Carolyn:

I have been living with the same guy for over five years and recently we had a child. I brought up marriage and he flatly refused. He said a child is more of a commitment and he will never get married. He is scared to. What? Should I hang around and hope, or should I throw away the last five years?

-- Almost a Single Mom in Seattle

Great, throw away Daddy. Not that he's making the best case for himself, but still.

Your to-do list is a shambles (for future reference, it's communication, then commitment, then babies, in that order, please), so make it easy. Like, one item: healthy home for kid.

If your boyfriend provides that -- which includes his treating both you and baby well -- then his marriage block might be a quirk worth accepting. If he isn't good to you both, then that's what's known as "a sign." If you have trouble judging the difference, check with your pediatrician -- a parenting class couldn't hurt.

Hi Carolyn:

I've been with my boyfriend for two years and we plan on moving in together when our leases are up. We have dreams and financial goals together, but don't talk about marriage per se.

Recent conversation with Dad, though, has me second-guessing myself. He and Stepmom think you shouldn't be thinking in financial terms unless you've thought about marriage. What? Fabulous man who loves, adores, dreams with me as well as being responsible, kind and has a great job? What is so wrong with not being traditional? Are we really setting ourselves up for "THE BIGGEST MISTAKE OF OUR LIVES"? (As said by parents.)

We're mid-late twenties, financially secure -- and also disturbed by 'rents because each set (divorced) lived with significant other for 10 years or so before getting remarried. What do you think? In one ear, out the other, "Thanks for the opinion, Dad"?

-- Maryland

I think the BMOYL designation should be reserved for decisions made out of hatred, malice, willful ignorance, selfishness, self-loathing or fear. A choice rooted in love or even goofy naivete has a good heart, meaning you'll gain something from it, no matter how stupid it is.

That's one horse you could run against Dad, though it essentially concedes you're wrong when you might not be. Still, it's better than the parental-hypocrisy horse, which, even at its strongest, always faints at the gate.

Besides, your situation doesn't parallel theirs. They tried tradition first, and so heaved it with a certain confidence. Maybe they don't see that in you.

I'm not agreeing with them, just suggesting you weigh their concerns. You say you "don't talk about marriage"; does that mean you haven't decided, haven't thought that far yet, oppose marriage, want it someday and just assume your boyfriend will, too? (See letter above.) Have you ever discussed it? If not, why?

The stuff you don't talk about is what comes back to demand your attention, often rudely, just as expectation gaps are what make cohabitation go bad. (Slap forehead above.)

If, on the other hand, this is more paperless marriage than space-sharing -- if you and he have thought and talked and searched souls and ultimately agreed you're together, official or not -- then, yes, "Thanks for the opinion" works. All dismissals of dads should be kind.

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