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Slug burns

My boyfriend of 10 years proposed on Christmas Eve. Excited, I said yes! The truth is, financially and emotionally, he's not at my level. He lives with his mother and hasn't had a job the entire 10 years we've been together. He looks at least 10 years older than he is, and I suspected him of having a drug problem, and cheating on me, too. To cut to the point, I simply do not want him. I make $50K a year, own my home, am attractive, in shape, etc. I'm in my late 30s and smart enough to know that the problem isn't him, it's me. So, what allowed me to stay so long and waste so much time trying to change him? Why did I work so hard to persuade others he was a great guy when, in my heart of hearts, I knew he was garbage? Frankenstein's Fiance

This guy's the slacker version of the Energizer Bunny, napping and napping and napping except when he jolts awake to get high, cheat on you, or yell, "Hey, Ma! Another beer!"

As total failures go, the guy's been a stunning success. Most men can only dream of living like Hugh Hefner, who has three girlfriends, but had to build a vast publishing empire, buy a mansion and put in a zoo and waterfalls to keep them around.

Granted, your boyfriend only has two women in his life; apparently, his reward for keeping his pot plants out of his mother's begonias, opening his bedroom door when she brings up his neatly folded laundry, and picking up the phone when you call to say, "Hello, this is your girlfriend, how can I provide you with excellent enabling today?"

Now, let's say some matchmaker-type asked you, "Hey, how about a cheating, drug-abusing, prematurely aged boyfriend who hasn't worked for 10 years and lives with his mother?" I'm guessing your response wouldn't have been, "Wowee, stack up the bridal magazines!" But, maybe, when you met the guy, you weren't really ready for a relationship, so the wrong guy was kinda right. And then you felt compelled to defend having spent so much time with him, which only led to you spending more and more time with him until his Christmas Eve proposal made a certain someone the happiest woman in the world.

Not you, silly. Think of the joy his mother must've felt at the news that sonny boy might finally leave home.

As for your excitement, it was probably part generic wedding lust and part bragging rights: "A man asked me to marry him!" (Yeah, but which man?) More than anything else, getting engaged gave you the perfect justification for why you stuck around doing all that justifying for 10 long years. Yeah, you were dumb. But, you had help.

It seems our brains are wired for self-justification. In Mistakes Were Made (but not by me), social psychologists Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson explain that most people, when confronted with evidence that their beliefs or actions are harmful, immoral, or stupid, "do not change their point of view or course of action but justify it even more tenaciously."

Recognizing that you have this tendency is the best way to avoid succumbing to it along with forcing yourself to be ruthlessly honest about what you're doing and why you're doing it. Admitting your mistakes should keep you from marrying them, tempting as it must be when a man gets down on one knee, holds out a twist-tie with a chunk of rock candy glued to it, and says, "Hey, Babe, how'dja like to take over my weekly allowance payment from Mom?"

I get an ick outta you

My sister is being pursued by a married man in her condo complex. He's given her gifts, which she's given back to him with the comment, "I'm not comfortable taking gifts from you." He doesn't seem to get the message. Should she threaten to tell his wife? She and I are a little hesitant on what to do, as we're not sure if we're overreacting. We're also afraid we may anger him, creating a bigger problem. Concerned Sister

The next time you drive somewhere, consider why we have "stop" signs, not "We're not comfortable with you speeding through this intersection" signs. When you have something to say to a guy, say it: "I'm flattered, but I'm not interested in you. Please stop pursuing me, and stop giving me gifts." You should find being firm, civil and clear far more effective than "I'm not comfortable taking gifts from you," which sounds like one of those phony protests people make when you give them a birthday present: "Oh, you shouldn't have." Yeah, right. Like, if you didn't get them a gift, they'd be all, "Look, everybody! A signed Hallmark card!"

Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail adviceamy@aol.com (advicegoddess.com).

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