There comes a time in every LTR when the two of you decide to pack up your bags and move west. Well, at least if you are a comedian (or actor, or lover of sunshine, or gold miner).
As a comedian who has moved cross-country with my comedian girlfriend, I can attest to how difficult it is. When we lived in Chicago, my girlfriend and I had our favorite date spots, we knew the best bike paths, and we had a system. We were completely adjusted to life there, both as individuals and as a unit. When we got to L.A., everything was thrown completely off-balance. We were trying to figure out a new city, our relationship in a new place, and, most importantly, where to go for good tacos.
Heather Dean (@hdeancomedy) is a performer/writer who made the big move from Chicago to L.A. with her girlfriend of four and a half years, Audrey Watanabe. Because I’m a big fan of asking other people to give advice in this column, I asked Heather about how she and Audrey made their LTR work through such a huge, cross-country transition.
AfterEllen: So, what inspired the move from Chicago to L.A.?
Heather Dean: We both had been living in Chicago for a long time, and felt like we had hit a plateau in our careers. Audrey always wanted to live on the West Coast and I wanted to move to L.A. so it was an easy decision to make.
AE: I know you packed up your car and drove to Chicago from L.A. Who did most of the driving?
Heather: It’s funny you should ask “Who drove?” At the time of moving out to California (the most car-crazy state) I only had a learner’s permit, so Audrey drove across country by herself. I supplied ample jokes and navigational support.
AE: What sights did you see?
Heather: We planed the whole trip out, in the months leading up to our move, based on the cities and sights we wanted to see. Unfortunately, the government was shutdown so all of the national parks were closed. It turns out that St. Louis has nothing to offer travelers when the Gateway Arch is closed.
We also had to reroute our trip away from Denver because it got hit by a huge flood days before. In perfect Audrey-Heather fashion we ended up going to Colorado Springs, which unexpectedly turned into the highlight of our adventure. We spent a relaxing two night stay at what turned out to be a Military base, and saw breath taking mountain views during some hikes. We knew California would be an expensive relocation, so we decided to take advantage of our trip, made it a weeklong vacation. We took our time, and stopped at some truly weird roadside stands. My favorite stop was the Kansas’ “Farm of Mutant cows.” I thought it was amazing, while Audrey was horrified.
AE: Was the road trip stressful on your relationship? Did you get on each other’s nerves?
Heather: I think what has made our relationship last is that we usually find the humor in frustrating situations, and can be honest when something is getting on our nerves. We were trapped on-and-off in a car for 10 days, so yes, we got on each other’s nerves sometime, but would usually bust out laughing about how ridiculous the whole situation was.
AE: Do you feel like the move to CA made you more committed to each other?
Heather: I think what has made the whole relocation to CA successful is that we were already really committed to each other and the relationship before we moved, so every step of the way has been about communicating how to make things work for both of us. Our catch phrase leading up to moving away from Chicago is “We’re doing it,” and about once a month one of will bring it back up. It’s a corny but sweet little affirmation that says, “Whatever happens, we are in this together and we are giving it our all.”
AE: Once you moved to California, did your relationship feel different than it had in Chicago? How so?
Heather: We both had very independent lives in Chicago. Even when we were officially living together in the six months before moving to California, we did our own thing a lot. We had a big group of friends, together and separately, and other obligations. The biggest difference in CA is that we rely on each other more. We spend a lot of time hanging out together, and by a lot I mean pretty much 24/7 with the exception of 8 hours at work, and we share a car. So we have A LOT of date nights, intentionally or not.
AE: You’ve made several moves within L.A. (Little Armenia, Anaheim, and Long Beach). As a couple, do you feel like you have a system for moving now?
Heather: We now have a system of “We are NEVER moving ever again.” Moving sucks! We don’t have a system but we do make a good team. I think the moves have made us great candidates for The Amazing Race.
AE: Have you ever moved to a new city alone? Is it harder/easier than moving as a couple?
Heather: Audrey moved to Chicago by herself. She says that it is easier in some aspects and harder in others. For instance, when you don’t feel so lonely and know that you have a strong support system, but the downside to moving with someone is that you feel less motivation to try new things and meet new people.
AE: For couples making a big move, what is your best piece of advice?
Heather: Plan and save. The biggest stressors for us were financial and logistical. If you can set yourself up for an easier time with those things, you’ll have less to worry about and can focus on sunbathing with your lover—or not, if you aren’t moving to a warm weather area.
I also think you have to be honest with each other. Aud and I have lots of longwinded, and what a friend once called “lesbian relationship” conversations, where we put everything on the table and hear the other one out. Moving is hard. Moving is even harder when you’re making it work for two people, so don’t be afraid to say, “This is terrible and it’s not working” and figure out a new path.
Have ideas for topics you want to hear about? Know a great LTR couple we should interview? Email me at LTRadvice@gmail.com.