It’s Valentine’s Day, and this year, for the first time, no one in my world is asking if my boyfriend will pop the question. They know better — finally.
We have been together for more than eight years and will get married when our kids are grown. There are pros and cons to our arrangement that make sense to us, but let me put all that aside for the moment and ask — beg — this question: When did it officially become weird to be in a committed relationship without live together?
“When are you going to get married?” used to be the second most common question we heard. The first was a hesitant, “So, um, why don’t you live together?”
When we were growing up, “living in sin” was only a few degrees better than having a baby out of wedlock — just a few. That old-school thinking has thankfully gone the way of corded phones. Today, no one bats an eye if you’re living together, or if they do, at least they won’t lecture you to your face. I wouldn't judge you for living together unmarried, so why assume something is wrong with me — and my relationship — if I choose differently?
For us, it’s not about religious beliefs, and it’s not because we don’t want to. We do want to, and we plan to. Living apart has everything to do with our kids. He has a tween daughter, and I have a teen son. We didn’t tell them we were dating for more than a year. My son, who only sees his faraway father a few times a year, made it clear he does not want a stepfather. He does not want another man in the house. He does not want a sister. And I respect that.
My boyfriend’s daughter, who mainly lives with her mother, says she’d love for me to be her stepmom, but — here comes the killer caveat — that means she’d have to live with my son. Over the years they have developed a tenuous relationship. They are both only children and the products of divorce. I am not going to force them under the same roof.
The bottom line is they don’t want to be disrupted any more than they have been. It would feel abusive to force it on them.
That’s not to say everyone has a bad outcome — far from it. Some kids need that extra mom or dad figure desperately. Sometimes a woman needs the financial support. I choose not to take a risk right now.
For us, as a couple, it comes down to putting our children’s needs ahead of our wants. Each of our kids has all of our attention, save twice-a-week date nights at local restaurants. There's no drama to rock their tumultuous teenage worlds.
In case you’re wondering, our intimacy is reserved for when the kids are with the other parent or at sleepovers or it takes the place of a dinner date. Is that fun? As an adult, the answer is hell no. We love to fall asleep in each other’s arms. We love a long, leisurely coffee and newspaper morning. We are best friends that hate to be apart.
Worse, we are Baby Boomers: Our friends are having grandchildren, not spazzing out about science projects and crushes. By now, we should be making our own choices — to have exactly the life we want. We have more miles behind us than ahead.
That exact thought gives us patience and hindsight. We’ve had it all already: careers, travel, adventures and craziness.
As my boyfriend says, “Our kids didn’t ask to be born.” We have one shot at raising our kids. Our sacrifices, as a couple, seem small in comparison. Why, folks, is that so hard to understand?
Don’t worry. We will live together. We will marry. We will have that happy ending. And, yes, we can wait.
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