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...
"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
"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.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
"Don't you like this the way it is?" he asked.
"I think you need to leave," I said.
It's been two years now, and I haven't really dated anyone since. For
months, I cried like crazy, for the lost time, the lost dream — who I'd become
waiting for him, what I'd put on hold. Because after I dried the tears, this is
what I saw: I had been 23, and hopeful, when Chris first stepped off that
plane. At 31 I was single again, scarred, and starting from scratch. Worse,
perhaps. I had far more debt — $26,000 — than when I met him. Not to mention
the $36,000 he owed me in back rent alone — which he acknowledged, and I tried,
in vain, to collect. If we were married, it would be different. After all, I
did the time. But I was never his wife, and I had no recourse.
I thought about it a lot. When, exactly, our relationship froze; why I was
willing to prop us both up for so long. I don't think I'm alone in this. I've
seen plenty of smart, strong friends go to amazing lengths to keep broken
relationships aloft. But I do, in part, blame myself.
Sure, I was good to Chris. I was good at supporting his dreams, and
absorbing his debts, but at my own expense. I hated myself for that. So I took
a long, hard look at the should-haves: ultimatums I didn't issue, signs I
refused to see, and why I didn't pull the rip cord much sooner.
All I can say is that it's curious how myopic we become in the pursuit of
love — and particularly marriage. I didn't need it. I wore the suits. I was the
breadwinner. But, I had to admit, beneath the career woman was this retro me,
the Amy in that vintage cartoon, who really wanted it — clamored for her big
dress, her turn to cut the cake, but also for something more enduring: the
commitment I imagined marriage would provide. It's why I pinned my hopes on
Chris for so long. I still hope to find it. Only this time, I won't try to will
it into existence. I'll look for someone willing to give it in return.