While I'm away, readers give the advice.
Living together before wedding can lead to short-term marriage
The Reverend Mrs. E.: On living together before marriage: So often I observe — when a young couple has been living together — one partner is far more interested in marriage than the other, but they are both too insecure to break up after investing several years in the relationship. (Not to mention the daunting task of disentangling their finances, furniture, pets, etc.)
The years they lived together were the years they coulda/shoulda been independent: learning to know themselves, to stand on their own two feet and meet other people. I find it heartbreaking to perform these weddings, but haven't had a lot of luck talking couples out of them.
Bottom line: The lack of courage and money to live independently gives birth to a lot of short-term marriages. Having comfort and companionship like marriage, without the commitment, short-circuits a lot of growing up.
There's more to life than dating a man who buys meals on dates
J: On who pays for dates: I never let a guy pay for a date, always insisting on paying my own way. So that if I wanted to get him to bed, I never felt like I was being paid to, and he could know it was because I really liked him and wanted it as much as he did. This was my young, hormone-driven self choosing. Who knew?
No regrets, I took control of my own life, my own sexual expression, and was never under any pressure to conform to dating expectations. I can honestly say I never had a bad date.
Had bad relationships, good ones and a bad marriage, but wound up with one of those amazing, lifelong loves that shakes the earth and digs down deep. I make more money than he does, and he does our taxes and laundry, and cooks for me when I'm late from work. I'll take what I got over a few free meals.
Keeping up with friends from across the years is a privilege
D.: On being the one who does all the work to organize things for friends: I'm also the guy who keeps up with people. I'm 42, and I have some friends I've known since sixth grade, some I've known since 11th grade, some I've known since college, some I've known since I taught at a little school in Honduras after college, some I've known since graduate school …
And I'm the one who takes the lead. I don't resent it. All these many friendships mean a lot to me, and they mean a lot to my friends. I don't mind being the one who makes the call or writes a note or tracks somebody down. My friends feel appreciated to hear from me, and that makes me feel good.
My wife tells me it's a kind of gift, even if it's only a small one. Everybody has gifts; some are showy and some are mundane. This is one of my gifts: the need and drive to keep up friendships, even when the friends are far away and wrapped up with their own lives and can't do it on their own.
And I love my friends, all of them. That's reason enough to keep doing this; it isn't a chore, it's a joy.