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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am in my late 20s. For six years I have been entangled in a strange and powerful relationship with "Bruce," a 38-year-old man who considers himself "only a friend." I am very much in love with him and he knows it. He has never said he loves me. In fact, whenever we get close, he steps back emotionally and reminds me that he's "just a friend."

Bruce was hurt badly by a cheating wife and has been divorced for many years. I know for a fact that there have been no other women in his life. Despite all this, Bruce treats me like a queen. Whatever I need -- you name it -- he is right there. He is the most generous, protective and responsive man I have ever met.

He calls me every morning to say hello and every night to wish me sweet dreams. We spend weekends together and we're sexually active. We enjoy each other more than any couple I know -- married or unmarried. We're such a good match that people tell us we absolutely "glow" when we're together.

I have finally reached the end of my rope. I need SOME kind of recognition. At the very least, I would like to be considered his girlfriend. Please help me look at this relationship with clear eyes. -- "ONLY A FRIEND" IN NEW YORK STATE

DEAR "ONLY A FRIEND": It's time to face the fact that for whatever reason, Bruce is commitment-phobic. Up to now, your relationship has been entirely on his terms, and he likes it the way it is. I'll give him marks for honesty. You must accept it -- or move on. (If it's marriage and a secure future you're after, I urge you to do the latter.)

DEAR ABBY: I am a 15-year-old girl, and my parents split up a couple of weeks ago. I didn't see it coming because they always acted like they were happy together. My mom and dad have both talked to me about it, but I feel like they're trying to make me choose sides.

Mom is forever asking me if I'm OK, and I always say yes, but I'm not so sure. I can't talk to my father because we aren't as close -- we never were. Also, I don't see him as much anymore and he rarely calls.

My grades have dropped, and I've been falling asleep in some of my classes. Dad thinks I'm depressed, but I don't agree. I don't know how to explain what I'm going through. My parents don't understand. Abby, please help me because I don't know what to do. -- LOST AND CONFUSED IN STAFFORD, VA.

DEAR LOST: Your father may have more insight than you have given him credit for. The signs of depression can be subtle. Among them are sleep problems.

Please level with both of your parents about your feelings. Your reaction to the divorce is normal. You should also speak to a counselor at school. Help is available for you. Please don't try to go through this process alone. Trust me on this: You'll start to feel better as soon as you speak up and stop bottling up your feelings.

DEAR ABBY: Back in 1963, your mother printed a great definition of "maturity." I clipped and saved it, and have referred to it many times. It's still relevant, and my copy has become worn and tattered. Any chance you would print it again? -- HELEN REZENDES, SAN JOSE, CALIF.

DEAR HELEN: I'm pleased to print it again. My mother is a wise woman.

"Maturity is:

"-- The ability to stick with a job until it's finished.

"-- The ability to do a job without being supervised.

"-- The ability to carry money without spending it.

"-- And the ability to bear an injustice without wanting to get even."

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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