Caroline Wales, life advice columnist

Advice Column

Dear Caroline,

I am single, but I have a long-standing boyfriend of three years. We have always planned on getting married, but have just not gotten around to it. We both have busy jobs and are pretty happy to see each other for the entire weekend and talk during the week.

We were just starting to talk about moving into together and setting a date when my father died and my elderly mother, who cannot live on her own will be moving in with me. I have a nice separate bedroom/living room suite for her on the first floor of my house where she can have her privacy.

I am concerned about starting off a live-in relationship/marriage with my boyfriend now that she will be a major part of my life. Tom, my boyfriend, said it doesn’t matter to him. He gets along fine with Mom, but I just don’t know. How can I make this work?


Dear Kimberly,

I’m sorry for the loss you are experiencing. Big decisions often seem more intimidating when huge shifts show up in our lives. That said yours might be a less difficult situation than it seems. My first question is whether the arrangement with your mother is a long-term one? You and your boyfriend clearly enjoy your perspective spaces, and that can be fantastic for couples in that they have an easier time balancing the “yours, mine, ours” aspects of coming together. Still, I’m wondering, if you are willing to get really honest with yourself, if the new arrangement with your mother in itself threatens the quality of your “you” time and makes moving in with Tom less appealing, at least while you are still adjusting. While I think you are doing something wonderful in caring for your mother, this is a huge responsibility and definitely needs to be considered in terms of what it truly requires and what you truly have to offer. I wouldn’t gloss over this piece out of obligation and I would release any feelings of obligation by keeping the arrangement, your needs and concerns included, a regular conversation with these two seemingly important people in your life.

Assuming this new arrangement with mom is fairly permanent, my immediate inclination is to say go for it! And yet, I feel the need to ask, is this situation an opportunity to push off a decision you more aptly just don’t want to make? Do you want to get married? Do you really want to move in with Tom and begin a marriage with him? Sometimes plans and feelings change, and while three years is an investment, it’s not a binding contract. So, check in with yourself. If there is any truth to this possibility, it is also important for you to realize that just because you are busy with work and life it doesn’t mean that if this relationship doesn’t work out that another one wont.

BUT, if none of these concerns are relevant then what are you waiting for? You have three years under your belts; you know if you want to do this or not. What is it that stands in your way? Mom is either going to be there or she isn’t and her presence won’t change the real life joys and difficulties that show up with new couples or moving in adventures. Sure, some issues may be amplified with an audience or the familial culture, but not so much that you can’t work things out. And, who’s to say that you and Tom can’t create a brand new marriage dynamic. Perhaps you let him support you with your mother and love you as his mate, and maybe you have separate spaces in the house and regular communications about each other’s needs for space. Some couples today even have “unheard of” sleeping arrangements where they sleep together half of the week and separate the other half, making room for intimacy and healthy levels of rest. My point is simply that you and Tom are the ones who get to make the rules about what really does work for you and what doesn’t. As long as you do the work of maintaining open communication, you stand to have a pretty healthy start. In the end, if you are happy and healthy, and you want to make this move, why not? If not now, when?



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* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.

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