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    Is Living Together a Real Test Run for Marriage — or Just a Way to Put It Off?

    "Living Together Left Me $26,000 in Debt"

    He wanted to be a pilot, so she financed his dream. But somehow their wedding never took flight
    By Amy Hennessey
    As told to Carrie Sloan

    In December of 1996, when I was 23, I met Chris online. He lived in Honolulu, where I grew up, but I had just moved to Seattle for work, so we'd talk on the phone for hours, laughing until our stomachs hurt. One night I said, casually, "I had the best clam chowder tonight. If you ever come visit, you should try it." "Amy, I work for an airline," he said. He arrived on Valentine's Day.

    When he met me at the airport, I was pleasantly surprised. He was cuter than his photo, with striking green eyes, and we felt like old friends instantly. That weekend, we went to the mountains, met my brother and his wife for dinner — and had clam chowder. It was perfect.

    He came back in April. In the meantime, I got a call about a PR job in Honolulu. It seemed like serendipity. Chris flew up to help me pack, we shipped my stuff on an airline discount, and I got an apartment through a friend of my mom's. He stayed that first night — and never left.

    I didn't mind. Our lives fit seamlessly. He was sweet and romantic — sent flowers to my office for no good reason, brought me my favorite fast food (mahimahi from Kakaako Kitchen) when I worked late, and ate with me. We loved to cook together, too. In fact, I remember the day I knew I wanted to marry him. We had friends over for a barbecue. I laughed as Chris fumbled with the coals as he tried to set up the grill, then dripped marinade all over the patio. I could see us doing the same thing 60 years in the future.

    Which is exactly what I wanted. I had a career. I was independent — I'd moved to Seattle by myself. But I'd also watched my parents — married for 42 years — grow old together. I wanted that bond, and Chris seemed to, also. Early on, we helped his best friend and his girlfriend plan their wedding. One day, as I pored over bridal magazines with her — while keeping one eye trained on gowns I liked — Chris seemed to read my mind. "You should be looking at those, too," he said. "This could be coming up for us soon."

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