BEING A MARRIED MAN, I always believed that single people living together had the best of both worlds. Whenever I met someone in a leisure suit with a gold chain around his neck and a beautiful blond on his arm, whom he introduced to everyone as his "roommate," I must admit I was wild with envy.

But things are tough even for unmarried couples - tougher in some ways. I discovered this the other day when Harlequin came to see me without an appointment. Harlequin is 30 years old and until his visit I always believed he had the perfect setup. His "roomie" was a sweet thing named Saralee, and they shared a lovely apartment overlooking the Potomac. They had a pet dog named "Pothead," and the thing they both used to brag to me about was that they had all the benefits of being married, without any of the hassles. That's the part I envied the most.

Therefore, when Harlequin told me what he came to see me about I was truly shcoked.

"I want to break up with Saralee," he said.

"That's too bad. But what's the problem?"

"I don't know how to go about it."

"You just tell her, I guess."

"That's easy for you to say," Harlequin said. "But you're married and if you want to break up with your wife you ask her for a divorce. Since we're not man and wife what do I ask for?"

"I guess a separation," I suggested.

"Easier said than done," Harlequin whimpered. "If I do that she'll want to keep the apartment."

"Whose apartment is it?"

"It was originally my apartment, but as far as she's concerned it's ours. Why should I give up the apartment just because I don't want to live with her any more?"

"I know apartments are hard to find, Harlequin, but I'm not a lawyer. When you start talking about property settlements you should seek legal counsel."

"It won't work. When you married people want a divorce, each of you hires a lawyer to thrash things out. Lawyers don't want to have anything to do with single people who are breaking up."

"Why don't you just tell Saralee that you don't want to live with her any more and you want her to get out?"

"You don't know Saralee. She looks like a lamb, but she fights like a tiger. She'd throw all my stuff out the window."

"But didn't you have some understanding when you moved in together? That if either party wanted to call it quits there would be no hard feelings?"

"Of course we did. All singles say the same thing. But after you live together for three or four years the vows don't mean anything. The one who is rejected acts worse than the victim of a divorce."

"It's funny," I said, "I thought the singles life was all cream and strawberries."

"Boy, you are dumb," Harlequin said. "I've put up with fits of jealousy that no married man would stand for. When you're married you can at least flirt around with somebody and the other partner doesn't get too shaken up if you don't make a big deal of it. But when you're living with somebody, if you so much as dance with another person, your roomie makes your life miserable. I'm too young to be stuck with one woman," he said, practically in tears.

I didn't know how to console him. "Look, this is a crazy idea, but why don't you marry Saralee?"

"What would that accomplish?" he screamed at me.

"Once you're married you can ask her for a divorce and then turn the whole problem over to your lawyer."

He kissed me on the head and said, "I knew you'd come up with a solution. I'll go out and buy the wedding band today."