DEAR ABBY: I am 21 and have been with a great guy, “Albert,” who’s 20, for more than a year. We’re engaged to be married and live together in a condo we recently bought. We both work full time and support ourselves comfortably.

While I would love to marry Albert, I feel we are young and I see no need to rush into it. Things are wonderful between us, but I’m not really looking forward to a wedding.

Albert wants a formal wedding with family in attendance. He says his parents and other family members would be upset if we eloped and would have trouble forgiving him. I’m a rather reserved person, and the idea of being put in the spotlight, with all the hoopla and expense, is overwhelming. In fact, to elope would be perfect for me.

When I share my feelings with Albert, he becomes offended and accuses me of not being as “in love” with him as he is with me. I do love him, and I would be happy to be his wife. I’m just not interested in a ceremony and everything that goes with it. We need advice. – RELUCTANT BRIDE IN NORTH CAROLINA

The fact that you “see no need to rush” and say you’re “not really looking forward to a wedding” indicates to me that while you love your fiancé and theoretically would like to marry him someday, you are not yet ready to make that final commitment. Albert may be picking up on your ambivalence, which is why he says you don’t love him as much as he loves you and becomes “offended” when you try to discuss your feelings.

Of one thing I am certain: You should not elope or have any other kind of wedding right now. What you should do is talk with your clergyperson. Premarital counseling, which is offered by most denominations, will help to ensure that you and Albert are in agreement about other important topics, including (but not limited to) how you plan to handle finances, how many children you want, how they should be raised, etc. These are issues that can make or break a marriage.

DEAR ABBY: Not long ago, I returned to my hometown for a funeral and reconnected with a distant cousin I hadn’t seen since high school. “Jake” and I were close growing up, but had lost touch after I moved away at 17.

Since my trip home we have been in constant contact. Over Thanksgiving, Jake joined me for a long weekend getaway. He also made plans for us to be together on New Year’s Eve and to take some other fun trips. We both feel we could have a future together, but we’re worried about what people back home will say. (It’s a small town where everyone knows everything.)

Jake remains very close to some of my other family, so it would be hard to drop the “cousin” role. I spoke with my doctor before getting involved; he confirmed there are no medical reasons why we shouldn’t. We’re sixth cousins, but were raised as if we were closer than that.

Have you any advice on how to make the transition from cousins to a couple? – RELATED IN OREGON

Sixth cousins are so distantly related that there is no reason why you shouldn’t be a couple if you wish to be. Becoming a couple is an evolution. Let the relationship evolve – and don’t be secretive. People who love you should be happy for both of you.

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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