DEAR AMY: I am a 23-year-old professional, with a good full-time job. I was raised in a religious family with strict and traditional views, and have been told how I should live. I have had a wonderful boyfriend for well over three years. We plan to get married when we are a bit older and financially ready, but we would like to live together beforehand. We love each other very much, and my family loves and respects him. I am afraid to tell my parents where I will be living. They believe that I can only move out of their house when I am married. I am worried that they will be angry and upset with me if I move out to live with my boyfriend. I love my parents and do not want to give them a hard time, but I need my independence and I feel like a child still living at home. I am constantly upset that I can't make my own decisions. I no longer want to live under their roof but I just do not have the courage to tell them. Can you help?
-- Want Out
DEAR OUT: When I have a tough conversation coming up, I write down my thoughts and rehearse ahead of time. Then I ask myself: "Am I brave enough to do this? Can I tolerate the other person's disappointment?" And so I ask you: Can you survive disappointing your parents? (You can.) Will they survive being disappointed in you? (They will.) You have to be mature enough to take responsibility for your choice, without blaming your parents for their value system or its impact on you.
You should start your conversation by thanking them for caring so much about you. Tell them you love them. And then tell them you're moving because you're an adult and it is time for you to fly from the nest.
Your parents will act out. They may try to manipulate you by threatening to sever their relationship with you. Stay calm. Say, "I know this is upsetting for you, but I hope you'll come to understand that I need to grow up and move out."