I tried to deliver the blow as softly as possible, mentioning that we didn't decide to move in together until we'd decided we wanted to get married eventually. I tried to emphasize the fact that we were looking to spend more time together and save money instead of talking about things like how we share a bed. I realized it wasn't going to go over big, but I hoped that I'd get a begrudging acceptance in response.
And I did, I guess. But it came with some heavy-handed preaching that I really didn't appreciate. My dad's response a few days later, included this particularly infuriating paragraph:
As to your living arrangements, there are other ways to enjoy the advantages you describe. I wish you would have talked to me first...but I guess that is the last thing you would have done. It's difficult to hear you state so proudly that you have stripped yourself of the principles taught to you by the two people in the world who love you the most and want your happiness, while you drink the rationalizing bathwater of a society who cares nothing about you. I understand your perspective. I have heard it many, many times from people...people who later had to deal with the downsides they didn't see and then kept trying to rationalize their regrets.If he'd said that to me in person, I might have actually hit him. Okay, probably not. But I definitely would have thought about it.
I'm pretty sure there is no other way to get all the advantages I described without living together. By sharing an apartment, we've maximized our time together and pooled our financial resources in ways we couldn't when we had separate places. We're closer and more united than we were before. You can't get that by living separately and paying separate bills and having to drive across town to visit each other all the time.
And the holier-than-thou warning at the end was misplaced. He was referring to his time as bishop and stake president when he counselled couples about their living arrangements. But those were overwhelmingly couples that still wanted some kind of connection to the church. Of course you'll regret moving in with your girlfriend if you care what the church teaches about sexuality. I suppose time will tell, but after almost three years of sharing an apartment with my girlfriend, the only downside was the one I did see--that my family would disapprove.
But the worst part, the part that made my blood really boil, was that, after all the effort I put into trying to explain the reasons why my girlfriend and I made this decision, he ascribed that decision to following the ways of society. And he even uses colorful, Maxwell-esque language like "drinking the rationalizing bathwater." It was our decision. We made it together. It was not an easy decision. But it was reasonable, and I don't regret it. Thanks for giving the credit to some massive faceless evil like "society."
I didn't respond to the email right away because I was still fuming. A day or two later, I drafted a response, but I was still too angry, so I didn't send it. I decided rather than engage him point-by-point, I'd just make him worry that he'd pissed me off so much that I wasn't going to speak to him again.
Then he sent me four text messages in a twenty-four-hour period that I still didn't feel calm enough to respond to. He was asking if I was mad at him. Eventually, I replied, "I don't even know what to say to you." We then engaged in a very slow conversation (about one text per day) in which he apologized for upsetting me and I complained that the situation sucked.
"Anything I can do to make the situation not suck?" he asked.
"Don't judge," I texted back. "Don't preach. I'll never be able to tell you anything important if that's what I get for it."
He apologized again and asked if we could talk in person. About two weeks ago I went over one evening and we had a very awkward discussion that got less and less awkward as it went on. He apologized again. I did not. I was still mad and I had no intention of apologizing, not even for lying to him about my living arrangements, because I wouldn't have needed to do that if the kind of reception I reasonably expected was like this. So he apologized. I nodded. And we slowly transitioned into other, less infuriating topics. By the end of the night, we were both complaining about our jobs.
So the relationship between us is kind of back to how it was before. Mostly. But I'm a little unsure of how well I behaved through this.
Sometimes, I feel like I'm awesome because I pretty much text-bitchslapped my dad for being such an overbearing, judgmental jerk and made him crawl back to me begging for us to be friends again. And then the other times, I feel like I'm an asshole because I manipulated my dad into totally backing down by making him feel like he was about to lose a relationship with his son completely. Did I stand my ground and triumph or did I torture someone who cares about me over petty differences?
It's not an easy answer. I think at best, this was a Pyrrhic victory. I established some important boundaries with my dad, but I may have done it through unacceptable means.