DEAR ABBY: I am 19 and have been with "Mike" for four years. We became engaged a year ago. This is my first and only long-term relationship. Mike is kind, loving and would do anything for me.
In the beginning I was in love with him, but now I realize that I'm not ready for a serious commitment, especially since I've had no experience dating anyone else. I stopped wearing my engagement ring because I'm not sure I'll ever marry him.
When Mike asked me about the ring, I said, "I bought it, so I can choose when to wear it." (Mike didn't have credit, so we used my credit card, and I make the monthly payments.) I began thinking, "What if?" when another guy I know told me I was cute and asked for my phone number.
I care about Mike and don't want to hurt him, but I'm not in love with him anymore. How can I end this without starting World War III in our families? My parents love him more than they love me, and when he and I argue, I get a guilt trip from them and feel like I have to apologize to him and make everything better.
Sometimes I wish he would break up with me and move out so I don't have to be the one to do it. Mike says I treat him like dirt. Could I be doing it subconsciously? Abby, please help. I want out. -- IN OVER MY HEAD
DEAR IN: What Mike is interpreting as being treated like dirt is your effort –- conscious or otherwise –- to distance yourself from the relationship. It is not abusive to admit that you have made a mistake. The time has come for you to level with Mike and your family, and to tell them plainly that you are not ready for a permanent commitment.
I don't know which of you signed the lease on your dwelling, but the one who didn't should move. And let this be a lesson to you. It appears you were so desperate for commitment from Mike that you were willing to pay for your own engagement ring. So don't blame Mike, and don't blame your parents. You got yourself into this fix, and it's time to accept your responsibility and put things right.