Dear Harlan: In May, it will be four years that my boyfriend and I have been together. Whenever we talk about marriage, we argue.
He is American, comes from a divorced family and has lived on his own. I'm from a Latin family with different values and live at home with my parents. My boyfriend wants us to live together before we get married, to see if it will work. In return, he will get married in a Catholic church (he's Jewish but not religious).
At first, I agreed, although I did not like the idea. Later, he told me he wants us to have a rabbi present at the wedding because he doesn't want to upset his family. This upset me, because he's always telling me that I should not do anything to please my family, that I should make myself happy.
I've now told him that I no longer want to live with him because I feel that he is putting our relationship to the test before getting married. As a compromise, I told him we could get married in a Catholic church with a rabbi present (his friend did it), but we would not live together beforehand. Do you think I am being selfish? —Confused in Florida
Dear Confused: Selfish? No. If he's looking to increase the chances of a successful marriage, moving in together is the wrong move (gulp, my wife and I moved in together after getting engaged).
According to a University of Wisconsin study, cohabitation before marriage dramatically increases the risk of divorce or separation.
Another problem with living together is that it's way too easy to NOT get married. If you get tired of that person, you can move out. If that person is a slob, you can move. Once married, moving out means separation or divorce — making it a bigger deal.
If living together makes you uncomfortable because it causes stress for your family, he should appreciate that. If anyone can appreciate it, it's a Jewish son who has to tell his Jewish mom that the wedding will be held at a Catholic church. Oy.
Dear Harlan: Four days ago I left my boyfriend. He has trouble managing his anger, and he yells at me at least once a day, often more than that. I got to the point where I was crying all of the time.
I began thinking frightening things about wanting to die, and then I finally broke down, packed all of my stuff and told him I needed time away.
Now I'm staying with my sister. I've called him two times since, and we've talked about a lot. He threatened to cheat on me. He said that he can't just sit and wait around. He keeps saying that I "let him down" because I threw away all the plans we had made when I left. But I was scared.
Today I told him that I need one more week, and then I will go back to him. He agreed. My sister is furious. She says that he is manipulative and shows early signs of abuse. I know I am better off without him, but I still want to go back. What should I do? —Stuck
Dear Stuck: Come close to the page. I want to whisper something to you. When getting abused is easier than being alone, you NEED to be on your own. If you can't, you need professional help.
It's perfectly OK that you let him down and ruined his plans — plans of yelling at you, making you feel worthless and beating you down so you feel like no one else will want you. He needs a new plan, and you need to plan a life without him. Lean on your sister and a therapist who can help you with your planning.
Dear Harlan:I'm about to set up a date to meet face to face with a girl I met online and have been talking to for about four months. I was just wondering if you have any tips or advice to adhere to for our first meeting. —Online Guy
Dear Online Guy: Bring a laptop in case conversation gets slow. You can always whip it out and chat.
But seriously, leave your expectations at home. Too many times, online relationships are more fantasy than reality. With four months logged, that's a lot of fantasy. Hope she can be a friend. Be grateful if your girl is really a girl. Meet in public. Don't keep it a secret from friends and family. Until you can get to know her face to face, you don't really know her. Expect a friendship — anything more is a bonus.
Write Harlan at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit online: www.helpmeharlan.com. All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan! 2506 N. Clark St., Ste. 223, Chicago, IL 60614. copy; Harlan Cohen 2005 Dist. by King Features Syndicate Inc.