Dear Miss Emily:

My boyfriend and I are 7 years apart in age.  I'm 51 and he is turning 44 in Feb.  We dated for three years.  In that time, he broke up with me three times.  To begin, he does not have a high school diploma. He is on SSI.  He is loyal, he cooks, he cleans, is very family oriented, healthy, warm, extremely handy, and loving; tall and handsome too!  I have a college degree, family oriented, spiritual, committed, enjoy cooking and friends. etc.  We are very compatible in many ways. We are both divorced (10 years for me, three years for him.) We have a combined total of four grown children between us who live on their own.  We both spent over 20 years each with our former spouses. I want marriage, he does not. I will not move in unless there is a formal commitment, like an engagement ring.  He did not marry his former spouse until ten years later (after the birth of his three children).  I went through the normal steps of dating, marriage, then had my son, etc.  Reasons he has cited for breaking up was that he knows I've always been a bit uncomfortable with his income (which is true, but I am not the one who has broken up with him three times in three years).  There are so many excuses that it is hard to pinpoint what truly is the problem.  Now he is telling me he is going to be 44 and wishes he knew what his purpose in life is.  Sounds like a low level of depression to me.  He tells me he didn't realize how much he would miss me, and is missing me terribly but doesn't want to get together right now.  We will be married someday.  Can you share some of your thoughts from your point of view?

------------------Miss Emily's advice---------------

Dear Frustrated:

You are in love with a man who has low self-esteem and, until he gets an injection of it, or realizes that it's okay to let go of his feelings of inadequacies, you will sit on the side-line watching him struggle with these issues whether you are married or not.  You've made up your mind that you will not move in with him unless there is a formal commitment of marriage, but I'm not sure why.  I suppose you have your reasons, like "if he really loved me, he'd put a ring on my finger."  But if that's the major obstacle that keeps you apart, you might want to revisit that demand. You seem to be at his mercy right now, but there's a lot of pressure on both of you.  If income and education have no real bearing on the success of your relationship, you have not convinced him of that.  True or not, decide what it is you really want from him, rather than what you think you need.  Do not try to win the battle, only to lose the war.  It's possible that adjustments can be made in order to form a more perfect union. We are on this planet for a very short time, and it's the regrets that haunt us as we age.