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DEAR ABBY: I'm a man in my mid-30s who has recently recognized a pattern in my romantic relationships. A few of them lasted for several years, before they ended for various reasons. In between, I've gone a couple of years before seeking out and starting a new relationship. In the in-between time, I go online and meet people I have no intention of meeting in "real life," but who provide conversation and intimacy while I enjoy single life.

I'm about to repeat the pattern again. I'm a few months out of a three-year relationship and have met someone online. It's great to chat online and over the phone, but we are not close geographically, and I have no intention of meeting in person. What's your insight on this, and do you think this is healthy for me? Any ideas you can offer regarding this pattern? -- NEW RELATIONSHIPS

DEAR NEW: I wish you had told me more about the circumstances of your breakups. Were they your idea or the other person's? If they weren't your idea, you may be using the in-between relationships as a safe form of entertainment while you are healing.

If you are upfront with the people you're meeting online, and they realize you have no intention of letting these friendships go anywhere, then I suppose they are healthy for all concerned. If not, then what you are doing shows not only a lack of character, but also a lack of sensitivity for the feelings of others, and it may be one of the reasons your long-term relationships aren't lasting.

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DEAR ABBY: My grandmother gets on my case all the time because I don't clean the bathroom every day. She grew up in the '50s and '60s and was a stay-at-home mom to two boys. However, I am a graduate student with a part-time job. I spend hours studying, and when I get some free time, I use it to do things I actually want to do.

My grandmother insists that everyone she knows/knew cleans their house every day, and when she talks about cleaning the bathroom, she doesn't mean just picking things up; she means spraying down all surfaces and getting out the bleach or foam spray to clean down the bathtub. I don't think she understands that no one I know -- at least my age -- cleans their house that way every single day, and that because I'm busy most days and often tired, I don't want to come home and clean the whole house.

Am I lazy, or am I right in telling her that I will not deep-clean my bathroom/apartment every day? (I think deep-cleaning every two weeks is fine.) The free time I have is precious. How often is appropriate? -- SOUTHERN MARIE

DEAR SOUTHERN MARIE: If you haven't been able to convince your grandmother by now that your circumstances are different, the chances of it happening are slim to none. Under normal circumstances, deep-cleaning your bathroom once a week is fine and should keep it sparkling. If you're smart, you'll avoid arguing with her about this, because it's a waste of breath.

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