Dear Abby:

I didn't know I had a problem until the day my wife/lover/best friend walked out on me two weeks before our 13th anniversary.

All our married life I worked a seven-day-a-week factory job on second shift, and in the mornings managed my own retail business.

I thought everything at home was great. Our house and cars were paid for. We even owned a boat. It turns out that all my wife wanted was for me to hold her, love her and "be there" for her. Now she lives 600 miles away.

I learned my lesson the hard way. I closed my business, but it's too late. Abby, please warn your readers about the danger of becoming a workaholic. Material things are not worth the price of losing the one person who shares your life. I hope my story will save someone else's marriage.

Hit With Reality In Michigan

So do I. In order for couples to grow together, they must communicate, spend time with each other and share mutual interests. Good marriages don't just happen. Like anything else worth having, they require work and nurturing.

Dear Abby:

I am a female college student. I am having a problem with a former classmate from last semester. I'll call her Theresa. We started a friendship, but the conversation was always awkward, and we had few common interests, so it was a chore to spend time with her. Not a good formula for friendship.

Theresa calls my apartment and my cell phone, and she e-mails me on a weekly basis. I screen all of my calls and never respond to her e-mails, but she hasn't taken the hint.

How does one "nicely" end a friendship without burning bridges? Our paths may cross again one day in the corporate world. None of my family or friends have an answer.

Besieged in Massachusetts

Since you never see her and do not respond to her e-mails, it shouldn't be difficult to tell your former classmate that you are very busy and do not have the time she has to devote to a friendship. Say it kindly, and wish her all the best in the future.

Dear Abby:

My boyfriend, "Brian," and I are in our early thirties. In June we will have been dating for six years. We've lived together for four. I am ready for marriage and a family, but Brian considers marriage a "financial decision." He has told me more than once that he would gain nothing by marrying me.

Frankly, our living arrangement has never been financially ideal for me. At the time we moved in together, I had been making payments on a small home that would have been paid for by now. I sold it (taking a loss) and gave away all my furniture when I moved in with Brian. He had just purchased a pricey home, and I have always paid him rent and shared all living expenses.

So I have to ask myself: What does my live-in companion have to "lose" financially by marrying me? I continue to pay him rent. At my own expense I have painted the bedrooms, put up all new drapes and blinds, planted a beautiful garden -- all for a house that's not even mine.

Last June, I gave Brian one year to ask me to marry him. Here it is almost May, and he is no closer to proposing now than he was then. Am I being unreasonable to expect a serious commitment? Any advice would help. Sign me . . .

Colorado Lady in Waiting

Unreasonable, no. Naive, yes. Your boyfriend is a self-admitted cash-and-carry kind of guy. He is only interested in the financial benefits of your current arrangement.

You have stars in your eyes, and Brian is blinded by dollar signs. If you want a real partnership, find someone with whom you have more in common.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069.

(c)2003, Universal Press Syndicate