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February 19, 2007

Living Together Left Me $26,000 in Debt

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We began to plan. I made a guest list. We even had our perfect invitations picked out: a vintage cartoon, Dick and Jane-style. "See Amy and Chris," the front read. Then you'd open it to see the two of us in a tux and a big, white wedding dress: "See Amy and Chris Get Married." I couldn't wait. But there were things Chris wanted to accomplish first. Six months in, he told me that he wanted to go to flight school. It was a big leap. Up until then, he'd been a baggage handler. But I've never met anyone who loved airplanes like he did. On our lunch breaks, we'd sit at the airport watching planes take off while he quizzed me on things like the difference between a 747-200 and a 747-400: One, apparently, has little fins called winglets; one doesn't. Now his career was growing winglets, and I wanted to be supportive. He worked while going to school, so he was making some money, but I was making more. It was sort of understood that I would float us until he became the big-bucks pilot. So I paid our rent, the utilities, and the payment for my car, which we shared.



Flight school was fun for us both. We flew to neighboring islands so he could log flight time; I got to see my family on the Big Island. "You're my best friend," he told me the day he graduated. "I couldn't have done this without you." After, he got a job with a local commuter airline.



By now, we'd been together two years, and I hoped the next time he took me flying would be to pop the question. But, ironically, once Chris earned his wings, I felt him pulling away. Instead of hanging out with his flight-school friends the way we used to, he now went out with them alone. They were going to talk about "flying stuff," he said; I'd be bored. Instead, I was beginning to feel used. Chris was working 12 hours a week, in contrast to my 16-hour days. And yet, I'd come home to clothes on the floor, dirty dishes in the sink, and him, glued to the computer, playing Flight Simulator. "Wow," I'd say, "What did you do all day?" "I got the high score!" he'd reply.

Our wedding remained a mirage. If I asked about it, there was always a new milestone Chris wanted to pass — become a jet pilot, make captain. "Be patient," he'd say, "I want to surprise you." I was surprised: Five years had flown by, and we still weren't married. I didn't get it. Why did he need to have his whole life together before saying "I do"? I thought being young, in love — and bumbling through it together — was half the fun. Yet, though I ran meetings at work, ran a household, and organized events that took over entire islands, I was too scared to confront my would-be fiancé — scared to push him away.


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