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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I sympathize with "Waiting in Wisconsin," whose boyfriend promised her an engagement ring three years ago. Six months ago, I broke up with my boyfriend. We had lived together for four years and everyone assumed we would marry.

I needed to take the next step in our relationship. We discussed it, and he told me he was not ready and might not be for several more years -- if then. I agonized about it for several months. Then one day, I envisioned myself five years down the road in the same situation -- together but no closer to marriage. I broke down and cried.

It was then that I finally accepted what I already knew in my heart. If he wasn't ready in five years, he might never be. I moved out.

Upon reflection, I think part of the reason I needed the commitment was that I wasn't sure of his love for me. I also believe that he wasn't ready to get married because he wasn't convinced that our relationship was the best for him.

Your advice to "Waiting" was absolutely right. She should move on and waste no more time. I am now in a relationship that is more satisfying than I ever thought possible. Leaving that previous relationship was the hardest thing I ever had to do, but the best decision I've ever made because I listened to my heart. -- DID THE RIGHT THING, SANTA CLARA, CALIF.

DEAR D.T.R.T.: Making the decision to move on isn't easy. Sometimes admitting to ourselves that what we want may not be what the good Lord has planned for us can be painful. However, the most precious commodity we have is time. I'm pleased you didn't waste any more than you did.

Read on:

DEAR ABBY: For three years, the man I thought would be the father of my children talked about marriage. He would call me and say, "Start planning the wedding," and I'd be overjoyed. Then he'd say, "We'll do it after ( )." (He had a million excuses.)

The last straw was when he served in Iraq. We were rocky before he left. I stood by him and cried and waited for him to return home. The day he left Iraq, he called to say he had already asked his best friend to be our best man, and we'd be engaged before his discharge from the Army -- in two months' time.

Well, he got back. He got his discharge and moved to Texas -- and still no ring. I decided I'd had enough. Instead of getting my ring finger, he got another one.

I have never been happier. Please tell "Waiting" that the sooner she lets this loser go, the sooner she'll find a real man. -- NO MORE DRAMA IN GEORGIA

DEAR NO MORE DRAMA: They say a gesture is worth a thousand words. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: That woman should not wait another day to move on! My girlfriend was with her childhood sweetheart for 15 years. Each year, he would raise the income level he felt he needed before getting married. In the process, he diminished her self-esteem to the point that she felt no one would want her. She finally had enough and threw him out.

Within two weeks, he had another "sweetie" sleeping over, and six months later he married the girl. -- LIFE'S TOO SHORT

DEAR L.T.S.: How sad that it took your friend so long to realize she had made a bad investment. However, she should look on the bright side. If they were still together, she'd still be waiting.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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