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DEAR ABBY: I have been seeing "Erik" for about three months. On our second date he told me he loved me. I told him he was moving too fast, so he modified it by saying he loved "things" about me -- my personality, sense of humor, etc.

Two weeks ago, Erik told me that he is now totally "in love" with me. I politely tried to discourage him. He went on to say that he's been "dumped" by several women in the past -- and began to cry. He's a very emotional person.

Erik and I work different shifts and keep in touch during the day by e-mail. I try to lift his spirits by writing that I hope he is having a good day, etc. In return, he writes me lengthy letters telling me that he is "desperately lonely," but that he's a "fighter" and a "survivor," and he will try to "make it through the day." He has even hinted that if our relationship doesn't work out, he doesn't think he can go on living.

I have repeatedly told Erik that I prefer "light conversation," but he goes on and on about his "quest for love" and how it hurts that my work schedule doesn't fit his. The few times I've had lunch with him he's made me late in returning to work. I'm beginning to think Erik is selfish, desperate and too needy.

Abby, it has reached the point where I no longer derive pleasure from being around him. But I have an enormous cloud of guilt hanging over my head about ending it. Please help. -- FREAKED OUT

DEAR FREAKED OUT: You have an "enormous cloud of guilt" because Erik has carefully and consistently enveloped you in it. You have been honest from the beginning. In your letter, you have described a person who is his own worst enemy. You are not responsible for Erik's welfare if his romances don't bear fruit.

Please don't hesitate any longer. It's time to tell him that you want to date other people. Undoubtedly, Erik is more resilient than you think.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I married after a whirlwind romance three years ago. We had a beautiful wedding with more than 300 guests, most of whom were his family and friends. We received wonderful wishes and gifts. We had planned to write our thank-you notes together and had some personal cards printed. I wrote and sent about one-third of them (after growing tired of waiting for my husband). After a while, I finally stopped nagging and the rest remain unwritten and unsent.

We are both embarrassed by our procrastination. A big part of the delay has been wanting to say "just the right thing" so our guests will know how much their presence and gifts meant to us. Ironically, our "perfectionism" has likely left many of them feeling we are thoughtless.

We remain happily married, despite this point of contention, and would still very much like to write our thank-yous. Any suggestions on what to say after this long? -- EMBARRASSED IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR EMBARRASSED: Start this way: "John and I want you to know that we are now fully recovered from our writer's block and also want you to know how much your beautiful gift means to us. Thank you for the (identify the gift specifically) and for your thoughtfulness in choosing it for us." Now get moving!

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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