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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 25-year-old woman who is involved in a serious relationship with a wonderful man. We've been together for about three months and we're very much in love.

My problem: I think I'm obsessed with him. I am happy only when we spend time together. When we're not, I feel sad and alone. I spend my time following his activities on social networking sites and constantly checking my cell phone, hoping he sends me a message.

This is my first serious relationship. I know he loves me as much as I love him because he has mentioned marriage and having kids together someday. Is what I am experiencing normal? -- LOVESTRUCK IN NEW YORK

DEAR LOVESTRUCK: It's not unusual for a first relationship, but you're right to be concerned. Take a step back and look at what you're doing. We cannot depend on someone else to make us happy or make us whole. When a woman spends all her time tracking what her boyfriend is doing when he's not with her and waiting for the phone to ring, it makes her a less-interesting person to be around than she could be. And that kind of dependency can drive a man away.

It is important that you create a balance between what's going on in the relationship and continuing to develop yourself as an individual. Your boyfriend seems to have no problem doing this.

DEAR ABBY: I have a hard time empathizing with people who are sick. My mother suffered from all sorts of medical issues and it affected me greatly.

My husband, "Glen," and I are in our 50s. He's nearing 60, and as we age I expect our health will decline. Glen already takes medications for several conditions. I, on the other hand, have always enjoyed excellent health.

I find myself becoming impatient when Glen is sick. It's not that I think he's faking; I just think he needs to "get over it" and not let it affect him. I hide my feelings pretty well. I take care of him, make chicken soup, let him rest, pick up his medicine or whatever. But I'm afraid if he were to become seriously ill that I wouldn't take good care of him. I love him dearly, but I don't seem to be able to work up sympathy when he (or anyone) is sick.

I'm afraid to tell this to Glen because I'm afraid he'll keep his conditions from me and think I don't want to be there for him. How can I increase my "caring gene"? I have had therapy for other issues. What can I do? -- NURSING A FLAW IN TEXAS

DEAR NURSING: Lack of empathy is the inability to relate to the feelings of others. Some individuals have such an overabundance of empathy that they become literally paralyzed by the pain of another person. Be glad you aren't one of those.

When a spouse becomes sick and dependent, it can be a challenge. You can minimize or ignore it, or you can choose to be solicitous and helpful. Tolerating the complaints that go along with being ill isn't always easy, but if you visualize how you would want to be treated if the situation were reversed, it might help you be less impatient.

I'm sorry you weren't more forthcoming about the issues that sent you into therapy. If you really feel you might be emotionally absent when the chips are down, contact your therapist and start working on it now.

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