Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been dating my boyfriend for a few years now and the topic of moving in together has finally come up. A little bit of background: I come from a very strict upbringing in which you only live with a man once you are married and there are no such things as "boyfriends" until you are engaged. I am also very close with my family and consider myself the Mother Theresa of the group -- helping everyone whenever they are in need, no matter what. My boyfriend, on the other hand, is very close with his family but knows how to put himself first. His mother doesn't object to us living together.
At first I was happy with the thought of moving in together and we both agreed we would -- we even lived together over the summer in a vacation house as a trial. Everything was fine. The conversation about moving into a new place directly from the vacation house came up, but I wanted to move home for a while to be close to my parents (I have been living at home all my life and this is a very big deal for me, especially since I know my mother will refuse to visit me if I live with my boyfriend). My upbringing was also on my mind; I really felt like I did not want to move in with someone until I was married or at least engaged. I have a fear that we would be playing house with no commitment, and statistics show there is a higher divorce rate in couples that live together before marriage. I expressed my feelings to my boyfriend, which were opposite of my original feelings of wanting to move in. He said that he wanted to live together before getting married and there was no question in his mind about it. He also said I hurt him because he felt like I put him behind my family (this has been a continuous battle) and he became bitter at me for not moving in.
I do not want to keep giving my boyfriend high hopes and then yanking his heart out. I understand why he feels I put him second. He believes that if we live together he will no longer have this feeling because we will see each other more often.
Now I am stuck. Why am I second guessing my thought process? Do I really want to be married that bad, and if so, why so sudden? In the past year, I was totally against marriage due to the many divorces happening around me. I thought about it, and if he were to ask me to marry him, I would be ready to move in a heartbeat. My problem now is I don't want to move in because I feel as if I am being forced in order to save our relationship. But I am scared that if I don't move in, he will continue to be bitter at me and we will eventually break up. Please help!
– Move in?, Out of State
A: This doesn't seem to be about your family, MI. It's about your fear of relationship failure. You're anxious about "playing house" without a plan. You're even more anxious about divorce. That's why you're not moving in. You want a guarantee.
But there are no guarantees. Even if your boyfriend proposes before you move in, there's no telling what will happen in six months or a year. And those statistics? Don't focus on them too much. For the record, I have no official opinion about whether couples should live together before marriage -- every twosome is different -- but my official opinion about statistics and studies is that they only tell part of a story. Some couples get divorced after living together because they have the financial means to do so. And at least a few of the married people who never lived together before getting hitched wind up staying together because they want to honor family and commitment no matter what, even if they're unhappy.
My advice is to explain to your boyfriend that this isn't about your family and that you've developed a real fear of living together without a commitment. If you move in and successfully live together for six months or a year, does he want to get married? Is that the goal?
Listen to his plans and hear him out. Explain that you're really putting him first, which is why you're so petrified.
Readers? Should she move in? Does her family have anything to do with this? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.