Dear Carolyn:

My boyfriend and I are in the process of breaking up over money. He is 24 and I am 23. The boy cannot save a dime and I have to look out for my future. I am having difficulty letting go because he is perfect for me in every other way. I know it is unlikely he will change, although he promises he will begin to save.

I feel like I may never have the same type of caring, trusting relationship with another man again. Do you recommend that I wait for him to get it together or start looking for someone else so I do not end up 45 and single?

--Maryland

Wait, I think I see a truck pulling up to your home . . . it's got all these cats on the side . . . I can't quite make out the writing . . . "Old" M-something something . . . what's in that box, a rocking chair? . . . needlepoint . . .

And just think, if you'd only held your husband auditions this morning, instead of waiting till noon.

Yes, bad spending habits are bad. But they're no less likely to doom your "future" than that truly bloodcurdling attitude you have about marriage. If you really think not having a husband is the worst possible fate, fate is going to hand you the most odious one it can find, just to make a point.

Meanwhile, if you really think his spending is a problem, consider the likely effect 10 years will have on immaturity (at 34, he'll be 401k Man) and desperation (at 33, you'll be man-repellent).

Back to now: Your urgency plus your boyfriend's irresponsibility means you both have great arguments for not marrying anyone right now.

Why don't you just enjoy each other, and see how you both turn out?

Dear Carolyn:

As a person getting back onto the dating scene but lacking information on the ever-changing balance between men and women, do you know of any places that offer dating classes or seminars on how to improve your dating skills??

--Ian

Unless you're into pointlessness, misdirection and waste, dating is your dating class. Here's the prerequisite course in male-female balance, in its entirety: Every person is unique, but we all hit the ground as equals. Giddyap.

Dear Carolyn:

I work in a small, open office staffed by women. My problem arose when we all decided to diet together. Three of the women have taken up serious gum-chewing in order to break the snack habit. They chew with the mouth open and snap the gum constantly. I've told them repeatedly how much the mouth noises bother me. They stop for a moment but slide right back within minutes. They don't even stop snapping while taking care of clients.

I hate to leave this job. I've been here for years and really enjoy the work, but I'm starting to dread going in. Am I alone here? P.S. The diets aren't going well at all.

--Overstimulated

Great diet. Now they sound like cows, instead of just looking like them.

You are NOT alone. Aural assault threatens the very fabric of our society--because, one day, I'm going to take that fabric and ball it up and jam it in people's mouths.

Since the office herd is so concerned with appearances, tell them how detrimental gum-snapping is to theirs. Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Ingrid Bergman--what do you think, audible chewers of cud?

Dear Carolyn:

I am 21 years old, engaged and have a 1-year-old son. Lately my partner and I have been fighting A LOT! It's gotten to the point where we both have almost called it quits. Our fights are mostly over small, insignificant issues, but we overlook everything big. Now my family has gotten involved and tried to make me leave him. I love him and don't want to lose him. We've dated and been best friends since we were 11, and he is an awesome dad. How do I deal with the pressure and tell everyone to butt out?

--Wyoming

You're 21 years old, engaged and making a mess of a 1-year-old.

And your family isn't much help. Maybe you and your partner aren't well suited--how can you have any idea, when you have no other points of reference?--but you've bred the exploring option right off the menu. (Note to cosmos: Why do so many bad ideas become babies?)

Your option, the one your son demands: Take your best shot at keeping his daddy in-house.

You've been dating the guy since you were 11 (ugh), so I'm going to venture that your "best shot" means rooting out the residual 11-year-old in both of you. A trained counselor can help you do that. Go to your church/synagogue/temple if you have one, or call local hospitals, colleges or community centers, and ask if they offer parenting classes and one-on-one couples counseling.

As a bonus, getting help gives you leverage: You can hold it out like garlic--"We're in counseling, everything's under control"--to keep familial vampires away.

Write to Tell Me About It, Style Plus, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or tellme@washpost.com, and join Carolyn's live discussion at 8 p.m. tomorrow or at noon Wednesday or Friday at washingtonpost.com/liveonline