Dear Abby:

"Mitch" and I have been best-friends-with- benefits for nine years. He has a live-in girlfriend, "Edna," and they have an 11-month-old son together. The two of them are always fighting and yelling, and I'm always the peacemaker. I helped in raising their child so often that the boy called me Mom before he said it to Edna.

Two years ago, I told Mitch I wanted to be with him -- something more than just his girl on the side. He said he already knew it, but had been waiting for me to say it. He said he felt the same way, but he wasn't ready to go from one relationship to another.

When I first told him how I felt, he told me not to wait for him. He said if I did find someone, I shouldn't hold back because of him. When I finally did meet and date someone, Mitch got into an uproar about it and said he didn't like the guy. I ended the relationship to please him.

So here I sit, committed to someone who can't do the same for me, and feeling confused and lonely. I believe I am in love with Mitch. We still have a sexual relationship. I have tried to cool things down, but when I see Mitch, I just melt. Do you think he means what he says, or is he just telling me what I want to hear for what he can get?

Miserable in Connecticut

Let's review what Mitch has been saying: He said he has known for years that you're in love with him. He also told you not to wait for him. If Mitch loved you, do you really think he'd be living with someone else and telling you to move on? I don't.

Now let's look at what Mitch has been getting: He has someone who has continued to sleep with him in spite of the fact that he lives with someone else and fathered a child with her.

On top of that, you're a free babysitter and peacemaker.

Enough about what he's getting. All you're getting is heartache.

I'll give Mitch high marks for salesmanship. But you shouldn't "buy" everything he sells you.

Dear Abby:

Last week I kicked my husband out of the house. "Joel" and I have been married four years and have a 3-year-old son.

Two years ago, Joel took up with "Connie," a 20-year-old single co-worker. He insisted they were just friends. When I found love letters from Connie in his wallet, Joel swore the letters were not from her. (Oh, come on!)

Things got messy when I started checking my husband's cell phone bill and discovered he was calling Connie several times a day. Upon checking further, I learned that some of his co-workers also thought something was up.

When Joel learned I'd been asking questions, he became very angry. Then Connie started calling him at the house at all hours. Once, around midnight, she got into a tangle with some guy and instead of calling police, she called Joel -- who rushed right over.

Since then I have caught Joel in more lies about where he was going. I have also caught my husband and his "friend" parked in empty parking lots and dead-end streets.

He says he doesn't want a divorce, but every time we talk, we end up fighting because he tries to twist the facts around to make me look like a fishwife.

Should I wait it out to see if Joel will come home to his son and me? Or should I cut him off, divorce him, and pray that God will send me a man who will give me the respect and love I deserve?

Spurned Wife in Texas

Your husband appears to be a remorseless manipulator. Even if you reconcile, what kind of example would he be for your son as he grows older? And could you ever trust him again?

You have asked me to make a decision for you that only you should make. Counseling can help you to determine what you want and need to do. Some marriages can be saved, but only if both parties are willing to work at it, and your husband appears to be unwilling or unable to end his affair.

(c)2004, Universal Press Syndicate