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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...

Flight school was fun for us both. We flew to neighboring islands so he could log flight time; I got to see my family on the Big Island. "You're my best friend," he told me the day he graduated. "I couldn't have done this without you." After, he got a job with a local commuter airline.

By now, we'd been together two years, and I hoped the next time he took me flying would be to pop the question. But, ironically, once Chris earned his wings, I felt him pulling away. Instead of hanging out with his flight-school friends the way we used to, he now went out with them alone. They were going to talk about "flying stuff," he said; I'd be bored.

Instead, I was beginning to feel used. Chris was working 12 hours a week, in contrast to my 16-hour days. And yet, I'd come home to clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and him, glued to the computer, playing Flight Simulator. "Wow," I'd say, "What did you do all day?" "I got the high score!" he'd reply.

Our wedding remained a mirage. If I asked about it, there was always a new milestone Chris wanted to pass — become a jet pilot, make captain. "Be patient," he'd say, "I want to surprise you." I was surprised: Five years had flown by, and we still weren't married. I didn't get it. Why did he need to have his whole life together before saying "I do"? I thought being young, in love — and bumbling through it together — was half the fun. Yet, though I ran meetings at work, ran a household, and organized events that took over entire islands, I was too scared to confront my would-be fiancé — scared to push him away.

The year Chris finally became a jet pilot, we stopped flying together. He took his mom to Las Vegas all the time, but it was too hard to get me a seat, he said — I wasn't family. One day, my mom sent me a book about a man who loved airplanes more than his fiancée. My parents hated that I was just living with him, but I'd done it against their wishes, and I was determined to make it work.

I'd already downgraded my wedding fantasy: Gone were visions of a big party and my perfect puffy dress. I replaced them with a smaller, simpler ceremony. After all, I rationalized, we'd been together so long, who needed a big party?

I knew his friends; he knew mine. That May, yet another one tied the knot. "You'll be next!" she laughed. It was a running joke. But I felt like the punch line. Finally, I confronted him.

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