Dear Miss Emily:

I've been off and on with this man for 10 years. I broke it off several times because he has two lives and keeps me out of his life. We don't have much in common anymore, and little to talk about because he wants to know every detail of my life and tells nothing about his. Recently, we got engaged but it was on the premise that we move ahead at full speed or not at all. As it turns out, the ring was a form of "pissing on his territory" so to speak. I can't seem to get him out of my head.  I've tried dating, but he always pops back into my life.  I sincerely want to shed him completed but my head won't let me.  I have my own house, a great job, my kids are now grown and moved out and I just want to stop this madness and perhaps allows some room for something else, but I don't even know how to do that anymore. He's been in and out of my life so long that I can't seem to just let it go completely. I seem to hang on and he knows it.  I have searched endlessly trying to find how to completely detach from him for good. I hate not to be friends but it seems the only option.  Frightening really.

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

You think, then, that the engagement ring was a way of keeping you in his control, but with no honest intent to marry? Oh, how the word co-dependency keeps popping up in my mind. Overused, I know, but it so often applies. Each of you fills a void, a need in the other person, but much of it is based on fear and insecurity (apart from the good times!). You may represent a stabilizing force in his life, and you may need to feel needed in that way. If the relationship has come down to having nothing in common, and little is spoken, it's time to really zero in on why you can't let go. Have you tried counseling? If not, I would consider it because of the ten, non-productive years you have spent with this man. There is no magic elixir, no pill you can take, and there is not much use in me telling you, "Well, you absolutely need to break if off completely" because you do seem to have a need for him that is based on (and I repeat myself in order to make it clear) a void you have within. Because all else seems to be going well in your life, a home, a good job (especially in this lousy economy) it would seem natural to want your love life to be in lockstep with that.  But you see, so much of who we are is what we experienced as children. Was dad there? Was he a good role model? Are you looking for someone to fill a need you had as a child, but are attracted to a man who gives you nothing more than what you experienced as a child?  I may be wrong, but these are questions that need answering and, if none of these apply, well, you need to know this:  As we age, certain areas of our life that go unfulfilled become nothing but a series of regrets. We can choose to accept that, or realize (and define) our capabilities to change it.  Either way, time moves on whether we like it or not. Limiting your possibilities in life is one way of marking time, but I think you need to make some tough decisions, stick to them, and learn to value who you are and what you have to offer. You should want more from your life because you are so close to having it all.  Don't be afraid to go after what you want. If not, others will, ultimately, continue to make choices for you.