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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 19 and have been with "Mike" for four years. We became engaged a year ago. This is my first and only long-term relationship. Mike is kind, loving and would do anything for me.

In the beginning I was in love with him, but now I realize that I'm not ready for a serious commitment, especially since I've had no experience dating anyone else. I stopped wearing my engagement ring because I'm not sure I'll ever marry him.

When Mike asked me about the ring, I said, "I bought it, so I can choose when to wear it." (Mike didn't have credit, so we used my credit card, and I make the monthly payments.) I began thinking, "What if?" when another guy I know told me I was cute and asked for my phone number.

I care about Mike and don't want to hurt him, but I'm not in love with him anymore. How can I end this without starting World War III in our families? My parents love him more than they love me, and when he and I argue, I get a guilt trip from them and feel like I have to apologize to him and make everything better.

Sometimes I wish he would break up with me and move out so I don't have to be the one to do it. Mike says I treat him like dirt. Could I be doing it subconsciously? Abby, please help. I want out. -- IN OVER MY HEAD

DEAR IN: What Mike is interpreting as being treated like dirt is your effort –- conscious or otherwise –- to distance yourself from the relationship. It is not abusive to admit that you have made a mistake. The time has come for you to level with Mike and your family, and to tell them plainly that you are not ready for a permanent commitment.

I don't know which of you signed the lease on your dwelling, but the one who didn't should move. And let this be a lesson to you. It appears you were so desperate for commitment from Mike that you were willing to pay for your own engagement ring. So don't blame Mike, and don't blame your parents. You got yourself into this fix, and it's time to accept your responsibility and put things right.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 16-year-old male, and I have this problem telling the truth. I lie mainly about my grades. I am a good student, but I just don't put forth a lot of effort.

I got a progress report the other day and was failing Spanish with a 67. When my dad asked about my grades, I told him I had gotten a 70 in Spanish because that is a passing grade. When he saw the report, he yelled at me. He was disappointed about the grade but even more so about the lie.

I feel comfortable telling my mom the truth because she and I are really close. But I can't seem to tell my dad the truth, ever. I don't know why. I don't know how to stop lying. Please help me, I'm begging you. -- PINOCCHIO

DEAR PINOCCHIO: You and your father need to work on your relationship. He doesn't trust you because you lie. You lie because you don't trust him enough to honestly discuss your difficulties. Clip this letter, show it to him and tell him you wrote it. You and your father could both benefit from professional counseling to improve your level of communication and resolve your trust issues.

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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