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Should he move in with girlfriend or stay at parent's?

Wayne and Wanda

Dear Wanda and Wayne,

I've been with my girlfriend for almost a year, and she's been talking a lot about moving in together. I've never lived anywhere except my parents place. It's perfect for me. I don't pay rent. I live in a mother-in-law apartment and come and go whenever and have people over.

My girlfriend stays over all the time. I get to do my laundry and eat with my parents all the time. They are really cool. This is my first really serious relationship, so I don't know what to do or what it will be like to live anywhere else. I love my girlfriend and want to make her happy, but I also like my life the way it is. Any advice?

-- Free Rent

Wayne says,

Well buddy, it's time to look yourself in the mirror and decide: Are you ready to be a man?

There's something charming about your arrested development and living situation. Heck, part of me is totally envious. Free rent. Mom's cooking. No rules. Living the dream.

Well living the adolescent dream. Out here where the big kids roll, living the dream means doing things on your own terms: your job, your car, your bills, your vacations, your relationships. There's a lot of pressure and stress in this world, tons of ups and downs, crazy choices and challenges. But there's also a lot of satisfaction, successes and liberation in living your life independently.

Now going half on an apartment with your girlfriend won't exactly be Independence Day for you, but it will be a transition into adult life. So are you ready to put your big boy pants on? If you aren't, I don't exactly blame you. You've got it good. And man, living with a partner has its own unique series of successes and challenges.

But how good will your current life be if your girlfriend is ready to have a man in hers? And let me tell you something else: If she does dump you, fewer things turn off adult women faster than the phrase, "I live at my parents'."

One warning, though: Once you move out and cross that threshold, it's over. The end of free rent. The death of your youth. You can never truly get it back.

So are you ready?

Wanda says,

We have two completely separate issues here. One: Are you ready to move out of your parents' house? Two: Are you ready to live with a girlfriend? And while we muddle through these two questions, remember that this isn't a choice of one or the other. You could stay at the parents or move in with your lady, or how about a third option: Live on your own or with friends. Let's explore.

As Wayne wisely said, you are in the parent trap, lounging in this suspended place of arrested development. It's cute, in a sad mama's boy way, but (right again, Wayne) it's not very sexy. From your letter, this doesn't sound like a financial choice. It's just easy. Call it a "mother-in-law apartment" but let's be real -- it's more aptly "your mom's house."

I'm guessing you didn't fill out a rental application or put down a security deposit. In fact, this veritable habitation handout has deprived you of basic life lessons we all go through in navigating our first away-from-home living situation.

Meanwhile, your gal wants you to shack up. For you, that's like leaving T-ball for the major leagues. Living together is a big, big deal. You envision sexy sleep-ins, cozy nights together, growing closer and deepening your bonds. That's half the story. There's also inevitable bickering about bills and chores, and general tension over loss of personal space. You're essentially playing house, nesting in for the long haul. Ready for that? Because while "breaking up is hard to do," it's a lot harder when you're living together.

Rather than living with your girl or staying with your parents, consider enjoying some of the stops in between. Living alone can be a great, and so can living with friends. Try that instead. It will give you more space to allow your relationship with your girlfriend to grow and bring you new life experience too.

• Wanda is a wise woman who has loved, lusted and believes in retail therapy. Wayne is a wise guy who has no use for therapy. Send them your questions and thoughts at wanda@adn.com.