Dear Wayne and Wanda,
School ends next month and my girlfriend has been on me about getting an apartment together this summer. I love her, but I'm not ready to live with her. I like my parents' house in the summer, where I can come and go when I want and I don't pay rent. It's perfect.
I'm sure if we live together this summer she'll want to get a place when school starts again and then I won't be able to live with the boys again, which is where I want to be. I don't think she'd break up with me if I say no, but I know she'll be hurt. I'm about to just tell her no so she'll back off about it, but I'm not sure. What should I do?
-- Home School
You were probably too busy on your FacePlace and MyBooks to notice the recent commentary in the New York Times, "The Downside of Cohabitation Before Marriage." The writer, a psychologist, says that "couples who cohabit before marriage (and especially before an engagement or an otherwise clear commitment) tend to be less satisfied with their marriages -- and more likely to divorce -- than couples who do not."
The column sent the Internet's professional and armchair relationship experts mildly abuzz. Some said that you shouldn't live together until you're married because it's wrong. Some said the author's stats were outdated and countered that cohabitation can actually weed out relationships that aren't built to last.
Some said that living together is a natural progression to a solid, deliberate relationship. Some wondered what the big deal was. Someone even used the phrase "sliding, not deciding." That made me smile.
It doesn't sound like you're ready for living together, much less marriage. You wouldn't be happy, which would surely make her unhappy, which would totally ruin summer break for everyone. I'm proud of you for knowing yourself well enough to make the right decision for your happiness. You'll make a fine adult one day.
But that day isn't today. Take it from an old dude -- you're only young once, so enjoy your freedom and your summer. That doesn't mean sleep with every girl that makes eye contact with you. That means keep doing what you've been doing -- bringing balance and happiness to your life while being a good boyfriend.
Forget the impacts of cohabitation on marital bliss. The altar sounds a long ways off. You're in school, hanging at your parents -- all the more reason to delay moving in. It's not something to leap into for convenience or cost savings. Those who shack up should do it because it's right for their progressing relationship.
Here's the issue: You've got yourself a nester. Just for the summer? Uh, right. She wants to pull all your mutual twigs together, mold a little love shack and commence molting. I'm guessing she's dewy and doe-eyed and oh so excited about this "next step" -- cozy slumbers, cooking meals, leisurely grocery shopping, sharing the newspaper across the table, snuggling for movie night, blah blah blah.
Fantasy please meet reality. Living together is messy and crowded. It means silly, petty arguments over money and bills and who should vacuum or buy toilet paper. It often entails sacrificing a corner of the world to call your own. Possessions blend. You're playing house. You're in the marriage without the ring. And the problem -- I speak from experience -- is once you move in together, it's very, very difficult to break up. Your lives are all knotted up together. It's a beast to unravel it all.
Here's an Alaska metaphor you can use: Nurturing a healthy relationship is like building a camp fire. Start small, let the flames grow, increase the size of the wood over time. Throw too much fuel on too soon, and you'll snuff it out. You love your lady, but you don't want to extinguish the growing flames with the giant log that is living together. Wayne is wise: Enjoy your freedom while continuing to be a good boyfriend.
• Wanda is a wise person who has loved, lost and been to therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at email@example.com.
He is reluctant to move in with his girlfriend