DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a wonderful woman for the past 16 months. She comes from a good family, is well-educated, is financially and emotionally stable, and has two great kids who hero-worship me.

Last night she told me she has fallen in love with me – and herein lies the problem. Although we have much in common and have a blast together, I’m only so-so attracted to her physically, and she’s starting to notice.

I don’t want to lose her friendship, but I also don’t want to hurt her or her kids, and I’m afraid I already have. What should I do? – WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING

DEAR WANTS TO DO THE RIGHT THING: The right thing is to tell her how fond you are of her and her children and it’s something that will never go away, but that you think of her more as a sister than a lover. It won’t be easy to say or to hear. But honesty is the best policy in a situation like yours.

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, “Anne,” who is in her 40s. She has never married and has dutifully taken care of her mother, whom she loves very much.

Abby, Anne’s mother is hypercritical, overbearing and unloving. She’ll take her hairdresser’s advice about her personal affairs rather than listen to the advice of her daughter, who only wants what’s best for her mother.

Anne desperately wants her mother’s love and approval, but I don’t think her mother, who is now elderly, will ever change. Poor Anne will never be happy because she can’t let go of wanting her mother’s love and approval – which is all she ever wanted but never received. She can’t afford counseling and probably wouldn’t go if she could. Is there anything I can do to help her? – WORRIED FRIEND, HOT SPRINGS, ARK.

DEAR FRIEND: Unless your friend wakes up and recognizes that her relationship with her mother is repetitive and unfulfilling, there is nothing anyone can do. However, one day when she seems receptive, you might point out to her that the way her mother controls her is by withholding the very things that she needs and wants the most.

DEAR ABBY: I am engaged to a wonderful man I’ll call “Howard.” His mother, “Tillie,” is driving me crazy. She’s trying to plan our wedding with no regard to my feelings or Howard’s. She is trying to dictate the style of the wedding cake, the food that will be served, the colors we’ll use and the size of the wedding. (We want something small and intimate; she wants a large one.)

Tillie has even bought a solid off-white dress to wear, which I think is tacky. Telling her how we feel does no good. Please help! – EMBATTLED BRIDE IN TENNESSEE

DEAR EMBATTLED: Assuming that you are paying for this wedding, you should have the right to veto any “suggestions” from Howard’s mother. Tillie seems to have run her son’s life so far, and she will run yours, too, unless you and Howard form a united front to prevent it.

I could suggest an elopement, but that wouldn’t solve your ultimate problem. Howard’s mother will take over your lives if you give her an inch, so unless you’re 100 percent positive that once you’re married Howard will stand with you, save yourself a lot of heartache and rethink your decision to marry him.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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