DEAR AMY: I am 22 years old, and I have known my boyfriend for almost nine years. We've been dating for almost two years. Lately I have really been wanting to move forward in the relationship. I want to be married and have a family in the next few years.
My boyfriend does not see eye to eye with me when it comes to our beliefs. I told him that I want to be married (or at least engaged) before we think about having kids. He completely disagrees. He tells me he doesn't want to get married, although he does want kids (and soon). I am very against having children before marriage.
It's all I can think about every day. I have even been looking at places to elope (since I don't want a big wedding) and at engagement rings. Am I wrong for wanting to be married before having kids? Am I crazy for wanting him to propose? -- Eager
DEAR EAGER: I wish I could offer you 20/20 clarity about what pushing someone into marriage tends to lead to, or point you toward a crystal ball that would show you the reality of joining lives when two partners don't have the same goals or values.
The one thing I know for sure is that you cannot form a solid future with someone when you don't respect his clearly stated choice not to get married.
Looking at rings and wedding venues will not make a marriage happen. Having children is challenging (wonderful too) when you have every single thing going for you -- having babies before then makes this lifelong choice so much harder.
I hope you have pursued your education and have a job and outside interests. Talk with peers and family members who are married with kids -- or unmarried with kids -- to see what their lives are like. Enter this phase of life with your guy by your side, not pushing him from behind. Premarital couples counselling could help you two to frame this important conversation.
DEAR AMY: I have a story similar to the one from "Dogged Out," about the couple who bring their uninvited dog along to other people's homes.
When I was a child, I was attacked and seriously injured by a neighbour's dog, and my mother was hospitalized from the injuries she received when she tried to rescue me. As a result, I have always been terrified of big dogs, and my sister is well aware of it.
She and her husband recently came to visit us from out of state. When they arrived, their very large dog was with them.
Over the next few days she would laugh every time I'd back away as the dog ran toward me. She took great joy in watching me fear the dog. I "sucked it up" and tried not to let her see how much it all bothered me, and I asked my husband to keep quiet about it.
After they returned home, I told her I was glad they came but thought it was very inconsiderate of them to bring "Rover" without asking me first. Her response? "I knew if I told you, you'd say no!"
I told her if she ever does it again, they will have to stay somewhere else. Believe me -- a fear of dogs is not funny. -- No Dogs Allowed
DEAR NO: Your sister was extremely disrespectful. Now that you know what she is capable of, I hope you will stand your ground.
DEAR AMY: Thank you for encouraging people to put "A Book on Every Bed" this past holiday season.
We read your column just in time to get some books for Santa to deliver to our multigenerational household. On Christmas morning, family members ages 3 to 63 sat engrossed in their books, while stockings bulged undisturbed and the many gifts under the tree awaited opening for a little longer.
This moment was magic. I hope this tradition will continue to grow and other families will enjoy it as much as we do. -- Betsy
DEAR BETSY: I am thrilled this giving tradition is spreading. I love hearing stories about how families are sharing literacy.