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Dear Abby: As a father of two teenage daughters, I have a question about couples living together. Do relationships that start this way have a higher failure rate than those that don’t? What should be considered when a young girl has the “living together” question presented to her by a young man? And most important, what can I as a father do to help my daughters make an intelligent decision about this, other than just “load my shotgun” (LOL)?

– Longtime Fan in Ohio

Dear Longtime Fan: It depends upon whether the couple living together are engaged to be married and their level of education. From what I’ve read, the higher the level of education, the more stable the couple will be. If the question is presented to your daughters, ideally you will have gotten to know the young man, and the relationship will have developed beyond the casual stage.

However, I cannot stress strongly enough the importance of your girls being self-supporting and completing their education before they decide to do this. One of the most common reasons women remain in unhappy marriages is the fear they can’t survive on their own.

Throwing out tradition

Dear Abby: My husband and I are hoping you could shed some light on the practice of throwing rice at a wedding. We were not only wondering how the practice started, but also do people still throw rice today at weddings? We had heard that guests had stopped doing so to help protect wildlife (especially birds). If so, what do we throw now?

– Empty-Handed in Wisconsin

Dear Empty-Handed: Rice-throwing is an ancient tradition that may date back to ancient Rome and Egypt. It was a ritual having to do with fertility.

According to Emily Post: “All the traditional materials have their drawbacks: Rice can be dangerous for birds if ingested; birdseed can sprout weeds in unwanted places. Instead, you might distribute colored flags or streamers for guests to wave. This is why I recommend that instead of tossing anything, you shower the happy couple with good wishes.