I shouldn’t be leaning on him

It's my birthday today.

I'm telling you that not because I am seeking attention (OK, fine, maybe I am a little), but because I was getting all weepy last night about Love Letters and how lucky I feel all of the time, and how awesome you are, even you lurkers. (Lurkers make the world go 'round, folks).

You are the world's best birthday present. You are iced coffee with two sugars. As Janet Jackson would say, love would never do without you. As Janet Jackson would also say, we are a part of a rhythm nation.

An emotional letter for an emotional day …

A few months ago, your column featuring the man who had just found the perfect woman and had cancer really struck a chord with me. I still think about it from time to time.

My mother was diagnosed with a terminal illness. I am in my mid-20s and in the midst of a lot of "game changers." I have two jobs and am in school. I live with my parents.

I also began dating a really wonderful man a few months ago -- I adore him. He isn't necessarily the "perfect guy" (although he is really awesome) and I don't see Elysian visions of marriage. I don't anticipate anything serious and neither does he -- we just want to enjoy each other's company. He is thoughtful, fun, sweet, caring, hilarious, and considerate. Our relationship is still rather casual, but we spend a lot of time together. So, simply put, my love life is pretty nice right now.

Here is the problem -- I am an emotional wreck. I haven't been dealing well with my mother's diagnosis at all. My routines are shot to bits; I have been acting impulsively (not destructively); I am not quite financially stable; I have erratic sleeping habits; I have been acting extremely flaky and distracted in many areas of my life. Not to be dramatic, but my family members and I are also witnessing my mother undergo a steep and painful decline.

Last week and today there were very intense fights with my family (primarily with my father). My guy-pal has known from the start about my mother. He has been really great and understanding about the whole thing. Up until last week, I only touched upon it occasionally. After the first fight with my family, I tried to hold it in when I went out to dinner with the guy but he sensed something was amiss. I then let it all hang out when we got back to his place. The same thing happened this afternoon, when I called him to distract myself from the situation. I just ended up crying and crying. He is so nice and patient. Still, I have a major complex about divulging my feelings to friends and feeling like I am burdening them, thus there is no doubt that I must go into counseling very soon.
Just as I feel wary of unloading my feelings on my friends, I don't think it is fair of me to do the same to him. I've expressed that to him but he tells me that he doesn't mind listening to me. I am thinking that I might have to end our wonderful, just-fine-as-it-is relationship. Not because of him, but because I don't want him to feel obligated to "deal with me" and my emotions. I don't WANT to end it, but I think it's the fairest thing to do -- to say, "I am an emotional wreck due to my familial situation, and this isn't fair for you." I am writing to you for some guidance on this, of course, because the classic head-heart conflict is taking place. I adore him, but I want to preserve his sanity.

– Mess in Rockland

This guy doesn't feel obligated to deal with you, MIR. At least it doesn't sound that way to me. And you're not obligated to marry him even if he helps you out during this difficult time.

You can explain that you're concerned about him. You can explain that you're not at your best these days. If he chooses to remain your companion, fine. He knows the risks.

Maybe this is a temporary relationship and yes, maybe one of you will wind up hurt or burdened. It's also possible that you'll wind up really digging each other, even when there's less drama. You said it yourself -- you don't know up from down right now. For all you know, this thing will grow into something big.

I don't like the idea of putting off relationships until life is less messy. Life is always pretty messy. Your life is especially messy right now, but that doesn't mean you're not allowed to enjoy some good stuff. This guy is making life more positive for you at the moment. Don't deprive yourself.
For the record, the tone of your letter suggests that you're handling everything like a champ. Not all erratic, sleep-deprived twenty-somethings stew about their emotional responsibilities and how they might be inconveniencing others. But yes, counseling is a good idea. For you and the fam.

Readers? Should she let go of the guy so that she doesn't lean on him too much? Is it possible that this relationship has more potential than she thinks it does? Is it possible to have a sane romantic relationship during insane family times? Will he feel obligated to stick around because of her family situation? Help, please.

– Meredith