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My fair cleaning lady

I've been with my boyfriend for two and a half years. I'm 24, he's 29, and he has this plan for making his first million by 37. I respect his ambition, but wonder how much I have to sacrifice for this plan to succeed. It's not even my plan! Not only is all the romance gone, he works nights and I work days, and we barely see each other. Plus, his 9-year-old son lives with us, so we're never alone. We try to stay awake to spend time together, but it's exhausting. We're constantly arguing, and sometimes downright mean. I don't mind cooking, cleaning and raising his son, or giving up "us time" so we can have a comfortable retirement, but all this overdrive is wearing on me. Still, when I contemplate leaving, I remember we love each other. I can't give up at the first sign of hardship, plus he'd be so screwed if I did leave. Not Happy

Somebody's got the order all wrong. First you're supposed to live, and then you're supposed to retire. What are you two going to do, sit in your rocking chairs reminiscing about the life you were too tired and angry to have? Maybe while thumbing through cute couple shots? "Oh, look! There we are on our second anniversary, passing each other in the hallway as you were going to bed and I was going to work!"

You two might love each other, but you have a major scheduling conflict: happily ever after or happily ever now. If you ever talk to somebody who's had a near-death experience, they'll probably go on about living in the now, not how they finally learned to live in the later. You can scrimp, save and plan all you want, but there's really no guarantee you'll get to the later. (He could make his first million at 37 and trade you in for his second 24-year-old.) In other words, "Are we having fun yet?" is actually a very valid question. Sure, it's important to save for the future, but it's also important to realize that life isn't supposed to be the thing that passes you by while you're on the way to work.

What did he say to charm you into being with him, "Misery loves company"? Maybe he's not miserable. Maybe he's excited to be socking away all this cash, and feels he's accomplishing something; probably on behalf of both of you. You can't expect things to be any different if you don't assert yourself: Tell him that, for you, a relationship is not a 401(k), where you say, "Hang in there ... in 20 years, we'll be having a ball! Meanwhile, there's the mop."

Be clear about what you need: sex, romance, time together when you both aren't snoring; you know, the stuff the man of the house isn't supposed to do with the cook, the nanny and the maid. If he can't make you more than a slave to his dream, you should leave and without lugging some anvil of guilt around for giving up "at the first sign of hardship." (The guy has a financial goal; he doesn't have cancer and need somebody to drive him to chemo.) As for how screwed he'd be if you did leave; if nothing changes, think about how screwed you'll be if you stay: 24 and taking early retirement from fun. Sure, relationships take work, but when your thoughts turn to the bedroom, your first impulse shouldn't be knocking on the door and calling, "Housekeeping!"

I love loosely

I'm 27. Last year, my boyfriend of six years dumped me. After walking around for months like a kid lost at the mall, I finally feel like myself again. I'm dating multiple men (some know, some don't), started a friends-with-benefits thing, and still talk to my ex. Most days it's fun, and certainly interesting. Other days, I long to go back to the ex. Sometimes, I just feel reckless as I watch men I'm dating develop feelings for me that I'm unable to return. What the hell's going on? So Many Men

When you come upon a warning sign a custodian has set out perhaps "Slippery When Wet" do you stash it in a planter and watch what happens? That's kind of what you're doing in your dating life. It's OK that you're confused. In fact, after six years of playing Mrs. Wifely, it's about time you freed yourself up to not know what you want. That's what your 20s are for: dating around, making mistakes, being obsessed with one guy from 9 to 11:30, and another by lunchtime. There's one catch: You have to tell guys that's where you're at and clue them in on your current dating M.O., which, on an exclusivity scale, is best described as "I love a parade!"

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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