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Woman needs courage to end long-term relationship

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Dear Abby: I am a divorcee with college-aged children. I love my children, and I thought I loved my ex. However, after my divorce I wonder if I'm capable of loving anyone other than my children again.

Two years after the divorce I started a relationship with a man who is 10 years older. He had recently ended a long-term dating/living together relationship. I wasn't particularly drawn to him, but he was very persistent. We finally, jokingly, agreed to be "exclusively casual" and began dating. My children don't dislike him; they are indifferent to him.

We have been dating for six years. I do not love him. He, however, professes to adore me and wants us to spend our lives together. I do NOT want this to go on any longer. I have some serious health issues and I'm not interested in having him as my caretaker. He has already made plans for us to be together for this. I don't want him doing this for me.

He's a good man. He deserves someone who wants the devotion he is so willing to give. How do I tell him to move on? I'm financially stable. He's not after my money; he's very comfortable on his own. I need to force him to go find a woman who needs or wants him. Many of his friends think I take advantage of his feelings. I don't want to be in this position any longer. Any advice you could offer would be a gift. – Dragging My Feet in Texas-

Dear Dragging My Feet The longer you put this off, the harder it will be, and if you don't open your mouth you are going to find yourself in exactly the position you say you don't want to be. The magic words are:

"'John,' I have enjoyed your friendship, but I'm not in love with you. I had hoped that as time passed I would fall in love with you, but it hasn't happened and now I realize it isn't going to. I want to deal with my health issues on my own. I don't want you to be my caretaker. What I DO want is to end our relationship so you can find a woman who will love you the way you deserve to be loved. Sadly, that's not me -- but I wish you well and ... goodbye."

Do not expect him to welcome this dose of reality, but those are the words that will set you – and him – free.

Dear Abby: I am a veteran and while I have spent this past year in school, I can't seem to connect with any of the younger students there. It's disheartening, to be honest, and I feel it's part of the reason I can't enjoy school at my age (23) after all my experiences in combat.

I can't decide whether to drop out and join a private security company, or tough it out and deal with these kids who don't take education seriously. I miss work at the same time. Any thoughts? – Torn in Milford, Conn.

Dear Torn: The students you describe are at a very different level of maturity than you – and I don't mean chronologically. After having experienced combat, you have a different perspective on what's important in life than someone who hasn't been tested.

You have EARNED the right to a college degree, so please don't waste the opportunity. If you complete your education, you will have more career options than if you quit now. If you feel you want to go into security work after graduation, that option will still be open. Others may not be.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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