DEAR ABBY: I am a divorcee with college-aged children. I love my children, and I thought I loved my ex. However, after my divorce I wonder if I'm capable of loving anyone other than my children again.
Two years after the divorce I started a relationship with a man who is 10 years older. He had recently ended a long-term dating/living together relationship. I wasn't particularly drawn to him, but he was very persistent. We finally, jokingly, agreed to be "exclusively casual" and began dating. My children don't dislike him; they are indifferent to him.
We have been dating for six years. I do not love him. He, however, professes to adore me and wants us to spend our lives together. I do not want this to go on any longer. I have some serious health issues and I'm not interested in having him as my caretaker. He has already made plans for us to be together for this. I don't want him doing this for me.
He's a good man. He deserves someone who wants the devotion he is so willing to give. How do I tell him to move on? I'm financially stable. He's not after my money; he's very comfortable on his own. I need to force him to go find a woman who needs or wants him. Many of his friends think I take advantage of his feelings. I don't want to be in this position any longer. Any advice you could offer would be a gift. -- DRAGGING MY FEET IN TEXAS
DEAR DRAGGING YOUR FEET: The longer you put this off, the harder it will be, and if you don't open your mouth you are going to find yourself in exactly the position you say you don't want to be. The magic words are:
"'John,' I have enjoyed your friendship, but I'm not in love with you. I had hoped that as time passed I would fall in love with you, but it hasn't happened and now I realize it isn't going to. I want to deal with my health issues on my own. I don't want you to be my caretaker. What I do want is to end our relationship so you can find a woman who will love you the way you deserve to be loved. Sadly, that's not me -- but I wish you well and ... goodbye."
Do not expect him to welcome this dose of reality, but those are the words that will set you -- and him -- free.