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

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

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.

"Where do you see your life in five years?" I blurted out.

"I don't know," Chris said.

"C'mon," I pressed. "Do you see yourself in a house? What do you see?"

"I think I'll have a house," he said slowly. "And I'll be a captain. And I'll have a better car."

I couldn't believe it; I didn't figure anywhere in his five-year plan.

"Do you see yourself married?" I asked.

"I don't think I do," he said carefully.

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