Should we get engaged before moving in?

Dear Meredith,

(I am writing this letter on behalf of myself and my boyfriend.)

I have been dating this wonderful guy, "Justin," for almost a year and a half. He is an amazing person and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with him. We have purchased a few books along the lines of "1,001 questions to ask before getting married," and have had many of those deep discussions. Though we don't see eye-to-eye on every last thing, we have not found any deal breakers. We appear to agree on the topics that are important to both of us. We would like to get married in the summer of 2013. The problem? We disagree on some of the minor details of how to go from being dating to engaged to married.

Justin would like to live together before we get engaged. On the other hand I am not willing to live together without an engagement and a wedding date set. Some background on both of us. Justin was once engaged, but it did not work out. They did not live together at any point, but Justin believes if they had lived together before becoming engaged the relationship would have ended before a ring appeared. I on the other hand did live with an ex without being engaged. Needless to say it didn't work out and since my ex owned the house, I was the one who needed to move out. Along with moving out of the house I was also out several thousand dollars, which has taken me four years to recoup.

I need to make a choice about renewing the lease on my apartment by the first week of May. I have told Justin if I have a ring by then I am willing to renew my lease for 6 months, which will give us time to pick a venue, date, and allow me to move into the house he owns slowly. If I don't have a ring I am going to renew for a full year. (I have talked to my landlord and they are willing to give me a 6 month lease for about $150 more a month). I am willing to pay that extra money a month for a short term lease for a little while. Justin believes he won't be prepared to propose until late this summer/early fall. He is also upset that I won't trust him enough to follow through on the proposing to sign the shorter term lease without a ring.

We both are a little scared, though we both want the same end result. We want to respect each other’s beliefs and want to spend our lives together. Can you give us any advice on how to get from where we are now to where we want to be without hurting each other? We are turning to you instead of our family and friends since we would like to seek advice from someone neutral.

– Catch 22, Worcester

You're not going to like this (well, one of you won't), but I side with Justin. You want him to promise you that he'll definitely want to marry you no matter what, but that promise would be a lie. Yes, the ring would be a real symbol of commitment, but Justin has already told you that he wants to propose by the fall and get married next summer. He doesn't sound like a guy who's looking for reasons to end this.

Some people believe that they have to get married before they live with a partner. For those people, the choice is usually about family, religion, and tradition. But for you it's simply about wanting a promise. That's understandable, but I'm here to tell you that you already have a promise from Justin. He wants this. He just doesn't want to give you the matching accessory and wedding date until he's comfortable and confident. That seems fair to me. If he gave you a ring now, would it really have any meaning? The ring would only symbolize what you want. If you wait until he's ready, the proposal will be a genuine, two-sided gesture.

So yeah, I'm with Justin. I want you to move in there as soon as you can so that he can propose with fanfare in time for you to get married next summer. You both want that. Have faith.

I empathize with all of your concerns, but let's just move this along before the stress of the proposal ruins the 1,001 things that you guys get right.

Readers? Am I right or is Justin in the wrong? Both parties seem to be stressed about what happened with their exes. Should they be making comparisons? Thoughts on a compromise? Help them.

– Meredith