Original "Tell Me About It" columns will appear in Sunday Source while Carolyn is on maternity leave. The following are excerpts from spring 2003 live discussions on washingtonpost.com.

Hey Carolyn:

Generally speaking, when one professes his love to someone under the influence of many, many beers, would you say that is the truth talking?

Drunk Talk

I would say it doesn't matter unless the truth repeated itself sober.

Dear Carolyn:

If you met someone online, at what point would you expect the relationship to become exclusive? It appears that when many people are just at the stage of exchanging e-mails, they are communicating with two or more people. But at what point do most people expect the other to cut things off with everyone else? When they agree to meet? When they have that "safe" first get-together that is just for lunch or drinks? When they arrange the first real date? Or after the first date?

Maryland

When they arrange the date? Oh my. I think you might need to get that optimism surgically removed before you swim in the online pool.

You are exclusive when you and your relationshipee agree to be exclusive, and often not even then.

Carolyn:

What do you think are the things a couple needs to think and talk about before moving in together? My boyfriend and I are in our late twenties, have been together a year and are starting to talk about living together. We care about each other very much and have been pretty much living together for at least six months anyway (he spends all but maybe five nights a month at my place). So living together seems to make a lot of sense, but I want to make sure we talk about everything we should before we make the decision. I just want to make sure I'm not ignoring or forgetting the possible negatives.

I also seem to recall your being against couples living together before marriage and I'm curious about why.

Maryland

That opinion is [bleeping] plutonium. I am not universally opposed to couples living together before marriage.

I do think it's a really bad idea to use cohabitation to help you decide if you want to marry someone, since getting out of it is both an emotional and logistical nightmare, and so a lot of people who want to break up don't, or at least they put it off because they can't face the thought.

I think home-sharing after you're engaged, though -- i.e., you've already decided to spend your life with this person -- makes sense if you don't really know what it's like to share space with him or her. That's because the only exit that is logistically and emotionally more nightmarish than from cohabitation is from a marriage.

I also think most of the shack-up disasters are rooted in a difference of premarital opinion. If one of you sees living together as a precursor to marriage and the other sees it as a fine goal in itself, somebody's going to get annoyed, disappointed or hurt.

So, my opinion is, move in if both of you would agree with the following statement: "Far as I know, this is the way I'd be happy to spend the rest of my life." If you don't agree, hang onto your own apartment.

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