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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.

DEAR ABBY: I am 23 years old and have been engaged to "Leon" for five months. Recently I started having doubts about whether or not he's the right guy for me.

Leon and I have been together about two years, and my fear is that I have pressured him into proposing because all my friends were getting married.

Frankly, I'm scared to tell my fiance what I'm feeling, because I don't want to hurt him. If we cancel our wedding, we will lose the deposits we've placed for many of the wedding services –- even though our wedding date is a year away.

To further complicate matters, we planned on taking Leon's little sister on a trip to Orlando with my family this December, and it would crush her if we called it off. (The plane tickets have already been purchased.)

Please help me, Abby. I'm so confused. -- UNSURE BRIDE-TO-BE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR UNSURE: No matter how much you might lose in security deposits, it's a drop in the bucket compared to what you will lose if you marry someone you don't love or want to spend a lifetime with.

Cancel the engagement now, and let the December vacation take care of itself. You'll know what to do when the time comes. Just because an engagement hasn't worked out doesn't mean you can't be friends with his sister.

P.S. If Leon felt pressured into proposing, he may be as relieved as you are when you give him the news.

WORTH REMEMBERING: A sign in the late Tip O'Neill's office read: "It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be nice." (submitted by Andrew W. Hanley)

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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