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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" continued...

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."

We began to plan. I made a guest list. We even had our perfect invitations picked out: a vintage cartoon, Dick and Jane-style. "See Amy and Chris," the front read. Then you'd open it to see the two of us in a tux and a big, white wedding dress: "See Amy and Chris Get Married." I couldn't wait.

But there were things Chris wanted to accomplish first. Six months in, he told me that he wanted to go to flight school. It was a big leap. Up until then, he'd been a baggage handler. But I've never met anyone who loved airplanes like he did. On our lunch breaks, we'd sit at the airport watching planes take off while he quizzed me on things like the difference between a 747-200 and a 747-400: One, apparently, has little fins called winglets; one doesn't.

Now his career was growing winglets, and I wanted to be supportive. He worked while going to school, so he was making some money, but I was making more. It was sort of understood that I would float us until he became the big-bucks pilot. So I paid our rent, the utilities, and the payment for my car, which we shared.

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