DEAR ABBY: I have been dating “Louis” for six months. Things are going great. I know he is my soul mate, and I need look no further. He’s intelligent, artistic, appreciative, caring, and we have the same political and spiritual philosophy. We are both optimistic about a wonderful future together.

There is just one problem. Louis is emotionally constipated. He has trouble saying, “I love you.” We discussed it, and he told me his last girlfriend – his only other serious relationship – just said, “Oh,” when he told her he loved her. So now he’s afraid of voicing the sentiment. Also, I heard his mother tell him she loved him, and Louis didn’t respond to her.

He has asked me to move in with him for the summer while we’re on college break. He says I’m an inspiration, and he’s never been happier. He says our relationship is like an oak tree, solid and forever growing stronger. His aunt has also “casually” mentioned that she has Louis’ grandmother’s wedding ring if he wants it anytime soon.

Should I tell Louis I love him and risk scaring him off? I couldn’t stand for him to say “Oh” to me. What’s your advice? – LOVES HIM IN MOUNT PLEASANT, MICH.

Before you become more deeply involved with Louis, you need to review what happened with his mother. A son who remains silent when his mother says, “I love you,” has issues that go beyond having had a girlfriend who only said “Oh” when he expressed his love for her. Surely her cool response was hurtful. And if so, why would he repeat that behavior?

Under no circumstances should you move in with Louis “for the summer.” He may say your relationship is like an oak, but I can’t think of a surer way to create root rot in the relationship. Slow down. His inability to tell you he loves you may stem from the fact that he doesn’t.

Louis’ aunt dropped you a broad hint when she mentioned his grandmother’s wedding ring. Do not move in with him until you are sure he intends to use it.

DEAR ABBY: I am well aware of the risks of smoking. However, I have chosen to take the risk and continue the habit. When I smoke, I do it only outside, away from others so I won’t infringe on anyone else’s health.

When people decide they need to lecture me on why I should quit, how should I politely respond that I don’t need their advice? I will decide on my own when I am ready to quit and make the effort. I understand they are trying to help my overall health, but it’s really none of their business. – NOT READY TO KICK THE BUTTS IN KENOSHA

You’re right – it is none of their business. However, it takes genuine affection and concern to confront an addict about the risk of his or her addiction, so give them some credit for reaching out.

I find it sad that you’re so hooked that you continue puffing away in spite of the knowledge that it may one day kill or disfigure you. But that said, when you are approached about it, simply repeat the first two sentences of your letter to me. That will get your message across. And when you do, please try not to breathe on them because it could be hazardous to their health.

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.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order “How to Have a Lovely Wedding.” Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby – Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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