She saves everything

Chat today at 1. Glenn's going to run it, but I plan to pop in. My sinuses are feeling good. No big-girl pain meds anymore (sadly). I'm starting to get bored.

I let this one go long because the downward spiral is sort of important.

My girlfriend and I have been together for over a year. We have been long distance this past year, and because I love her and wanted to see where it would go, I moved back and gave up a well-paying job and comfortable situation to try things with her. She owns a house and I felt it made sense for me to come to her.

Since I moved in, I have been adjusting to not only being back in the area but to living with someone. While she has been amazing in so many ways, it has still been hard. I am not working and strapped for money. She does not have a lot of money either, so it has been a struggle as we have been living on the cheap. But the most difficult thing has been seeing all she keeps.

She doesn't get rid of much really, but in particular nothing from any ex. There are stuffed animals from every ex-girlfriend and cards from them and boxes that have tags but nothing in them from these people. Every time I clean a corner or move a box I find more mementos from ex-girlfriends!
The first thing I found was a framed picture of her and her most recent ex-girlfriend. I calmed myself down, made a joke, and then just asked that she get it out of the frame and put it somewhere else. She explained that when she takes things out of frames, she loses them, to which I asked why it mattered. We got into a heated debate that ended with me just asking that she move the picture out of the room. But she did not even do that. It took me taking the framed picture and putting it out on a shelf for her to finally move it. In the meantime I have been moving things in and cleaning and finding more and more.

Last night I explained that while I too save things from people and exes, I just try to save the important stuff. Not boxes of things in every crevice of the house. She asked if I still had all the cards she sent me while I was overseas, which I do. Of course. Because we are still together. If we break up, I would keep one, maybe two.

Under her bed are stuffed animals and pictures, in the closet are cards and pictures and more stuffed animals, and up in the attic are more pictures! There is even a memory book that has 10 pages devoted to her and her very first girlfriend ever.

I mean, where is the line? When can I get upset? It feels to me like I am any other girlfriend. Does that make sense? I have said this but it doesn't seem to lead anywhere. Yes, she keeps the cards I sent her. But could she find those any easier than the ones from anyone else? Nope. They are all just scattered everywhere. So are they any more meaningful?

It is just frustrating because I want to be with someone who wants me above anyone else. Not someone who just settles for me because nothing else seemed to pan out. I feel like I know I want her because I made sacrifices and have put myself out there but I am not sure I believe she has. Yes, I am living with her. But her previous relationship -- they were ready to move in together, too. I'm just the first one in the house because she just bought the house and met no one serious in that time between. And the only reason she and the last girl did not live together was because the ex balked at it. And then they finally broke up. Do you follow me? Is it beyond crazy? Because to me it is just ... the more I think about it the more to me I just feel like an addition -- like another roommate -- if I'm here, I'm here. If I go, I go. Know what I mean?

– Confused About My Place, Boston

I find it odd that so many of her exes gave her stuffed animals, CAMP. But that's another letter.
She's a hoarder and you’re not. She has the right to hoard and you have the right to demand that she pack up her mementos and put them in the basement where you don't have to see them. Because you live there and it's messy. Buy some plastic bins. Tell her to organize.

The bigger problem is that you're wondering whether you're your girlfriend's real partner of if you're just your girlfriend’s next girlfriend. (Read that twice and it will make sense.) Would you be asking that question if the mementos weren't in your face? Probably. The stress of a big move is bound to make you question everything. There's no way this was going to go smoothly. Even in a best case scenario you'd be uncomfortable in a new living situation.

Talk to your girlfriend about the effects of being displaced. She should empathize if you make this less about what she's doing wrong and more about how you're feeling. It's not just about the stuffed animals and old photos. It's that you want the house to be a shared space. You want to start building a life with your girlfriend. You want to make sure that's what she wants, too. What makes you different than past girlfriends? Ask. Find out.

I do think she wants you, by the way. I know that the reminders of her past are messing with your head, but you're over-simplifying her break-ups and your current relationship. You've forgotten all of the reasons why you moved. Write them down so you can remain sane. And talk to her about making the place a home for both of you. Organizing the mementos is just a part of the process.

And know this: if you're not ready to live together, that's OK. It doesn't mean the relationship is doomed. You can find a job and pay rent somewhere else and move in when you're really ready. I know it's about money, but consider what's best for both of you.

Readers? Is she just the first girlfriend who would move in? Is it weird that her ex keeps everything? Is the letter writer wrong to ask that the stuff to be put away? Should they be living together after a year of distance? What's happening here? Talk.

– Meredith