Dear Amy:

I am 26 and have been in a wonderful relationship with a man my age for about 31/2 years. He has expressed a great interest in wanting to marry me, but he has not proposed because he says we need to save money before we can start our lives together. I disagree and have stated that I would rather we get married sooner, pool our money and save while we are together (my parents will pay for the wedding).

Here's where I need help! Expecting our big day to arrive somewhere in the next two years, I have begun to obsess over bridal magazines, TV shows and Web pages. I love poring over different styles of dresses and cakes under the premise that I'm putting aside ideas that will make planning my wedding that much more expedient.

Whenever I do this, though, I always end up with a tinge of sadness that I haven't been proposed to yet and therefore have no idea of when my day will come.

Am I planning ahead or torturing myself? And, if so, how do I stop?

Overly Anxious

Please get yourself another hobby. I know how exciting and tempting all of those bridal books and magazines can be, but you do not seem to grasp that a wedding is just one day. Granted, it's a day where you get to tell yourself that you're a princess, but it's still just a day. This obsession of yours has nothing whatsoever to do with marriage, by the way. It's about a party.

Rather than assemble your dream-wedding file, you need to talk this through with your guy. He hasn't asked you to marry him because he isn't ready to marry you. Don't you want to get to the bottom of that? Stop reading about weddings and start reading about marriage. There are many great books about marriage, and some thoughtful women who have written beautifully on this topic are Iris Krasnow, Judith Viorst and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. Perhaps you should pick up one of their books instead of the latest issue of Brides magazine.

Marriage is an emotional, physical and spiritual journey. Toile, crystal, engraved invitations and multitiered cake are so beside the point.Dear Amy:

I am a 25-year-old guy dating a phenomenal girl who ultimately will not capture my heart.

We agreed from the beginning that things wouldn't get heavy, and it was evident that we could offer each other basic companionship. Going out with her is always a pleasure, and both of us also enjoy quiet nights alone together. It would appear to anyone around us that we've got a boyfriend-girlfriend thing going, but we both know the deal when it comes to terms of endearment. We don't use them.

Recently, I visited her apartment and saw she had put a picture of me on her nightstand.

Now I feel that perhaps we don't see things eye to eye and that I am to blame for what may soon be a sad ending. How should I let her know that my feelings for her have peaked and that they are not high enough?

Sad Ending

How's this: The next time you're at your non-girlfriend's house, sneak into her room and deface your photo. Put pins through your eyes. Give yourself a Frito Bandito mustache and a Nehru jacket.

Really. A photo of you on her nightstand.

Oh, the horror.

You need to have a talk with this woman in order to revisit your relationship. You may learn that your phenomenal friend has grown to like you more than it makes you comfortable. If so, then it's time to face facts. Or perhaps you'll learn that she doesn't place quite as much importance on your photo as you do.

I've heard the phrase "I'm just not that into you" kicked around lately. You could use that. From the "classics file," you could always pull out, "It's not you; it's me." Whatever way you choose to phrase it, this relationship, such as it is, may have run its course.

By the way, on my nightstand, I have pictures of Winston Churchill, my grandfather, and my late, great tabby cat, Pumpkin. That doesn't mean that I want to . . . oh, never mind.

Sometimes a picture is just a picture.

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