DEAR ABBY: I'm 25 and live in my mother's basement apartment with my boyfriend. We would like to be married soon, now that we're out of school and have stable careers. But I insist that we move out of Mom's house before making any permanent plans.
The problem is my mom, who is divorced, is unemployed and a social phobic, with few friends. We provide her with financial support by paying several hundred dollars a month in rent, in addition to other bills. She helps me with a loan when the rare emergency arises.
Every time I mention moving out, she becomes angry with me. She cries that she'll be left alone with no money -- and it makes me feel so guilty I relent. I have no idea what to do. My older sister, who is married with two children, might be able to help me out, but we have never been close and I'm reluctant to ask for her advice. Please help, Abby. -- MAMA'S GIRL IN ROSWELL, GA.
DEAR MAMA'S GIRL: You are not the solution to your mother's problems. The time has come for you to spread your wings and fly the nest. Before you leave, be sure the apartment is in the freshest condition possible so it can be rented and your mother will have some income. She will probably need professional help to overcome her ingrained social insecurities -- so encourage her to get it. (Some licensed psychotherapists specialize in phobic disorders.) It will change her life -- and yours -- for the better.