the matter. You say you really love him, but do you like him? Do you see him as daddy-material? Are there little things about him that drive you crazy? Those little things will take on the proportions of an elephant once you move in together. While you’re dating you’re both putting your best foot forward, but once you’re living in the same house, all bets are off. Will he be content to share you with your children? Never really be first because kids always come first with their mommy. Right now, when you spend time together, it’s probably just the two of you. No doubt you spend time with the children too, but how often? You say the kids love him, ask them why? Does he bribe them when he sees them?—candy, movies, etc.? That’ll change when you move in together.

I’m not Solomon with the wisdom of the ages to offer. What he’s offering you could be the best thing to come along in a long time. If his love for you is deep and true, it’ll encompass your children, and you can all be one happy family; however, if it isn’t, if it’s a selfish me kind of obsession where he’s asking you to move in so he can control you and the relationship, then this could be a huge mistake. There’s a reason why you aren’t sure. Take the time and find out what it is, then listen to your heart and mind. Together, they’ll give you the answer you need.

~ Susanne Matthews, author of Just for the Weekend, In Plain Sight, and Fire Angel