Our parents are religious

I decided to run a letter today even though many people are off for the holiday. I assume that some folks are around to comment. Right?

Today's letter is about religion, which is appropriate because I'll be speaking about love and religion after Wednesday's performance of "Next Fall." If you want free tickets, please email me (at meregoldstein at gmail.com) and tell me why you want to see the play. Put NEXT FALL in the subject line. I'll pick a few winners. Feel free to include your own stories about love and religion -- conflicts, resolutions, etc.

Entries are due tomorrow by noon. Winners will be notified by tomorrow at 3.

Dear Meredith,

I'm 25 years old and I've been dating my boyfriend for almost four years. After more than two years of a long-distance relationship, I moved from another state to live near him (in my own apartment). He lives with friends.

There are a lot of positives about my life after the move -- my new job is much better than the one I had before, and I don't mind living alone ... except for the financial part. It's tough to afford a decent, safe apartment by myself. And honestly, it does get lonely once in a while, which leads me to the next point.

Like many couples these days, my boyfriend and I would like to move in together when my lease is up late next year. The only problem? Our parents. Both of us come from Catholic families who disapprove of living together before marriage. My parents actually said that our wedding would "no longer be special" and seemed genuinely hurt and upset (not angry) when I told them about my plans. They pressured me to get married instead, saying it was essentially the same thing as living together. He hasn't approached his parents yet because they're more strict and have made their opinion on the matter known before.

My boyfriend and I routinely discuss getting married and intend to do so within a few years, but we feel 25 is a bit too young. We're independent adults, so we aren't asking our parents for permission, but we also respect and love them and we don't want to cause a major rift. Do you have any advice for a couple struggling to be independent without making our families angry? Is it worth the risk, or should we just wait it out living separately if we intend to get married in a few years anyway?

– Family ties (that bind), Boston

It seems to me that you have a bunch of options, none of which are great (sorry). One is to defy everybody, which just isn't ideal, especially for your boyfriend. You could also get roommates, of course, but that's not what you really want.

A third option is to consider getting engaged -- just engaged, not married -- next year. Something tells me that his parents will be less concerned about cohabitation if you're "promised" to each other. You can choose to enjoy a long engagement -- very, very long, if you want. Set your own terms once you've appeased them a bit. It's not quite all-the-way married, but it's something to keep them at bay.

It seems to me that your boyfriend has to weigh in here because he's the one whose parents might get angry about whatever choice you make. Does he think that an engagement is the best compromise? If not, what is?

My advice is to talk about the possibilities and then revisit the issue again in ... let's say ... six or eight months. By then, you'll be more confident about whatever decision you want to make. Take advantage of your long lease.

Readers? Will an engagement be enough? Should they be worried about their parents? Should they just suck it up and postpone the move in? Anyone have parents opposed to premarital cohabitation? Discuss.

– Meredith