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by Abigail Van Buren

Couple's Emotional Ties Still Bind After Breakup

DEAR ABBY: "Dennis" and I were together for the better part of seven years. We had many ups and downs during that time, including the devastating loss of our 5-year-old son, "Dennis Jr." Soon after our son's death, I hurt Dennis deeply by leaving him for another man. While I don't excuse my behavior, it was a hard time for me after our son's passing.

I moved to another city for six months and then returned to my hometown. It's been two years since I've been back. My problem is I am still in love with Dennis –- but he is in a relationship with another woman.

When I told Dennis of my feelings for him, he told me he still loves me as much as ever and will never be in love with the woman he is with. In the same breath, he told me that he cannot be with me because he doesn't want to be hurt again. Since that time, Dennis makes an effort to be at the home of mutual friends whenever he knows I will be there. He has also visited my home, told me he loves me, embraced and kissed me.

My question: Why does he continue to say these things knowing my feelings for him? I find it more and more difficult to get on with my life. I feel as though he is playing with my emotions. -- CONFUSED IN ILLINOIS

DEAR CONFUSED: Dennis has had two terrible losses: the loss of your beloved son, and you, when you left him for the other man. He has control now and won't give it up. It is his way of protecting himself against being hurt further. If you want an exclusive relationship with him, he may be unable to give you one. Bear that in mind when planning your future.