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The Burden Of Roof

I love my girlfriend of four years; she’s awesome. We’re in our 30s, both divorced. Neither of us wants to remarry, and she doesn’t need my money. Yet, she’s given me an ultimatum: Move in with her or it’s over. I’m completely committed but want to live separately. Beyond preferring living alone, I feel I value her more that way. She argues we’re not “moving forward,” and feels “humiliated in front of (her) friends.” She accuses me of being selfish and wanting everything my way. The last time she brought this up, I said I can’t give her what she wants and she should find someone who can. Nevertheless, she’s stayed with me and is “waiting” for me to change my mind.

--Stuck

Maybe you and your girlfriend should have a practice run at how living together can play out over time. Invite her over, but forget dashing around cleaning the house and putting out nice wine, fresh flowers, and those little cheese puffy things. Instead, brighten up the place by tossing around shiny beer cans and colorful Cheetos bags. Don’t bother dressing up -- let her get to know the real you, beached on the couch for days in boxer shorts and a pair of unmatching tube socks. When the doorbell rings, put on your party manners -- just long enough to grunt “it’s open” -- then go back to your near-catatonic stare at the game.

People who argue in favor of couples living together often see it as a sort of petty issues Olympics -- like, you don’t have a “real relationship” until you’ve put in long hours hammering out an agreement about the correct position of the toothpaste cap, and you’ve caught some minimum number of glimpses of your partner straining on the toilet. Thanks, but like you, I’ll take the unreal relationship -- meaning, when my boyfriend comes over, I always look nice, smell nice, and show interest in him beyond his ability to lift heavy objects and open jars. I understand cohabitation works just groovy for some, but the way I see it, a little absence not only makes the heart, but a few lower organs, grow fonder.

Where your girlfriend goes wrong -- besides bowing to peer pressure like a seventh-grader on a hunger strike ‘til her mom buys her $260 jeans -- is in her passive-aggressive “waiting” for you to change your mind. (Maybe give her a bunch of those thick ladies’ magazines and stick her in the lobby?) The woman does get points for shamelessness for calling you selfish because you won’t bend to her will: “So what if you’re unhappy, as long as you meet my needs!” Ah, love -- in her eyes, not so much an act of giving as an act of wearing you down until you give in.

In other words, if you’re looking for love, maybe keep looking? Or, if your gut tells you this is just some girls’-night-out-induced attack of the needies, you might help your girlfriend think her position through by posing a few questions: How would getting you to do what makes you unhappy be “moving forward,” and besides not living under the same set of shingles, how are you not giving her what she needs? Frankly, if anyone should be humiliated, or at least insulted, it’s you. It’s not enough that you’re the man of her dreams, the love of her life, her honeypookiedear -- you also have to be the deer tied across the front of her station wagon.

Posted by aalkon at October 23, 2007 1:23 PM

Comments

There is nothing wrong with this girl wanting to live under the same roof. Likewise, there is nothing wrong with this guy not wanting to. It sounds as if their desires are no longer compatible. I think the writer was basically decent - he frankly admitted that he cannot (or will not) give her what she wants on this matter - no excuses, no false promises. Perhaps this relationship has run its course. It may indeed be time for them to go their separate ways.

Posted by: Dennis at October 24, 2007 4:41 AM

Assuming her answers to Amy questions are unsatisfactory, he should "move forward" - away from her.

Under the harsh glare of Amy's wisdom, falling in love seems like a fool's errand.

Posted by: DaveG [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 6:32 AM

When person "A" and person "B" have both made their opposing positions clear, and person "A" makes an "ultimatum" to force person "B" to cave. Either the couple needs a mediator (counseling), or person "B" needs to walk away.

She's already using a number of emotionally-manipulative tactics "you're humiliating me in front of my friends," "you're selfish," and he's holding them back (by not "moving forward"). When someone uses that sort of method in "convincing" others, it's unlikely that she'd stop when he "changes his mind." More likely that it'll continue, or - if she sees it working - it'll get worse.

Posted by: Jamie at October 24, 2007 6:33 AM

I suspect she DOES want to get married.

Some women, like Amy, don't want to get married. But there are a lot of women who pretend they don't want to, when they actually do. Why do they pretend? Because their SO has expressed not wanting to get married, and they don't want to lose him, but they think if they stick around he will change his mind. This doesn't usually work. Usually if he changes his mind about marriage... it is to someone else.

Also some women feel like they aren't "supposed to" want to get married, and they feel like wusses.

I suspect that your GF is frustrated after 4 years of dating. Her feelings about marriage have probably changed. Or she might want a marriage-like lifelong commitment. Who knows. But that is my suspicion.

Posted by: Nicole at October 24, 2007 6:37 AM

Under the harsh glare of Amy's wisdom, falling in love seems like a fool's errand.

Expecting to STAY in love is a fool's errand. You can't promise to feel one way or another and guarantee that you will, because you can't control your feelings. You can't say you'll continue to love somebody any more than you can promise to feel happy or sad for a continued period of time. You can only promise to ACT loving.

According to historian Stephanie Coontz, until about 200 years ago, marriage was a business arrangement. People could stay married to keep the cows together and/or keep the shoemaker shop runnning. Now that we base marriage on love, well, it's a much more ephemeral thing, and so is marriage.

Marriage for love isn't a sensible endeavor.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 6:53 AM

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 6:54 AM

LW sounds sensible, but his girlfriend sounds like a shrew. o_O

Posted by: Flynne [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 7:23 AM

Jeezy Creezy. If there's not reason for them to cohabitate (money, kids) than why do it?? I've often thought that the only way I could survive being married to someone is if we didn't live together. I think some distance is great in a relationship...you see each other when you want to and actually look forward to it, as opposed to waking up being like "you again?" Apparently bludgeoning a guy into moving in together is the new bludgeoning a guy into proposing. Any sort of ultimatum is usually the death knell of a relationship.

Posted by: amh18057 at October 24, 2007 7:46 AM

As much as I enjoy sleepovers with my boyfriend, I *love* having my own place. I'm putting hardwood floors in most of it, and it is the perfect size for me, all my books, and the "bat cave" spare bedroom where my bikes are kept. He just bought a house a few months ago, right before we met, and he has been having fun painting the walls and building a gym in his basement. It is the best of both worlds! When he stays over, I get to wake up to his kisses and his sweet face, and he makes coffee for me. But wow ... moving in all his stuff and staying here full-time? Um, no. I am counting my lucky stars that we both feel that way.

It would suck to be with someone for four years and have to deal with this. I'm guessing the LW isn't going to think his girlfriend is quite so "awesome" after a while. What a shame.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 24, 2007 8:09 AM

Pirate Jo, you, Purple, and Marion are some of the most sensible girls I (virtually) know.

Always a pleasure. (And a relief.)

I like waking up with somebody and feeling it's a treat, which is how I feel when I don't live with somebody. Gregg is in Detroit every three weeks for about five days, and I really miss him when he's gone. He always comments on how happy I am to see him when he comes to the door. I think people who live together get that "business as usual" feeling. The boyfriend or husband walks in the door and maybe their partner doesn't even run to the door and greet them. it's not special that they're there.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 8:39 AM

Did anyone notice they're in their 30's and both divorced?? She has found a guy who's "close enough" to what she needs in a husband/dad for her kiddies and she wants him to be committed and ready to roll on the marriage train. He's not committed,desparately needing to be near his snookums every waking moment. They're not going to make it. Time to move on.

Posted by: brian [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 8:48 AM

Yep, if he moves in with her, it's just a matter of time before she looks at him one day and says: "This is almost like being married... maybe we should," and he'll be a dead duck.

Generally speaking, I'm pro-marriage. If, however, he knows it is NOT what he wants, it would be prudent for him to avoid the slippery slope while he still can.

Not to mention, they are in their 30's. Her "Biological Clock" may be acting up on her... "RUN LW!! RUUUUUN!!!!"

Posted by: Morbideus [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 10:59 AM

"staying" vs. "falling" - thanks for the correction. The simile "like trying to push a rope" works here.

Posted by: DaveG [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 11:05 AM

"Apparently bludgeoning a guy into moving in together is the new bludgeoning a guy into proposing. Any sort of ultimatum is usually the death knell of a relationship."

Amen. She wants to get married; she just isn't calling it that. Slightly different lyrics, same tune.

PJ you sound like a keeper. I dated a woman some years back and I thought we were in perfect synch. We had our own places and got along great. But I made the mistake of staying over two nights in a row and from then on there had to be a reason not to. Smoldering resentment, asymetrical expectations, fast forward to closing credits. It's all about the boundaries people.

Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 11:34 AM

"I think people who live together get that "business as usual" feeling. The boyfriend or husband walks in the door and maybe their partner doesn't even run to the door and greet them. it's not special that they're there."

I agree - I want a smooch the minute my sweety walks in the door, although sometimes my dog makes it to him first. :-) Not only is it more special and more like a treat when I spend time with him, I like having my own place just because it's nice to sit around by myself sometimes. I've gotten used to it and don't want to give it up!

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 24, 2007 11:51 AM

Ugh. Gross. Today I came to look for the "new" column, only to see it's the same old-same old AGAIN, promoting the anti-marriage anti-children anti-relationship anti-anything that most people do agenda. Now, Amy can be funny as hell and often spot-on. That's why I started reading. But every week's another step down the spiral of self-congratulatory BS, complete with message board of people wanting to be teacher's pet! Boring!

I thought this was an advice column. Are these the only questions you get? REEEEEALLY? I mean, I'm single, never co-habitated with aaanybody, and childless definitely by a definite choice, but I hate a room full of lemmings scratching each other's backs, whether it's yummy mummies (barf), Republicans, Democrats, vegetarians, fashionistas, motorheads, gun fanatics, whatever. SHUT UP. Live your life the way you want and stop pretending you're superior for it. Believe me, you're preaching to a small chorus and nobody who doesn't think the way you do already is impressed.
I'm out.

Posted by: Wendy B at October 24, 2007 12:06 PM

"I'm out."

I'm just going to take five minutes out of congratulating myself and kissing Amy's ass to have a big, super-sized cup of DON'T CARE.

Okay, back to our circle-jerk. I'm so glad when the grumpy people leave. Martin, will you tell me again what a keeper I am? It makes me feel all good about myself.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 24, 2007 12:14 PM

If you have better questions, ask one. As I recall, nobody forced you to read this column. I don't see why everyone here should just shut up on your account, when you could just stop reading. People are but voicing opinions, not running around lobbying for anti-marriage laws and stabbing married couples in the back.

The question that find myself asking is about the "moving forward" bit. It makes me feel as though the girlfriend views relationships in a goal oriented manner. Personally, I never had that perspective before. Is this type of attitude common among women, or maybe just peple in general?

Posted by: Scott at October 24, 2007 12:20 PM

Speaking of a lady with an agenda!

Why not challenge the ideas in my column instead of ranting? I'm guessing because you can't argue with my logic. The tantrum you throw above is reminiscent of my e-mail exchange with a woman this weekend who hammered and hammered me about the use of the words "fat co-worker." At some point, she said it was "boring" to write to me. Yeah, about four obsessive hours of boring.

By the way, I'm not anti-child -- I just recognize the constraints having them has (or should have -- since many people are really crappy parents). I have no desire to have a child, and I wish other people would only have them if they're prepared to do what it takes to make them shut up and behave.

P.S. And we know you said you're outta here, but we know you'll be back to sniff for comments, so hello, you're busted.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 12:44 PM

P.S. The last question I answered offered suggestions on how to have a happy marriage (don't tell your spouse what to do).

The one before that was to a wife who said she had a happy marriage. In that column, I debunked Freud on dreams.

The one before that was to a breast-obsessed guy.

The one before that was to a sad sack guy, and discussed Martin Seligman's research on happiness, and how having an optimistic orientation has positive results on success and personal fulfillment.

The one about that told a young girl that she needed to become somebody before she became somebody's girlfriend.

...

Perhaps you're angry because you think I speak the truth, supported by logic, and you can't argue with me.

Comments-based foot-stamping, as a substitute for good old rational dissent, is childish and counterproductive.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 12:50 PM

re: Wendy. Whenever I don't like a group of people/can't stand their attitudes/am bored about what they're discussing, I simply terminate contact with said people. It has always served me well; I don't understand the need to have an insulting grand finale when you make your exit--I blame reality television.

Anyway, Amy simply said that that SHE prefers not to live with a significant other and that those who see moving in together as a ticket to happily-ever-after are naive. I live with my boyfriend, and it's working out rather well--I suspect it's because we never saw it as "taking this relationship forward," but as deciding that we would ulitimately be compatible roommates. Or maybe it's just becase we are both hardly ever in the apartment (which has 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms, btw...wouldn't do it any other way). But I do understand the logic of living separately and recognize some of the pitfalls that await couples shacking up together.

Scott wrote: The question that find myself asking is about the "moving forward" bit. It makes me feel as though the girlfriend views relationships in a goal oriented manner. Personally, I never had that perspective before. Is this type of attitude common among women, or maybe just peple in general?
I've known and dated guys who also had a goal-oriented attitude toward relationships (ie, a relationship is "going nowhere" unless you are 1) exclusive and 2) assuming that marriage lies in the future...either I was a prospective wife or an unpaid hooker...no happy medium), so I doubt it's just women...I don't get it--unless you're bringing kids into the picture, I don't see the point of setting relationship goals beyond where you want to go on vacation. You don't see many people sitting their friends down and saying, "OK I'm really enjoying my time with you, but I think we need to talk about where this friendship is going."

Posted by: sofar [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 1:29 PM

Wendy B is just cooler than us. She's so alternative, she's the alternative to alternative. She doesn't fit into a neat little box made out of ticky-tacky, like all those terminally uncool gun owners, childfree people, vegetarians, parents, or whatever the group. She's an island of ONE, dammit, and she ain't taking no crap from the man! She just trolls websites like yours so she can revel in the same feelings of superiority she accuses us of having. In fact, she'll probably start her own group of people who hate all the other groups. Maybe she'll call herself the Lonely Iconoclast Goddess.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 24, 2007 1:30 PM

"Martin, will you tell me again what a keeper I am? It makes me feel all good about myself."

You got it kid. A lady with a special room for her bikes and a dog lover too? So very fine to find.

Hey Wendy, try shiny side in.

Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 1:39 PM

Sofar and Scott, that is interesting about the whole "taking the relationship to the next level" thing. I think women tend to think more along those lines than men do, and most of that is probably due to the "ticking biological clock" thing. If you want to have kids, you are TASKED with finding a husband and breeding before your eggs reach their best-if-used-by date. So you have to keep things on a timeline.

With that kind of thinking going on in the background, women probably do get looked down upon more when they let a guy "get away with" not living with or marrying them. (The guys are secretly getting the high-five from their buddies.) To some people it must seem unheard-of for a woman to not want kids, not want to get married, not want to cohabitate, etc. It's assumed that the guy is holding out on her or something. Pretty old-fashioned, but still around.

When the LW's girlfriend says she feels humiliated in front of her friends, she's probably right. She's not getting what she wants from the relationship, and her friends are all probably telling her to quit waiting around for this guy to change and dump him already. She's going to feel like she wasted four years, which may not be a great way to look at it, but that's how she'll feel if she's been pursuing the goals of getting married and having kids all this time.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 24, 2007 1:40 PM

Wendy B is just cooler than us. She's so alternative, she's the alternative to alternative.

Hilarious. And right on. And Pirate Jo is right that women tend to think like this more than men do.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 1:43 PM

Ugh, why would you want to live with someone if you had to nag them to move in with you? That's hardly a promising start.

I live with my boyfriend because I really WANT to live with him. I want to see his face every morning and listen to him snore while I shower, and I want to kiss him hello every night when I get home. (It's only been a year though, that could change.) I don't want to have to leave my warm comfy house all the time to see him, and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't want to leave his warm comfy house all the time to see me. This way we have all of our stuff, and our favorite person, all in one place. So easy!

I can totally understand how this might not work for lots of people and there fore these people should absolutely not move in with their SO. If it's not for you, then don't do it, and don't let someone else pressure you into it.

Posted by: Shinobi [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 24, 2007 1:54 PM

Not living with my boyfriend is working out quite well for us. We live fairly close, so we get to see each other as much (or as little) as we want. This way, He gets to see me, calm, relaxed, and the house cleaned up - I have finished my day-to-day grind, and now I can focus my attention on him. Ditto going to his place. We do share mundane activities together quite a bit, but the 'specialness' of having made time for him and vice versa is nice. I really enjoy the hanging out and sleepovers, but it is nice to have my own place to retreat to, or to go to when I need to focus and get some work done. If we did ever decide to move in together, it would be only after much deliberation and discussion - I am not lookng to 'rope' him into anything - and I certainly wouldn't want to bully him into living with me. I'd want him to WANT to - call me crazy, I know.

Posted by: JessiRiotGrrl at October 24, 2007 2:10 PM

Breaking up is the right thing to do.

For two reasons.

I see that I am not the only one who thinks she is having marriage/baby/biological clock issues. So...

1) It's been determined she wants to take the relationship to a place you don't want to go. Either you will acquiesce, or you won't. If you give in, you'll be bitter since it isn't what you want. If you don't give in, there will be a general malaise. You will not be happy if you stay with her.

2) Not only is it the right thing to do for your happiness, it is also the gallant thing to do. If she wants marriage/kids, she is wasting her time with you. Let her go while she's still young enough to have kids. Otherwise, it will be horrible for her. The gallant thing to do is to let her go EVEN IF SHE WILL BE HURT.

Unless you think you might want to get married and have kids. In that case by all means stay together, but it sounds like you don't.

Posted by: Nicole at October 24, 2007 3:32 PM

Sort of in defense of Wendy here:

I will say that this is one of Amy's less than controversial columns. LW has already isolated the problem and seems rather self-assured in his position. So he really doesn't need any advice. Heck, he doesn't even end his plea with a question.

Personally, I was a little dissapointed with this entry too. Not because of Amy's writing or advice but b/c I'm left wondering if the meatier parts of LW's note were lost on the cutting room floor.

Posted by: snakeman99 at October 24, 2007 5:08 PM

I read an article somewhere about a couple who have seperate apartments in the same building, they don't live together, but it makes it easy to ee each other. I thought it was a great idea. I've been married long enough to really miss my own space, especially the space to get a great night's sleep. This guy should be really clear about what he wants, and give her an ultimatum, if she's not happy with the relationship he wants, she should leave.

Posted by: Miriam at October 24, 2007 5:31 PM

I'm not saying anything new, in this group, it looks like, but I just want to say that I find it refreshing to find other people who see this sort of thing the way I do! I like living alone, I like my stuff the way it is, my messes don't bother me but other people's do. It seems most arguments between couples are due to silly things like who does the dishes - so what is there to be lost by just not creating the opportunity for those arguments?

Posted by: Rebecca at October 24, 2007 8:56 PM

Exactly. Remove the fights over the toothpaste cap from the equation and you can just love each other.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 24, 2007 9:02 PM

Wendy B has surely been given her share of shit, but I agree that Amy does tend to pound the drum when it comes to her particular lifestyle.

Amy, you give me a lot to think about, re: eeping the loving feeling going by living apart. But that is certainly not the only way to be a happy couple, and you do tend to push that direction in your responses.

I lost a relationship with a real sweetie because he is the sort with whom only an arm's length relationship will work. And it has its merits.

But Shinobi puts it well; sometimes you find that you really *want* to hear the fellow snoring in your bed, and *want* to have his dirty socks litter the floor, because it creates a kinf of warm glow to share domestic quarters with the love of your life.

And surely it's not so rare as all that, to meet a partner who makes the down-below tingle when you are living together.

That's what I want, while I am also entirely convinced that love is freely bestowed and cannot be commanded.

I like this community. It gives me food for thought. But it does tend to be rather forceful in its belief that living together is the death knell for a relationship. Wendy B may not have stated her position in a manner that gathered support; yet, she spoke truly!

Posted by: Renee at October 24, 2007 11:22 PM

Well, whatever you think works for you.

I take a realistic approach to human nature, and I find that realism is better to go by than fantasy for planning out how to live.

People you're around all the time are simply not as sexy, and tend to be annoying, which can easily breed contempt. Want to deny that? Be my guest.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 12:35 AM

P.S. I think the status quo is strong enough that it will survive my wee incursions.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 25, 2007 12:36 AM

The point I don't like in the OP is that his GF "accuses" him. I never liked being made to feel like a criminal for having my own opinion. What you do with your opinion is one thing: you can insist on it, or compromise, or suppress it. But "accusing" someone of having an opinion in the first place - of daring to disagree - is not good.

Posted by: Norman at October 25, 2007 2:27 AM

What I find missing from Amy's response here is the element of "Savannah Brain." She often cites evolutionary psych as the root of modern human behavior. Does it not occur that the default relationship mode of physically cohabiting stems from human packs needing to live in closely related family assemblies in order to successfully hunt and gather on the Okavango? And her peer humiliation for deviating from the pack norm sure looks like a pecking order sort out.

Posted by: Splotchy at October 25, 2007 6:13 AM

Random speculation:

This morning, as I walked my daughter to the school bus stop, I noticed a dog barking in the next yard as if to say "I'm fiercely protecting my property, but I'd really like to play with you". It made me think of the theory that we have bred dogs to remain childlike because we enjoy that aspect of them.

I wonder if we're collectively and subconsciously breeding ourselves in a particular direction.

Posted by: DaveG [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 6:24 AM

The bottom line is to Quote Joni Mitchell:

"Where some people find their paradise, others just come to harm... Oh Amelia, it was just a false alarm"...

Living together or apart doesn't really matter is a choice. But where some people find their paradise others just come to harm... not listening to what people need/want is not respectful and causes harm... Is it love when we try to change one another or is it just a false alarm?

Posted by: Peter at October 25, 2007 7:22 AM

"I read an article somewhere about a couple who have seperate apartments in the same building, they don't live together, but it makes it easy to [s]ee each other. I thought it was a great idea." (Miriam)

This has always been one of my favorite recurring fantasies. It would be kind of like co-ed dorm life in college but without having to worry about the prick R/A.

In our first few years of marriage, I would sometimes get up in the middle of the night and go sleep in a different room. My wife was upset at first: Was she snoring? Was I mad at her? Was there another woman? (oy) She finally believed me when I explained for the hundreth time that I'm the kind of person that just needs a little space sometimes. We have a private joke about needing a phrase that means "Could you please fuck off just a little bit?"

Posted by: martin [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 7:28 AM

Typo above "Living together or apart doesn't really matter it is a choice"...

I often remember my Father's words of warning:
"Behind every vice is a virtue and behind every virtue is a vice"... I too am very distrusting of anyone who want to convert, change or fix me. It always appears full of virtue, but what is really behind there need to convert, change and/or fix me?

Posted by: Peter at October 25, 2007 7:29 AM

This issue hits home with me because I was in EXACTLY the same situation when I was in my early 20's. I met a woman who was a sweetheart. Fun, funny, smart, beautiful, and we loved each other without parameters or demands placed on each other. But she wanted to get married and have babies and I wasn't ready because I was still sewing my wild oats. She wanted to move in together just because it was "more convenient", and she insisted she really didn't care if we got married. I broke up with her because I knew, even though she denied it, what her goal was. It was hard because I realy loved her, but within 6 months she had met another guy and was married within a year. Nine months later she had her first son.

Posted by: brian [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 7:47 AM

Here's the thing...there is no "right" or "wrong" here...this is merely a matter of two opposing opinions. While Amy makes the case very eloquently with her razor-sharp wit for living separately, one could also make the case for living together. There are certainly pros and cons for each and there is no correct answer for any couple. In this case, the LW loves the status quo and doesn't want it to change. His girlfriend does. Yes, it's very possible that in the beginning of the relationship, neither wanted remarriage and were happily living separately. At some point, her mind has changed and now she wants this. She's wrong about the way she's going about this (ultimatums/manipulation are never a healthy sign in a relationship) but she isn't wrong for feeling the way she does and wanting, in her eyes, "more" than what they currently have. Kudos to LW for being mature enough to recognize that he doesn't want that and hopefully he doesn't cave to her demands. We always hear about "compromise" being the key to a good relationship...well, not necessarily. Compromise doesn't always work out so great and it can be the death knell of a relationship. Children, for example, can't really compromise successfully on that one. You either have kids or you don't. They affect every single part of your life so thoroughly that there is no way to deal with that one if one partner doesn't want kids and the other does. Living together is another one. You either do or you don't.
Once two people have grown apart so they no longer want the same things out of life, they should break it off, particularly as they are only still dating and there are no children involved.
Me, personally, I'm not one of those people who "has" to have her own space and am happy to share (most of the time!). Even though my first marriage was to an a-hole, I knew even then that it wasn't being married that sucked, but rather the person I was with. This second time around, I know that I have made a much better choice and it had nothing to do with the institution of marriage. I rather like the comfort of always having that person next to me in the bed, someone to cook a big breakfast with on the weekends, watch tv shows with, go grocery shopping with, even. Sure, we quarrel, and usually about silly and mundane things, but we not any less in love or attracted to each other because of it. It can work if both people are committed and really want to be together and if they both want the same "big ticket" items out of life. Sounds to me like LW and his girlfriend are simply in different places and the wise thing to do would just be to part ways. (Easier said than done after 4 years, sure, but what's the alternative? She continues to date him while broiling with resentment, or he caves and moves in with her and he festers with resentment). Either way they're done. IMHO.

Posted by: Beth at October 25, 2007 9:07 AM

I think what she's done is accepted the notion that "moving forward" in a relationship automatically means moving toward marriage.

Why can't moving forward mean going to Buenos Aires to dance the tango?

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 25, 2007 9:32 AM

Perhaps, one of many reasons why so many marriages end in divorce...the "moving forward" thing. Where do you go after you've dated, moved in, married and had kids? That's when people start to wonder what else there is, what they missed, and off they go FINALLY figuring out what makes them tick as an individual. That status quo needs to be challenged. It doesn't mean some people won't end up following that same path eventually, but it should be done through some reasoned decision, not by default.

Posted by: moreta at October 25, 2007 1:03 PM

The concept of 'moving forward' is usually expressed by women that want to get married. I have a few female friend who ask the same questions about my relationship, and since it isn't 'going anywhere', they lose interest in hearing about it.

The guy I'm seeing now is going to get an apartment in my building, so I'll be living the co-ed dorm fantasy. I love the idea of keeping my own life private, doing my own thing, which also keeps the mystery alive, and the sex hot.

Posted by: Chrissy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 1:07 PM

moreta, I was just thinking along those lines. Once you've gotten married and had the kids, what's the next step 'going forward'. Logically it's separation and divorce, with maybe an affair or two thrown in.

Once you've been through the cycle once, you don't usually care to repeat it, so going forward is not something to be desired in a relationship, living happily in the moment is what it's all about. If it's making you happy, don't change a thing.

Posted by: Chrissy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 1:12 PM

Wendy deserves all of the shit she got. Some of us have indeed openly disagreed with Amy's position on Marriage, there's just nothing to gain by argueing the point. The way she expressed her "outrage" invites us monkeys to throw shit at her, regardless of whatever her problem was. Not to mention, this IS Amy's Column, it's rude to harp on a host...

My Grandfather lived in an apartment in the same building, right next to his girlfriend of 50 years. There doors were inches apart, litterally. They kept the doors open and used the space combining them more like a foyer, but always retained their separate dwellings. Worked great for 50 years...

Posted by: Morbideus [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 1:53 PM

I noticed that the demand was that he "move in with HER ...." and that made me perk up. Now, maybe she really meant that they should be living together and her place, his place, it doesn't matter, or that they should move in to a NEW place together, or that he lives in a van down by the river so her place only makes sense, but that's not what was in the letter so I'm only going by the quote. Am I the only one who thought that held just a whiff of "controlling"?
He'll be living there but it will still be HER house and her rules. And there probably won't be many compromises in that house, it's going to be her way or ... well her way because she'll have the car keys to keep him from the highway!

Posted by: pakratt at October 25, 2007 2:15 PM

I don't have a crystal ball, but I don't need one to see where this is headed.

Soon after the girl and the LW break up -- and they will -- she'll land on somebody who is HAPPY to play Mr. Wonderful on her terms. He'll be on the same page with her about EVERYTHING. Playing house will be great, and she'll be relieved she didn't waste any more time on any more of the "wrong" guys. And that's how they'll both feel, right up until she seriously starts wanting kids...or to buy a new home together...basically, to stop "playing house," and start in with the real commitment. And then Mr. Wonderful will RUN. Or, even worse, he'll go along with all that stuff too, whether he wants it or not, and bail out only after there's a kid and/or a big financial mess to leave behind.

Just one woman's opinion, but I've seen this a few times. Women like this girlfriend are easy marks. In love with a hazy idea of love, and convinced there's only one right way to go about it.

Posted by: Daisy Jones [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 25, 2007 3:12 PM

Women can be outrageously competitive about this sort of thing. Have you ever visited www.truebrideconfessions.com? Too many women confessing that they feel superior about getting married before their friends or family, because it's some kind of contest, and the one with the wedding ring/shared apartment/first kid wins. I have a friend who decided to get married a month before I did so she could "beat" me. I'm divorced now, and she probably feels good about herself for being married and having a baby, but I'm just thinking, "Better her than me."

Posted by: Monica at October 25, 2007 5:49 PM

I’m just curious as to how one goes about staying with someone who doesn’t want to be stayed with. How does that work, exactly? Does gf show up at LW’s house armed with various weaponry (stiletto heels, sexy lingerie and god knows what else), demand to *stay* with him and he does….?? What? Cower in a corner, waving his hands in horror while begging “No! No! Please don’t stay with me!” – but that menacing, manipulative gf forces her evil wiles on him anyway?

Perhaps Stuck could act like he’s really attached to his balls and try to have what is known in some circles as an Adult Conversation. This is a conversation wherein one party treats the other with the professed love he says he has for her. He could start by asking her what “moving forward” means to her. Maybe she does want (gasp!) marriage now. Maybe she is feeling the pangs of her egg timer tick-ticking away. Maybe her motivations are something else entirely. But surely a grown man who *loves* his woman could look at her age and ask her about the blatantly obvious.

Perhaps while Stuck is groping for his balls, he could grope around for a couple of other things as well. Little things like character and integrity - which could tell him that the “last time she brought this up” should have been exactly that. The last time. People with character and integrity do not lead others (especially those whom they “love”) into a terminal void. They say “I can’t give you what you want and you should find someone who can” and they MEAN it. They don’t keep them around for a convenient fuck and then complain about it when she complains.

Overall, LW and his gf sound like a perfect match. She’s whiny and let’s girlfriends decide how she feels about her life and choices and he’s equally immature in taking responsibility for his. Does it get any better than that?

Posted by: Inquiring at October 25, 2007 5:54 PM

Two things: For PJ to be seriously fine, her "bikes" would include a seriously-worn CBR, GSX-R, ZX or R for track days and something else more comfortable for a look-see around the state. There's just something wonderful about a woman in roadracing leathers. Look around for Lori at killboy.com.

And for those of you who have alluded to or accepted the idea that a guy's socks on the floor are "homey" or bring a glow of some kind, I'll be happy to send a pair to help you out. They won't be pretty, but they have been used while thinking deep thoughts, and they won't come with baggage which poisons the air after a burrito!

Posted by: Radwaste at October 26, 2007 7:43 AM

Two things: For PJ to be seriously fine, her "bikes" would include a seriously-worn CBR, GSX-R, ZX or R for track days and something else more comfortable for a look-see around the state. There's just something wonderful about a woman in roadracing leathers. Look around for Lori at killboy.com.

And for those of you who have alluded to or accepted the idea that a guy's socks on the floor are "homey" or bring a glow of some kind, I'll be happy to send a pair to help you out. They won't be pretty, but they have been used while thinking deep thoughts, and they won't come with baggage which poisons the air after a burrito!

Posted by: Radwaste at October 26, 2007 7:44 AM

Not only should he find out what "moving forward" means (to her), he should also get the whole "humiliated in front of her friends" thing cleared up. Humiliated? Why? Get the whole story out in the open, get it cleared up, and then (since he doesn't intend to bow to her wishes) GET HER THE HELL OUT OF HIS LIFE!! It's the only way they can both be happy.

Posted by: pakratt at October 26, 2007 8:08 AM

Hey Radwaste, you hater - gimme a break since I'm still working on my collection! I am only up to two bikes - a Trek 5200 speedy carbon thing for zooming around on the county blacktops, and a Surly Long-Haul Trucker touring bike for lugging my crap to class, getting gtoceries, and hopefully doing a road trip on next year. I finally have it all outfitted with front and rear panniers, racks, and a pink basket that hangs on the handlebars.

But there's still time! Old and busted is the new hotness - maybe next I'll get a beat-up old single-speed and clean it up for fun.

Posted by: Pirate Jo at October 26, 2007 8:38 AM

Radwaste -- racing leathers? Bah! Black chaps and jacket are where its at! Or dirt gear. I'm wee, so my YZ125 and Boulevard S-40 may not impress you, but they're enough to propel me along at unsafe speeds. AND I can pick them up!

Posted by: moreta [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 26, 2007 10:23 AM

You know, I think my partner and I would do well enough living separately, if the kids would go for it and it weren't so expensive. As it is, we do well enough with our separate rooms. A couple of friends have commented that the whole two rooms thing seems old fogy-ish and unhealthy. I tend to think that's how we survive.

Sure, she doesn't do a little dance, every time I walk through the door, but if she did, she'd crowd out our son who does. As it is, I tend to do a little dance, when she opts to wander on into my room, or even better when we get frisky in the living room or kitchen. It's kind of like the best of both worlds, we both have our defined spaces and we have a fairly healthy relationship for a couple of extreme introverts.

Posted by: DuWayne at October 26, 2007 5:54 PM

DuWayne, the separate bedrooms idea is great! Don't listen to your sheep-like friends who can't think outside the box. If you are going to live together because of kids, it's a great way to keep your privacy, get a good night's sleep, maintain your individuality, and not resent each other for petty reasons.

Posted by: Chrissy at October 27, 2007 7:18 AM

"I think people who live together get that "business as usual" feeling. The boyfriend or husband walks in the door and maybe their partner doesn't even run to the door and greet them. it's not special that they're there."

"People you're around all the time are simply not as sexy, and tend to be annoying, which can easily breed contempt. Want to deny that? Be my guest."

Amy, I think you're highly intelligent and sensible, but I disagree with you here.

When my boyfriend and I were first together he let me know he would never want to live with someone due to the reasons that you listed above. I had thoughts of leaving him, but didn't because my gut told me he was the one for me. Very sincere and sweet. I appreciated his honesty. I told him I disagreed on the living together topic. We had the discussion a few times, but I never pressured him. I never said, "we should live together" but made it clear I believe in that.

Two years into our relationship he asked me to find a house and move in together. It's been wonderful! We are happier than ever and I love knowing he wanted this on his own. The right match changed his thinking.

Things in the bedroom are still hot a year-and-a-half later, and we still greet each other with a kiss.

I think LW's girlfriend is a fool for trying to force the issue, it's a recipe for failure. But that doesn't mean that consensual cohabitation isn't a great thing! :-)

Posted by: jaylyn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 27, 2007 12:17 PM

Nice that it works for you, but it doesn't mean my thinking on it is flawed. Or that you won't feel differently three years in.

P.S. No need to put breaks between paras. I deleted them.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 27, 2007 12:37 PM

I don't think your thinking is flawed as it applies to your life. Obviously this is what works for you.

But it doesn't mean that this is true for everyone.

There are people who can live together harmoniously long term. I wouldn't have made the choice I did if I thought I'd be changing my mind a few years down the road. Then again you can only make choices based on your best instincts and thoughtful analysis. To each his own, right?

Posted by: jaylyn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 28, 2007 4:33 PM

It's good that you have an optimistic outlook on the future. I guess the best idea would be to keep your eyes open for the warning signs that the relationship is heading downhill and then re-evaluate the option of living apart. It won't be a sign that you've failed somehow, it's just an event that has a high probability of happening.

Posted by: Chrissy [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 29, 2007 9:20 AM

But wait, when Amy said, marriage for love isn't sensible, that seems like a logical fallacy.

If you take it as a given that once upon a time people married not out of love but as for economic/cultural acceptance/mutual survival reasons; and then you say that these days people no longer marry for economic/cultural acceptance/mutual survival reasons, then it follows that the ONLY really good reason to get married is because of love, and the commitment to a long term love relationship.

It may not be sensible, but then again, treating ones personal life like one long dating experience, making sure that everything stays fresh and no one gets disenchanted (horror of horrors) sounds sort of like hell on earth to me.

I hate to say this, but a lot of what Wendy said rang true for me. I confess in the context of this advice column to feeling like a lesser being for my craven unevolved wish to get married and have a family. I also confess that I also cringe at the bloodlust at which regulars go after the LW, but I think that is sort of more general human nature and not particular to this forum.

I have to say, I think that Amy is always very supportive of married people in crisis who write in, and letter writers who ask if they can leave their spouses because they are bored are firmly steered by Amy to reconsider. And I've especially appreciated times when Amy has talked about her friend who asked out 100 women until one said yes (and they married as I recall) and she's given good advice to people who want to meet people. But yeah, the argument enthusiastically advanced for life as a never ending sleep over makes me sad.

Posted by: susan at October 29, 2007 7:52 PM

Susan, you make some good points. I agree about the never ending sleep over, and the fact that it's okay to want something more traditional. If that's where your heart is, that's what will lead to the fullest life for you. There are those of us who feel this way and it's a reasonable approach to life!

Posted by: jaylyn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 29, 2007 9:51 PM

No matter what anyone says, susan & jaylyn will keep believing in their romantic ideals. I sincerely hope you don't get a rude awakening from your dreams.

'treating ones personal life like one long dating experience, making sure that everything stays fresh and no one gets disenchanted (horror of horrors) sounds sort of like hell on earth to me.'
Could you explain how this is hellish?

Posted by: Chrissy at October 30, 2007 6:43 AM

I'm with you, Chrissy!

Not sure why "making sure that everything stays fresh and no one gets disenchanted" would ever be a bad thing. Too many people are too secure in their relationships -- meaning, they see commitment as a license to get lazy. Lazy about the relationship and lazy about living. Part of my impetus to live fully is the fact that I take a rational approach to existence. Because I see no evidence that there's god or an afterlife, I think I'd better make the most of the time I have before I'm worms.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2007 6:46 AM

the ONLY really good reason to get married is because of love, and the commitment to a long term love relationship.

Robert Frank refers to love as a commitment device (vis a vis the exchange model of relationships) and strong feelings can increase one's staying power in a relationship that's a business arrangement of sorts (for raising children, for "security" -- or the false sense of it, as the case may be). That said, you cannot control how you feel, only how you act. So to say you'll love somebody a lifetime is ridiculous. You can only promise to ACT loving and follow through.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2007 6:48 AM

Remembering to ACT loving every day can go a long way to keeping the real thing alive, whether you are married, living together or perpetually dating.

There's a joke about the guy who goes to his lawyer saying he wants to divorce his bitch of a wife. She nags all the time, won't put out anymore and generally make his life miserable. The (obviously fictional) lawyer suggests that he wait a month, and during that time treat his wife like a princess, so she'll really regret and miss him when he's gone. The guy, liking the idea of revenge does just that. A month later, the lawyer calls and asks when he wants to get started on the divorce. The guy answers, "Divorce?? Why would I do that, she's the greatest girl in the world!"

Yeah, I never was good at the whole joke telling thing....but hopefully you get the idea.

Posted by: moreta [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2007 10:02 AM

"Not sure why "making sure that everything stays fresh and no one gets disenchanted" would ever be a bad thing."

I agree, but I would contend that living under the same roof does not necessarily mean that things get stale. Granted, I'm not speaking from personal experience, but regardless, not every married couple that stays faithful has to be agonizing. I read a book called "Mars and Venus in the Bedroom", and while I won't speak for author's credibility, he had an interesting design for keeping it going over a long period of time. It mostly involved treating the marriage like you're still dating, which sounds very much like common sense to me.

This whole conversation seems to be an outgrowth of the original argument. On a case by case basis here, how can anyone really argue with Amy's point? She wasn't making a sweeping generalization, she was taking what the LW wrote and demonstrating why he should probably act in what I suppose is considered a non-traditional manner, or whatever. Here, I definitely agree.

Posted by: Scott [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2007 2:47 PM

Sweeping generalizations ARE being made with statements like:

"People you're around all the time are simply not as sexy, and tend to be annoying, which can easily breed contempt. Want to deny that? Be my guest." (italics mine)

That's just one example of many in this forum. It does begin to feel as though there's an attitude that it's not acceptable to be a romantic in a manner other than what has been ordained by Amy and her like-minded disciples.

Posted by: jaylyn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2007 8:04 PM

Oh, please. This isn't a forum of dittoheads. No Kool-Aid being served here.

As far as the opinion expressed above (ooh, fancy with the italics!), isnt that...mine?

Hmmm...does this mean I'm my own like-minded disciple?

Does it mean..anything?

As far as what I wrote, look to biology: newness absolutely is sexy, which is why people sometimes have affairs -- people who are happily married and have good sex with their partners.

People you're around all the time tend to be annoying. Hmm, do I mean that they drop their party manners and pick their toenails and leave crap all over, and drum on the table when you're trying to read? Well...yeah.

When somebody is doing some annoying shit for a while, even if you love them...you can start to resent the crap out of them.

Wow...radical thoughts!

Naw...really just the stuff people who think of themselves as romantics don't like to admit. I hear a lot from these types -- as they're getting taken for everything they're worth in divorce court.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 30, 2007 9:05 PM

"Mars and Venus in the Bedroom", and while I won't speak for author's credibility,

Go ahead, he got it mail-order, from the "University" of Phoenix, I believe.

Posted by: Amy Alkon [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 30, 2007 9:06 PM

As you say:

"People you're around all the time tend to be annoying. Hmm, do I mean that they drop their party manners and pick their toenails and leave crap all over, and drum on the table when you're trying to read? Well...yeah."

There's some truth there. But it's the price you pay if you think the good outweighs those little anoying moments. And to me those little moments are so minor compared with the good things in the relationship.

To each his own. We can agree to disagree.

Posted by: jaylyn [TypeKey Profile Page] at October 31, 2007 7:23 PM

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