Adapted from a recent online discussion.
An unresolved problem can make living together dicey
202: I have been dating someone for a year. We are very close and 95 percent of the time have a wonderful relationship, lots of fun, lots of cooking, lots of joint "projects" and plans, and we both get along very, very well with each other's families.
I am interested in different kinds of politics than he is. He is a debater and can get really aggressive with me when discussing politics. He wants to move in, and I want that too, but I really am scared that the political arguments will strain our relationship. How do you know when someone is the one, or when the tides are just pulling you together?
Carolyn: Wrong question.
Right question: When is it a bad idea to move in with someone?
Answer: When you have a significant unsolved problem.
The nonwonderful 5 percent of your relationship may seem easy to rationalize away, but it won't if you cast it differently: A weekend involves about 32 waking hours. Five percent of that time — 1.6 hours — is, by your account, nonwonderful due to your boyfriend's aggressive debates.
If you hope you're able to say yes to his moving in — or just dread having to say no — then you may be looking for reasons to say yes, or subconsciously minimizing your concerns about his debating. So, preventively, let's hike it to two hours per weekend of political debate, then multiply by 52, and then by the number of years you're together, and … ergh.
Please make it clear that you regard this as a problem — not the political mismatch, but his relentlessness up against your desire for him to relent.
Whenever you think it's possible "the tides" — I assume you mean external forces, like age and friends and societal expectations? — are pulling you together, then you have to trust that whisper of doubt. Choosing a mate and talking yourself into one may appear similar, but the results look like night and day.
Fish or cut bait: How long should one wait for a commitment? I've been dating "Bill" for a year and a half. He knows I'm apprehensive about marriage because, several years ago, my ex-fiance was pushing marriage and I had reluctantly said yes.
Bill's ex cheated on him, so he is having a hard time trusting that it won't happen again (regardless of who the girl is). I don't like bringing up the M-word. I do not want to pressure him, but it's not like I'm going to be there forever without some sort of commitment.
Carolyn: A commitment will be in name only as long as you both keep holding up your past she-he-done-me-wrongs like some kind of protective shield.
Bill is not your ex-fiance. You are not Bill's cheating ex.
Until you can trust yourselves enough to handle being wrong again — in the same way or in a whole new one — you're going to continue on as two people sharing space but not a whole lot of yourselves.
Marriage is for when you can both say openly: "I'm ready. Let's get hitched." When you can't say that for fear of scaring someone off, then you're not being yourself, and when you're not being yourself, no one can ever get close.