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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman's 'Benefits Package' Sidesteps Matters of Love

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a woman in Phoenix -- where we both lived -- for the past three years. We were in an exclusive relationship, but not living together because I was going through a divorce when we met. Throughout our time together I have helped "Jackie" with rent and cash gifts.

I have since moved to California, and Jackie would like to come and live with me. I thought it would be nice, but a cohabitation agreement would be necessary because I have a lot of assets and she has very few.

After some discussion, she came up with an agreement, but I feel the benefits package she's asking for is too high. She's asking me to pay all living expenses, housing, food, health insurance, a new car with auto insurance and an allowance of $3,000 a month.

I balked on this "deal" because it seems more like a rental agreement rather than a loving relationship. She maintains that she needs a "cushion" in case the relationship doesn't work out because she'll be leaving her job and friends behind.

My friends laugh when I tell them the terms of the arrangement. What are your thoughts? -- WAITING IN CAPISTRANO

DEAR WAITING: If Jackie expects you to pay for everything, including health insurance and an allowance, it is plain that she won't be seeking employment and will be taking an early retirement when she goes to Capistrano. If the relationship does not work out, the consequences would affect her financially for the rest of her life.

Nowhere in your letter did you mention the word "marriage." While both of you may have reasons for wanting to remain single, if you love Jackie, wouldn't you want her to be taken care of if something should happen to you? Rather than gathering advice from friends, ask your lawyer what a fair and appropriate agreement would be under the circumstances.

P.S. It does seem that the guaranteed benefit package Jackie has in mind for herself is a bit "rich."