DEAR MISS LONELYHEARTS: Several months ago, I met a man online. We hit it off immediately -- similar beliefs, heritage, background. We spent hours on the phone talking, exchanging life experiences and had enjoyable times going out together. One Friday night we were to go out, but he left a voice message saying he had to stay late at work. I left two messages -- and never heard from him again! It's as if he'd dropped off the face of the earth. I couldn't understand why he'd do this as he'd indicated a genuine interest in me -- or so I thought. I've heard from other women in their 20s to their 60s, and the same has happened. Is this happening to men, too? Can you give some insight? -- Bewildered, Winnipeg
Dear Bewildered: Sadly, it's happening to both sexes. Instead of changing the rules with Internet-generated dating, many people have dropped all rules of kindness for ending a relationship. They just flip the person a text or email message, or drop that person cold -- no phone call, nada. What is the justification? Because it started online, it's "just an Internet thing." The truth is they've carried it well beyond the Internet into a real life face-to-face dating situation which may already have included sex... Here are some basic rules for break-up modes: 1)After a few dates, you owe the person to tell them, in person or at least on the phone, "This isn't working for me. I wish you well in finding someone else." You may decide to be friends or not. 2) After a month or so, you owe that person a face-to-face chat and a short discussion about why it isn't working. People who have their questions answered heal much faster. 3) When a marriage is breaking up, especially if kids are involved, an offer of counselling even to help with an amicable breakup is the right thing to do. The only time a person should sneak out of a relationship is if they're being abused and fear for their safety.
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts: OK, this is the most confusing situation ever. I've been on and off again with this one guy for almost three years. We hang out a few times a week and he always sleeps at my house. We act like we are boyfriend and girlfriend, but he says that we aren't. We both still love each other, but fight so much we both know it won't work out long term. But, we're so attached to each other, neither of us can let go! We've broken up about four times, but that means taking a break for a few days and then we're fine again. We have tried being friends, but that means we still act as we're BF and GF and nothing is different. What's your advice -- try working it out one last time or walk away? -- So Confused!
Dear Confused: You're exactly the kind of couple that could benefit greatly from counselling because your relationship is hot and alive. You love and desire each other strongly but you need to find a way to stop irritating one another. Your love has survived four breakups. So here's a revolutionary idea -- maybe it's time to stop breaking up and look for a way to iron out the problems you have and get married! Two sticky questions need answers before you do that: 1) Does he insist you're NOT a couple because he wants to be able to see other women on the nights you're not together? 2) Is he addicted to something other than you, like alcohol or drugs? Those are deal-breakers for any healthy person.