Wanda & Wayne: Moving in when you should've moved on

Wayne and Wanda

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

"Jack" and I have been dating for a little less than a year, but we have hit a major wall. First, we met on a serious dating site -- not a hookup site, but one where people actually pay money to find a partner. From our first date, it was instant chemistry. I was ecstatic to have finally had all the searching pay off. Jack is everything I could want: smart, kind, funny, and super handsome.

After months of dating, we decided to take the next step and move in. This was big for me. I've never lived with anyone before. He has lived with a few exes and really pushed for it. It made sense to me, since we were growing more serious, spending more time with each other's friends and going with each other to work events -- and he even met my parents (they live here).

His parents are visiting for the Fourth of July, which is around our one-year anniversary. Jack mentioned their visit. Finally, I asked if I should block time to spend with them. He looked uncomfortable and said he hasn't decided if I should meet them. I was shocked. After all, he has met my parents. He said he moves slower than I do. Slow? We live together! I figured moving in meant we were on the marriage track. He looked surprised and said he hasn't even considered marriage and he's never been the marrying kind.

I'm so lost. I saw the last year as moving toward a lifelong commitment -- marriage and kids. I feel like Jack just wants to play house. He doesn't see the big deal. He says he loves me and wants to see where things go and I shouldn't push him. But I am in my early 30s and don't have years to waste while Jack finds himself. I don't know what to do.

-- Confused Jill

Wanda says: At the onset, moving in with a serious partner makes so much sense. It's like test-driving a car. See how it runs, see how it fits your lifestyle, see if it has any weird quirks or if it bugs you so much you simply can't live with it. Then, so logic follows, you either buy the car or return it to try a different model. You assumed moving in together had you on a mutual rent-to-own path toward the altar and babies. Problem one: you assumed. Problem two: you assumed people who live together get married and have kids. Problem three: you assumed people who live together before marriage and kids will live happily ever after.

More and more couples choose to live together before marriage. Is this bad? Not always. A survey by the National Marriage Project found that nearly half of 20-somethings would only consider marrying someone if they could live together first, and two-thirds of those surveyed said living together first was a good way to beat divorce. But not so fast. Researchers say those who are more comfortable with living together (like Jack) are more casual about commitment and, ergo, more open to divorce. Uh-oh.

This all comes back around to communication. The fact is, you moved in with Jack without knowing what he wanted in the long term and without really understanding what living together can mean for a relationship, both statistically and for you as an individual. So listen up, ladies: before signing the lease, hash out the terms of agreement. Are you on the same page? Does your man want to eventually be married? Could he see marrying you? Are you on the same timeline? Do you both want kids? Moving in together is a huge step - and can be a huge step in the wrong direction if you aren't careful. If you're marriage-minded and your baby clock is ticking, don't waste time with a dude who just wants to play house.

Wayne says: Jack and Jill shacked up together, without very much talking.

Now Jack is bad and Jill is sad and both could soon be walking.

Mother Goose, aka Wanda, nailed it. If you're ever going to get your fairy-tale ending in this or any other relationship, you have to communicate -- bonus charm points if you rhyme.

Not to kick you while you're down, but I have to echo Wanda's sentiments. At your age, how are you going to make the move-in with someone without stating your intentions and hopes, as well as hearing his? I could see a few wild 20-somethings diving into an apartment to split rent and bills and sleep together every night. But at this point, it's clear in your heart what you want and who you want it with. Now it's time to make that clear to him.

Unfortunately, the fact that Jack didn't think of introducing the woman he's been dating for almost a year (and living with for a while) to his parents is a pretty good indication of where his heart is. It isn't too late to tell him how you feel, but I wouldn't bank on changing his mind. Time to turn the page.

• 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 wanda@adn.com.