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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Version of Friendship Is a Long Way From Love

DEAR ABBY: I am 43 and deeply in love. For five years I have been dating a 57-year-old man I'll call Ray. When Ray enters a room, I honestly feel my heart skip a beat. Although we do not live together, we share many of the same interests and have lots of fun together.

My problem is that Ray has a mean streak. If I complain, he has a sarcastic answer or turns it around and blames me. For example, I was diagnosed with cancer last fall and needed emergency surgery. The day after my surgery, Ray left on a 10-day golf trip with his buddies. I felt alone and abandoned. When I told him how I felt, he said my illness couldn't have been that serious because I survived.

Ray likes to be around his friends and family but rarely includes me. When I suggest that I'd like to be a more important part of his life, he tells me I am too "clingy." In our five years together, I have spent several Christmases and most Valentine Days alone, and I sit around while he takes numerous vacations with other people. Ray tells me he loves me, but doesn't want to marry me. Dating is a comfortable arrangement for him.

He gave me a diamond "friendship ring" for my birthday. I am too embarrassed to wear it. My family, friends -- and I -- expected an engagement ring.

Do you think I am being jerked around? -- OUT-OF-SORTS IN OTTAWA

DEAR OUT-OF-SORTS: You bet I do -- but you have allowed it to happen. The diamond ring (are you sure it's genuine?) is a "payoff" so you won't notice that you really have neither a healthy relationship nor someone you can count on. Even if the stone is genuine, the man is a phony. As soon as you lose this loser, you'll start to feel better. Trust me.