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Dear Abby: I am a divorcee with college-age 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. 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.

Addressing the subject

Dear Abby: I’m different from other girls. I don’t wear girly clothes. I prefer dark clothes and makeup. My mom thinks I’m strange. Do you think I look like a freak for not conforming, or is there nothing wrong with being different?

– Different in Washington

Dear Different: I would never call you a “freak” because of your attire. It is common for young people to express their individuality by their dress, hairstyle and makeup. There is, however, a point when a person’s style choices can be limiting. My question for you would be, “Are you getting the kind of attention you WANT from presenting yourself this way?” The answer should determine how you choose to dress.