Tell Me About It

By Carolyn Hax
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Dear Carolyn:

My fiance has never believed in living together before marriage. I thought it was a little silly -- we spend five or six nights a week together anyway -- but was fine with keeping my own apartment a while longer. Then my company downsized, and as a newer employee I was let go.

I decided to take the next year to become a full-time student and finish my master's. I'm living off savings (thank goodness I had some) but am still deeply worried about money every day. So I asked Fiance how he would feel about my moving in with him six months early. He refused. He suggested I move in with a roommate, or said he could give me some money if I needed it, but said that prematurely moving in would ruin the special feeling of waiting until after marriage.

I'm getting a special feeling of wanting to clock him in the head. To me, it speaks of inflexibility, selfishness and a blind following of principles rather than realizing that life throws curveballs. I'm so angry and hurt I am beginning to question whether I should marry him. But at this point I can't figure out whether I have a point or whether I'm just so stressed that I'm directing all of my nerves onto Fiance. Should this be making me as angry as it is?


The only way stress is the problem here is if you let it distract you; it didn't cause the problem, it exposed it. He doesn't respect your solution to your money problem, and you don't respect his.

I agree; the roommate suggestion is clock bait. However, his willingness to subsidize your rent arguably puts your two solutions on equal footing: In his version, he opens his wallet to care for you, and in yours, he opens his home. Both are legitimate statements of your priorities.

It's those priorities you need to think about, and a game of Cliche Bowl might help clear things up. Is he "putting his money where his mouth is," which is admirable (in an agree-to-disagree kind of way), or "throwing money at the problem," which sounds awfully soulless, especially when you're the "problem"?

Preserving his "special feeling" isn't a principle, it's a preference; maybe he's just not very articulate. But if he can't give you a better reason for closing his mind to you than "The calendar says so," then you probably do have a point. Even if he ultimately didn't budge -- clearly his prerogative -- he still could have come at this as the love of your life, not your event planner.

Don't take my word for it, though -- take his. Do you now see any past situations in a different light? How about future ones? Try posing other "curveballs," to yourself and to him, as what-ifs: his job gets transferred, your mom needs full-time care, your child has special needs. Ask yourself this one, too: If you divorced, would you trust him to play fair?

It's hard to predict how someone will handle adversity, except in retrospect, when it's hard to miss. Make this your retrospect moment. When your roiling emotions calm down (no point in fighting those), take what you know, discuss what you need and, finally, believe what you see.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company