Dear Dategirl, After a year together, my boyfriend is moving in

Dear Dategirl,

After a year together, my boyfriend is moving in with me, and so far our only argument is the division of the ever-diminishing bookshelf space. I have made it known that I do not share book space; he will have his area and I’ll have mine. This is news to him. He feels like we should combine collections. The thought of this . . . well, I can’t even think about it. Please tell me I’m not crazy for not wanting to meld shelves!


Will it make you happy or sad to know that within a couple weeks, you’ll have plenty more arguments to take the pressure off this one? Wait ’til you see how he leaves the bathroom after a shower—forget about putting the seat down, how about hanging up that nasty wet towel? Oh, and the volume on the television when you’re trying to read, think, or pet the cat? Who knew Samsung went up to 11? But then maybe I’m projecting.

But meanwhile, there’s this: He wants to rub his Harry Potter up against your Mary Gaitskill, whereas the idea of looking for that elusive first-edition of God’s Pocket and stumbling instead across his dog-eared copy of The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle makes you nuts. This is an easily solvable problem. If you have enough space, keep them separate.

The only real deal-breaker I can see is if he is one of those people who wants to arrange their books by spine color and your insistence on separate shelves is messing with his aesthetic. I honestly can’t think of anything more disturbing than a book collection shelved, not alphabetically by topic, but by hue. I’m getting palpitations just thinking about it. Even random piles on the floor are better than that. So if it turns out he’s one of those types, promise me you’ll dump him. Seriously.

Let’s look at the good side: Your man obviously reads and then keeps books around once he’s finished them. Not to drag him through the mud, but someone close to me (ahem) reads and deletes on his iPad, not having one iota of understanding about the importance of the bound book or of keeping it for future reference. Yes, I have a Kindle, but for important books, nothing but paper will do. The look, the heft, the smell . . . aaah.

But let me warn you about one potential danger of keeping things separate as you delve into togetherness. One of the most vicious fights I’ve ever had was when a now-dead live-in ex accused me of stealing one of his books after he dumped me. I knew that we’d both had a copy of the book because I’d suggested selling one of them, but he refused, preferring to keep everything his and mine, never ours. Because I think he went into our relationship with an out.

So maybe (just maybe) you’re keeping your books separate as a way of keeping some distance between you. Having someone move into what was formerly your space can be terrifying. Could this be your way of marking your territory? Have a think about that, but if every other shared space belongs—really belongs—to both of you, it sounds like you’re on the right track.

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