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STOP WAITING FOR BOYFRIEND TO COMMIT

Dear Carolyn: I want to get engaged after two years of dating, a year of it living together, but BF isn't ready. I know I can't make him ready and we're only mid-20s, but how do I cope while I wait and not make either of us crazy? I will give up when I get unhappy enough or feel like there's no progress, but I do think we're getting closer right now.

-- Cambridge, Mass.

A: Closer to what? And don't say marriage -- it's not a goal unto itself, unless you sell diamonds or tulle.

If you mean closer to spending your life with this guy, then realize you're doing that already, one day at a time. And see, in that light, if it feels like enough. If no, then ask yourself why.

If you mean closer to feeling assured he really loves you, then realize marriage alone won't provide that. Someone can be wary of marriage -- blame age, ethics, experience -- and be devoted to you nonetheless. Or, flip side, get married to shut you up.

If you mean closer to being able to plan your life, then you need to plan your life.

Not knowing what he wants can, understandably, make you feel like you're all packed up and idling in the driveway. However, his uncertainty is making you "wait" for very little that matters.

You can be rooting yourself to your community (or, if you're unsure where to settle, researching locations); focusing on work; continuing your education. Otherwise, in other words: Stop waiting. Not even for your boyfriend to make up his mind. He hasn't told you his plans yet, but he has told you who he is and how he feels about you, in a million ways every day. Trust your instincts enough to start living your life based on that.

A sobering truth

Dear Carolyn: I am DREADING a weekend where I have to go with my boyfriend to two birthday parties. It's with the same group of his friends with whom I have basically nothing in common. They are good people, but I don't like hanging out with them. Should I just drink a lot of cocktails and suck it up, or what?

-- Baltimore
A: "Or what." Unless that's a cocktail, too.

Not to kill your buzz, but having nothing in common with his crowd, to the point you need liquid support, means there's a whole side of your boyfriend with which you have nothing in common.

This can be minor or calamitous, depending on how much air you like to leave between you and a love interest.

The fact that you're going with him suggests you prefer your companionship constant. If so, your differences will loom almost as large as your bar tab, unless you find a more solid way to face them.

Write to "Tell Me About It," c/o Washington Post, Style Plus, 1150 15th St., NW, Washington, D.C. 20071 or e-mail: tellme@washpost.com.

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