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by Abigail Van Buren

Family Objects to Woman's Plunge Into Internet Romance

DEAR ABBY: I met "Paul" through an ad I placed on an Internet dating service. We have been out in person and have also been cyber-dating for nearly a year. Paul used to live close by, but he got an offer on his place, so he sold it and moved to his second home in another state. He invited me to come along, but because I had college-aged children still residing with me, I didn't move.

My kids have now moved into places of their own, and Paul has asked that we buy our own house in the state where my kids live. I agreed. The problem is my extended family. Except for my sister, everyone thinks I'm being taken advantage of. Paul has more money than I will ever have in my life. I trust and love him. My children approve of our relationship.

Does it matter that most of our relationship thus far has been spent on the Internet? We talk on the phone, chat online and probably spend more time together than couples living together do. How do I politely tell my family to back off? If I get hurt, I get hurt -- but it's a chance I'm willing to take. -- HAPPY AND HOPING IN MICHIGAN

DEAR HAPPY AND HOPING: I have a suggestion. While in some areas the real estate market is beginning to recover, it should become even better as the economy improves -- so why don't you and Paul rent out your houses for now, and rent an apartment for a year in the area in which you are considering buying? That way, you won't be rushing into a purchase in an area you're not familiar with, and you and Paul can decide if you're as compatible in person as you are on the phone and Internet. Please understand I am not implying that there is anything wrong with Paul, only that you should not rush into making a hefty financial investment while in the heat of passion.