DEAR ABBY: I have been living with my girlfriend, "Robin," for four years. She has children from a previous marriage, and their father is fairly active in their lives. I jumped in and have taken the kids to activities, helped with homework and I pay the majority of the bills. I dearly love the children.
My problem is I no longer love their mother. Robin and I are like roommates who share a bed. There is no passion, no joy together and no partnership. I spend my time with the kids or alone. She's with them at different activities or busy on her computer. When I suggest ways we could bond together, she says, "I'm too tired," or "I don't want to do that," or "This is the way it is!"
I have stayed this long only for the kids, but I'm unhappy to the point of aching. I feel guilty about leaving and the strain it will put on the kids. Is there a way to leave a situation like this? Am I a bad man for wanting out and possibly leaving the children to a tougher life? - UNHAPPY IN SOUTH CAROLINA
DEAR UNHAPPY: Because the woman you're living with shows no interest in improving the quality of the relationship, wanting to leave does not make you a bad person. You will have to accept that because the children depend upon you for certain things they will be affected by your departure. It's too bad you didn't consider that before moving in with someone who had a family.
Try to make the breakup as civil as possible. Before you go, talk to each of the children individually. Make it clear that they are not the reason the relationship is ending and that you will always care about them. That way, they won't think they did something bad and blame themselves.
DEAR ABBY: My only daughter, "Claire," who is 25, has always had a strong work ethic. Her boyfriend "Charles" has never held a job, either during college or in the year and a half he has been out of school. They were living with his parents until Claire accepted a one-year job overseas. Charles followed.
Claire's salary isn't great, so I know she has little money saved, but she wants to start planning her wedding when they return. Should I stick with tradition and pay for it or listen to my head, which is telling me I don't want to see her marry Charles until he has held a full-time job for at least a year? I think she can do better, but I suppose she could also do worse. They do seem to love each other. - HESITANT MOTHER
DEAR MOTHER: Listen to your head. When Claire returns, let her know that she and her fiance will be paying for the wedding. It will be an introduction to the financial realities she and her husband will encounter after their marriage. Later on, when they're considering buying a home, you can give them the money that might have been spent on the wedding as part of their down payment - if they are still together.
DEAR ABBY: How do I break up with friends who I love but have nothing in common with anymore? I'm married with a child, but as a new business owner, I don't have time to meet their needs. How do you tell people in a loving way that you have appreciated their friendship in the past, but it's over? We have grown apart. - DON'T HAVE THE TIME
DEAR DON'T: Is it possible that your feelings are temporary, and that you are simply overwhelmed by the demands of your new business? If so, I'd hate to see you end friendships with people you love. Relationships don't always remain at the same level or have the same intensity. Rather than cut the people off entirely, explain that you can't be as available because you have a new business and don't have the time. It would be kinder.
Write Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.