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         Living Together

Skewed Numbers

It wasn't until I moved in with my boyfriend that I discovered the surprising rates of divorce for couples who cohabitate before marriage.  There seems to be no end to the warnings and statistics, which are taunting me with the thought my boyfriend and I are doomed before we even begin. 

Four months after my high school sweetheart broke my heart, I asked my current boyfriend to go out.  We were both in the same place in life.  We grew up in similar households, attended the same college, and even worked together.  A month later we moved 2000 miles from our comfy nests and moved in together. 

It was difficult because I struggled to trust myself to love after my first heartbreak.  Eventually I enjoyed being with someone who shared the same values.  We've both enjoyed the challenges of saving, earning, and spending for two, and I've learned to work together we have to adopt one another's goals as our own.

I admit our relationship may have started a little fast and maybe on the wrong foot, but it has grown into a real partnership.  I'm a tender but mature 19, and my boyfriend is 21.  Marriage is quite a bit down the road for me, but I would love someday for our relationship to blossom into a long-lasting marriage.  How can cohabitating couples beat the odds?


Alicia, many years ago there was a man who owned a chain of hotels.  Each day he wanted to know how his hotels were doing, but gathering information from each hotel was burdensome.  One day, while looking at financial data, he realized the amount of potatoes served in the restaurant of one particular hotel was an almost unfailing guide to the gross revenue of the entire chain.

So each morning he had the manager of that hotel phone him with the amount of potatoes served from their kitchen the previous day.  That is one example of the use of statistics.  Here's another.  Imagine a person who compares the increase in ministers' salaries with the increase in liquor consumption, and then argues there is no point paying pastors more because they will only spend it on drink.

The statistics on cohabitation include couples who have little in common.  Some couples live together as an alternative to loneliness, others as a way to share expenses.  Some have set a date and live together only after formal engagement, while others come from dysfunctional families and will have a difficult time forming a stable relationship with anyone.

There are three things to remember about statistics.  First, just because two things are associated with each other, it does not mean there is a causal connection.  Second, general trends do not predict the results of any individual case.  Third, statistical categories include subgroups which have little in common with each other.

There is a huge difference between the couple deeply in love, and a couple where the woman uses cohabitation as a way to ease a man into marriage, while the man sees it as no more than an avenue for sex, housekeeping, and laundry. 

When Wayne was young there was a teenage ballad called "Tell Laura I Love Her."  It told the story of a young man who enters a stock car race to win enough money so he and his girlfriend can marry.  He is killed in a wreck, and his dying words are, of course, tell Laura I love her. 

The lyrics are so mawkish and sentimental they make your skin crawl.  But there is one line in the song which is memorable.  "He wanted to give her everything."  That is how people deeply in love feel about each other, and two people deeply in love will always beat the odds.  The depth of their connection is the key.

Before you marry, make sure it's right.  It has to be perfect love.

(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)


Coming Of Age

Tom and I have been in a relationship for well over a year.  We're very much in love, and we've discussed moving in together more than a few times.  We are both 19-year-old college students, have no siblings, and come from single-parent homes.

My mother and I have a fairly strong relationship; our family is devoutly Catholic.  Although I was raised to share the same values as my mother, Tom and I have put a lot of thought into moving in together, and we are currently trying to rent a townhouse.  His mother is okay with the idea.

When I told my mother, she said it would shame her family, and I would be no better than a whore.  I told her she should allow me to make my own choices.  She said she does not approve, would no longer give me money, and hung up the phone.  I am on full financial aid from school, and the only financial help she gives is occasional spending money.

Afterwards I cried for hours, and when I told Tom, he said I should do what feels the most comfortable.  I really want to move in with him next year, but I also don't want to lose my relationship with my mother.


Zoe, at some point you have to realize you are a child who has become an adult.  At some point you have to decide if a particular religious dogma expresses what you feel about your spiritual connection to the universe.  At some point you have to leave your mother's house and move toward the man you will spend your life with. 

All these things entail growth toward your life as a mature woman.  Your mother would like to control your future, but she is holding out a model she did not show you.  Since both you and Tom grew up in a single-parent household, you were both born to a skepticism about marriage. 

Adults make decisions knowing that the benefits of wise decisions will be theirs to enjoy and the consequences of bad ones theirs to bear.  One principle is clear: the person who makes the decision should bear the consequences.  If decisions are not yours to make, the consequences should be your mother's to endure.

The most important thing in your life now is education.  Whether a woman is happily married for a lifetime or a single parent like your mother, an education offers her the greatest security.  The most reliable advice we can give is don't allow unintended parenthood to alter your future.

It may be that you are at a turning point in your relationship with your mother.  You are going from her dependent child to an adult young woman with self-determination and drive.  As it took you time to get to this place in your life, it may take her time to accept who you are now.  Continue to move toward growth, based on the values you cherish.

Wayne & Tamara
(The best of relationship advice from Direct Answers.)

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