I'm in a wonderful 4.5 year relationship with a fantastic guy. He's in his mid-twenties, I'm in my late twenties. I could see myself spending my life with him.

The issue is moving in together. He sees it as a step between being in an LTR and getting married, and I see it as being much closer to marriage and not at all an in-between. Ideally, I would like to be engaged before moving in together. I'm not religious or anything, I just feel like it would help us avoid a lot of drama—god forbid we break up after moving in together—and ensures that we are on the same page about what we want and where the relationship is going. Also, I live in one of the last affordable areas in our rapidly-gentrifying city, and if we broke up and I had to find my own place again, I have no idea where I'd go. On the other hand, if one of us got a job in another state, I wouldn't have a problem living together. That just makes sense to me.

The last time we discussed this, he said he definitely saw a future with me, but just wasn't ready for marriage yet. I'm totally okay with this. We're young and I only began to feel I was ready for marriage a year or so ago, and since he's a tiny bit younger, I get that it could be a minute till he catches up with that feeling. I would never, ever want to pressure him into that. But I feel like living together is much more similar to marriage than he might realize. I know it's a thing that "everybody does" these days, but I still see it as a very serious step, even if we have been together for so long.

There are a lot of practical reasons for us moving in together. We're doing the thing where we see each other at least 4 days a week, usually more. We waste a lot of time going back and forth to each other's places to take care of our pets, change clothes, etc. He's house-hunting and splitting a mortgage payment would save both of us a lot of money. Also, if we were to get married, he'd have to buy a house in his name beforehand anyway because I have a crippling amount of student debt that would make it impossible for us purchase a home together.

Unfortunately, I feel like the practical reasons aren't good enough. That makes me feel like a roommate, not a romantic partner. I'm not looking for convenience, I'm looking to build a life together.

His house hunt is getting more serious, and my lease is up in the fall. I know this conversation is going to come up again soon. So I guess my main questions are...

1. Am I just being silly and worrying too much?

2. If I'm not being silly, how do I have a constructive conversation about this?

I tend to avoid talking about this because I do not want my "I'd like to be engaged first" reason to sound like an ultimatum. I have expressed this to him before and he was a bit upset and didn't really seem to understand my reasoning. The discussion ended in disagreement with no progress. I'm not trying to "just get a ring," I'm trying to do the right thing to keep our relationship healthy because I am absolutely crazy for this guy. Mainly, I'm just afraid of going into this with different expectations and then resenting each other for it.

Thanks in advance if you have time for a response, and also thank you for everything you do. Reading your column has made me a better person.

Confused And Careful

My enumerated (and unasked for) observations...

1. Your plan for avoiding drama — getting engaged before moving in together — seems to be generating a fair amount of drama.

2. Getting engaged before moving in together doesn't breakup-proof your relationship. You could get engaged, move in together, and experience a relationship-extinction-level event (you could cheat on him, he could cheat on you, one or the other of you could vote for Trump) or you could become fatally estranged for totally mundane reasons (he pees in the shower, you're a complete slob, he won't shut up about how the Dem primary being "rigged") or for no reason at all (sometimes longtime couples wind up feeling like roommates whatever they do). You say you're not religious, and that's nice, but it would appear, on the subject of engagement least, you're prone to religious-ish magical thinking.

3. Is your debt an issue for your boyfriend? Perhaps you should speak with a financial advisor—together—about what his liability would be if he married you, how it might impact his credit, etc. Perhaps he has fears that are unfounded and could be laid to rest.

4. You could always pretend his new house is in another city.

My enumerated (and asked for) responses to your enumerated questions...

1. You are not being silly—you want what you want—but you're definitely overthinking this.

2. Here's how you have a constructive conversation about this: you ova the fuck up and issue an ultimatum. Stop listing all the reasons why he should want to propose to you, CAC, stop trying to explain to him why he's wrong to feel the way he does. Just tell him you're not moving in with him officially until you're engaged. Period. Spare him—spare us—the rationalizations and the magical thinking. You've been together 4.5 years, he's buying a house, and you require a move toward formalizing your commitment prior to moving in together. Period. Reassure him that an engagement isn't a wedding announcement—an engagement is easier to call off than a wedding; an engagement is easier to end than a marriage—and that you're looking forward to a nice, long engagement. Years long. But if he wants to keep you, he'll have to propose to you. (Under duress, CAC, so don't expect a flashmob.) If he doesn't want to propose to you, he loses you.

You, of course, have to go into that conversation prepared to lose him. Good luck.

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