Dear Miss Manners: I am a 33-year old woman who, after many years of education, has recently settled into a great career. Having succeeded in the professional realm, I am now open to meeting the right person for a life partner.

I have no trouble finding dates. However, I have a recurring problem that rears its head when things go beyond dating and into relationship territory.

The source of the problem is that nowadays, it seems that a prerequisite to marriage is an extended period of cohabitation. I do not believe in this. I simply do not wish to share my life with someone unless, well, I know that I wish to share my life with them.

However, when I tell this to interested gentlemen, they tell me that they could never really know someone without a period of cohabitation, and since I am not religious, I do not have a real reason to be against it.

My reply to this, besides listing alternative ways of getting to know each other, is to cite statistics about the relative lack of success of marriages arising from cohabitation. This is often met with a statement like, "Statistics can be twisted however one wishes."

As I have no further argument, this tends to be the end of the gentleman's interest in me; I am seen at best as someone opposed to the natural progression of a relationship, and at worst, as someone with something to hide.

Can you please give me a polite comeback to the "I won't marry you unless you live with me first" statement that will succeed in showing that I am not unreasonable, nor that I have something to hide, so that I stop losing potential mates? Or, can you tell me if nowadays it is considered rude to refuse to cohabitate with a romantic partner after several months of dating?

It is a dangerous assumption that when it comes to degrees of intimacy, succumbing to pressure is the polite thing to do. A good many predators have relied on their victims to do just that — and thereby justified harassment and assault by calling it consensual.

Miss Manners does not suggest that this is the intention of your suitors. But she does encourage you to stay strong in your convictions. No excuses necessary. You might emphasize for them that, “You know, in some cases, it is harder to get out of a lease or a mortgage than it is to get out of a marriage. While we are on the subject of being practical ... .”

Dear Miss Manners: Someone in my book club stood up and confidently announced to everyone that her salary bonus was more than what I make all year. I was shocked speechless. A year later, I am still offended, embarrassed and angry. Is it too late to say something to her about her bragging at my expense?

Yes.

New Miss Manners columns are posted Monday through Saturday on washingtonpost.com/advice. You can send questions to Miss Manners at her website, missmanners.com. You can also follow her @RealMissManners.

2021, by Judith Martin