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I live at home with my parents and my aging grandmother. My mom has severe arthritis and needs a double knee replacement. My younger sister is away at school. My dad works long hours. My mom runs the household... with my help. At 23, almost 24, I want my own life. I want to go out and not feel guilty that I'm not unloading groceries, or spending my only day off a week at home with my grandmother while she watches daytime TV. I was raised that family comes first, always, and I love my family. But I want to know how to take time for me.. without feeling guilty about it. I want to know how to spend a day relaxing with my boyfriend of three years without feeling as thought there is something I should be doing at home for the two women who taught me how to be a woman, and raised me to be the woman I am. Help me regain some of that twenty-something freedom I'm dying for... guilt free.

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Follow piratess' advice, by all means, talk and negotiation is always good, but call me cynical if you wish, most parents eventually revert to treating you as if you are 12 years old (in this venue anyway), and any kind of 'negotiation' will eventually break down If You Do Not Separate Yourself in some way. I try and 'make time' for myself, I have my pastimes and hobbies that I like to do, none of which I can pursue with any real relish because of the pressures on my time that are always there. I have not sat down to read a book for any more than 15 minutes at a time, I can't fill my house with music as I used to because she can't stand either music that is too loud (she prefers absolute silence, believe it or not) or that she does not personally approve of (I have a wide range of interest, from classical to Lady Gaga), and I hate earphones. In short, there is very little about my life of the last 12 years that I find at all satisfying. Separation trauma is a bad thing to deal with for parents but not necessarily for children. The reasons I am keeping mom at home have a more financial base, and have no particular place here.
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Hi Omasgrl...by the name you picked..."Grandma's girl", I think deep down you have plenty of deep feelings of rooted love in your family and do enjoy and love your grandma. But as a caregive that just ended her service to her mom, I know there was times I hated it...but after going through wouldn't have changed anything those 2 years went quick. But you do need ME TIME...otherwise caregives burn out.... So make timeout for yourself and time you spend with b/f. Somehow you can arrange it with your Mom that you can take ME time either for yourself like shopping or mani/pedi's or weekend away with B/F. It will give you time to find yourself again in caregiving. It will make everyone happier if you are not angry and burned out. Please explain to Mom that you all can make it a win win situation if you strategize and put your heads together...Mom can have time off and you can have time off...share the time. Poor Oma maybe she can help with folding laundry...the elderly love to be included....let her help with a few things if she still can. I hope this helps a bit...I of course am a caregiver twice your age..and did not have to do this at 24/25....this is your party years I know it...been there....but try to get some of that in while you can....!!!!!!!! Hugs to you and Oma and Mommy!
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I'm a firm believer in separate housing.
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Of course we do not know omasgirl's mom and grandmom, but I do know mine - she just does not know how to let go, tries to fit the role of a loving, cookie-bakin' mom and grandmom, but will whine and wimper (just like her mother before her) and work on my sympathy, and of course, I am the sucker. She does not understand boundries, will agree to them but when push comes to shove ignores them (like this morning - she is 'in a mood'). What can you do? If she has a talk with her, I hope omasgirl has a more understanding and independant mother than I do.
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omasgirl, why not talk to your mom? Why not ask her the same question that you posted here? Surely she remembers what it was like being young doesn't she? She's not a helpless baby just because she has bad knees. My friend went through double knee surgery, so I know how painful it was before surgery and also during the rehab. But believe me, if my friend wanted to go somewhere and do something, she'd suck up the pain and do it! So can your mother, she's not paralyzed just spoiled.
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Listen to cmagnum! Grab your chance, don't let anyone else in your bed. My marriage may have had a shot if it had not been for Two clinging mothers who did not know how to let go.

Someone once said, "If you're bleeding, look for a man with scars". Run, do not walk out of Dodge.
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omasgirl, I agree that your title says it all plus we do not even know what your real first name is which sounds a bit self invalidating. At 24, you are a full grown woman and not a little girl. Omas and your mother may not be helping you really feel this young adult identity but it is yours. Your identity is not your family. It is not your grandmother or mother. Your identity is the unique you that you are. Yes, with their input, but you are not a drone copy of either. Family members can become fused or emotionally meshed with each other which leads to being intrusive in another person's life because they don't get it where they end and someone else begins. Believe me, I've been there. It's taken years of therapy to get where I am today. Frankly, I don't think the boyfriend is going to wait much longer. Before you are really going to be able to give yourself and cleave to him, if he is the one, you must leave home and live on your own. From experience, I can tell you men do not like being married to more than one person. A man wants to feel married to his wife without having to compete with mom, dad or grandparents. A woman, likewise, wants to feel really married to her husband without some outside competition. I would not suggest living together because that is not a very secure arrangement for a woman to be in and I would not run off with this man only to just get away from home.
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Get your own apt. even if it's just a Studio. Visit your family anytime you want or when they need you.
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omasgirl - PLEASE! Read the posts seriously! You are to be commended for your own sense of family loyalty, but if he is the one, grab that guy of yours and GET OUT!!! The 'taking responsability' and 'family loyalty' roads are in reality slippery slopes and lead to deep, sticky bogs. I came back to the home town for the same reasons, and if I had had a crystal ball 12 years ago I simply would not have had the guts to go through with it, and I only have one person to look after. With 3 people to care for, you will never have a life of your own.

Furthermore, I simply do not believe that if they love you as much as they are supposed to, they would be making other arrangements of their own and not ALLOW you to tie up your life. This kind of thinking is a remnant of some old ideal that big families stayed in the same town, a'la "Its a Wonderful Life"and all looked after each other and shared the burdon for life in a warm sunset glow. Reality is much harsher and darker. My advice is to grab your guy and Get the H___ out of Dodge!!! You have a right to a life. Take it.
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Many blessings great post!

You know her name says it all "Omasgirl" Hopefully it goes to "OmasGRRL"
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Hello Omasgirl,

(Sorry this is thesis length, but I feel you are so deeply torn and at a crossroad in your life. I just wanted to let you know I care too and wish you every happiness as you sort through some very difficult questions and take the next steps in this journey of life.)

I hope you take to heart what everyone has said to you here out of love and concern. You sound like a beautiful, caring young woman and you definitely deserve a life of your own!! Yes, it is a good thing to love and care for our families when it is healthy. Unfortunately, the use of guilt can be a very effective method of accomplishing unhealthy “love”. Don’t get me wrong, because I truly haven’t walked a mile in your moccasins so can’t understand the factual dynamics of your family, but I do sense an atmosphere of “guilt” placement to get you to devote your life to family. Maybe that is how the dynamics has always been in your family, so your mother and grandmother don’t know any other way of showing love either. However, I hope you will come to understand the only thing feelings of guilt will ever truly accomplish is to ruin YOUR life, while the rest of the people go along taking full advantage of you. These “strong” women are using their strength to deplete yours and rob you of the life you so richly deserve.

I am sure they truly don’t intend to, nor truly want to zap you of your youth; they just don’t know how to relinquish their feelings of need toward you for themselves. I COMPLETELY understand your feelings because I too have allowed myself to be ruled by the same ones. For the past 12 years I have been living with and caring for my husband’s parents and my mother. My mother-in-law was an extremely controlling, matriarchal, strong woman and made life a living hell for all of us, especially her husband. Yet, we stayed and cared for her because of guilt and because “family comes first”. She died two and a half years ago. Six months later, my own mother took a dive down dementia mountain and I had to bring her into our home. My mother was the sweetest, kindest person on the face of the planet, yet there were many, many days I too regretted the life I had to give up caring for her 24 hours a day. I loved her with all my heart and soul and would have done, and did do, anything in my power to make her final years as peaceful and pleasant as I possibly could. I hated the anger and resentment I was feeling giving up my “golden years” to care for her. I am 62 ~ on the other end of the “freedom” scale. The past 12 years should have been spent enjoying my time of freedom with grandchildren and the activities I couldn’t do during my younger years because I was raising my family. Instead of having some “me” time, I was caring for parents. Sadly, my mother passed away last December and I deeply, deeply miss her. Yet, selfishly, and in no way do I mean this disrespectfully, I am thankful, finally, for my freedom. Although, my father-in-law is 86 and still living with us. He is beginning to slip and I know the cycle will start again.

When my mother died I was filled with horrible guilt of “I should have done more, I could have done more, I wasn’t a good daughter” on and on. Then I stopped and asked myself, what were our parents doing at my age? They were traveling around the world on cruises, they were enjoying their grandchildren when they wanted (I haven’t been to see mine in two years………they had to come here), they were golfing, spending time with friends and enjoying their lives of freedom. What did they do for their parents? Well, my mother’s lived in another state and she would visit when she could, but for the most part, she lived a pretty independent lifestyle. My in-laws lived in the same town, however, their care never fell totally on the shoulders of their children either. These were all strong people too, but strong enough to take time for themselves and THEIR lives. It helped me to feel less guilt when I realized this fact. I was allowing misplaced guilt rob me of the life I deserved. I realized they lived a life of freedom because they were strong enough to respect who they were by giving themselves that option. A life we all owe to ourselves and giving that life the sanctity of the justice it deserves by taking control of our rightful place in the universe. “This above all, unto thine own self be true”.

What my point here is, DON’T miss out on the best years of your life because you feel you should be tied to those who have lived theirs! Each and every one of us has to make our OWN decisions about OUR life and how we want to spend it. We are here to decide for OURSELVES. Remember, God gave us that option and He wants us to lead happy, healthy and productive lives in His world, not depressed and filled with guilt, either self imposed or placed on us from others for THEIR benefit. Were your mother and grandmother caring for their parents when they were 24 or were they carving out a life for themselves? Does your father work long hours to escape being home and caring for your mother and grandmother? Your sister is away at college, making a life for herself. Why are you the only one stuck with the guilt and feeling like this is all on your shoulders? Why isn’t your mother getting her knees replaced? Is she using that as a cop out to take on responsibilities too and dumping a lot on you because she is being somewhat selfish? Yes, the motto in your household is “family comes first” but what consideration are they giving you as a family member? YOU have to come FIRST at some point too!!! It possibly sounds that these strong women have done a bit of guilt instilling to raise you to be the woman of guilt you are so they could use that guilt to keep you in tow caring for them.

One of the definitions of guilt states: the responsibility, as determined by a court or other legal authority, for committing an offense that carries a legal penalty. Are you are feeling the guilt because the “court” of your mother and grandmother have instilled in you a responsibility that if you don’t fulfill the wishes of “family” there will be a penalty? I think your insides are telling you that the guilt is wrong and you DESERVE a life. YOU need to be a strong woman too in order to save yourself and take steps to create a life of your own. Even if you can’t find the strength to leave for the peace and sanctuary of a place of your own, you MUST decide, when you are away from the grip of “family coming first”, to STOP THINKING ABOUT THEM!!!! and what unrealistic penalties might be imposed because you are not there every minute doing for them. These few hours are YOURS and you deserve every, single second of them. Forget about what you think is waiting at home and enjoy YOUR time!! If you continue to torture yourself during those precious hours of freedom, then you only have yourself to blame. You are away and all the guilt in the world isn’t accomplishing squat except to ruin those few hours of freedom too. Then you go back still feeling defeated and not accomplishing the goal of getting away to be refreshed and rejuvenated. In the long run, who are you helping? I can’t think of anyone, especially yourself.

My advice is to find someone who can help you disassociate from these feelings of guilt. You can definitely and successfully love your family and give them the time and attention you seem to feel they need on your own terms without giving up every part of who you are due to guilt. You need another voice in your head except the one forcing you to do the bidding of others and locking you into someone else’s world instead of becoming your own person. I know how deeply you must love everyone in your family or you wouldn’t be so torn, but in many ways this form of love is dysfunctional. Don’t waste the precious life you have been given by filling it with guilt. You owe it to yourself to say hello to and love who YOU are and have a life other than the one of self –reproach others, or yourself, have placed upon you.

Now, having said all that, I am not sure who is actually lying on the guilt complex here. In some respects, it almost sounds like it is coming from within you. There are times when we love people so much we don’t know how to allow ourselves to let go and think of ourselves without feeling guilty. It almost feels like to do so would, somehow, diminish the love we have for them. So, even in our few moments of freedom, we unjustly chastising ourselves and filling ourselves with remorse over our actions of what we feel is neglect. In some sick way, feeling guilty is the only way we can tell ourselves how much we love them. Again, it is a dysfunctional form of relating to others. Either way, I think you need to seek out someone who can help you find a healthy balance in your life. I fear your boyfriend will only handle so much of playing second fiddle to mom and grandma and dealing with your distracted thoughts of them even when you are supposed to be alone with him. Remember Princesses Diana’s comment about there being three of us in this marriage? It isn’t healthy.

Please, take a long, honest, soul searching look at your world and at yourself. Is this how you honestly want to spend the rest of your life? I certainly don’t think so or you wouldn’t be so confused and torn. Unfortunately, too many times the health and lives of the caregivers are destroyed out of misplaced love and guilt long before the ones they care for are gone. PLEASE, Omasgirl, don’t be one of those. Yet, in the end, the path you take in the journey of your life is ultimately up to you. And you need to find the answers to the oft times very tough questions so you can live YOUR life to its fullest. Don’t ever forget, and remind yourself often, you only walk this way once and it is entirely up to you how you want the journey to end. And, above all, at its end, what do you want to look back on and remember as your life? Will it be a lifetime of experiences with the love of a husband, the joy of raising children of your own, filled with friends, travel, richness of learning all this world has to offer, or will you see a lifetime devoid of who you are because you are locked into to the care of family members out of guilt, whether self imposed or delegated from other? These are the difficult questions only you can answer for YOURSELF. No one else can, nor do they have the right to, answer them for you. It is strictly between yourself and your God.

My heart felt thoughts and prayers go out to you and the decisions you face along the road you elect to travel. No matter which path you take, may it be a beautiful life, one filled with much, love, joy and a lifetime of richness. Hugs and love.
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I feel your frustration and fear of hurting your family. I am now 58 years old, but I once was you who longed to live my young life independently yet didn't really know how to go about it. I ended up marrying a man I didn't really love in order to get away. I stayed with him 10 years! Finally left him and had a couple joyful years on my own, eventually meeting the man of my dreams (truly). I wish all young people could learn from my mistake in not having the nerve to just speak up and then do what was necessary for me. You only get to be young and footloose once in your life, don't end up with too many regrets. Just do it.....move out! If it's a matter of money, you'll make it, we always do. Pinch your pennies, eat very little (good diet control too, lol), do whatever you have to do, but do it and don't look back, even if they don't seem accepting of this at first, they'll get over it when they see they haven't lost your love, only your address has changed. Please, speaking from experience, set a move-out date and then do it, and don't rush into marriage or a live-in situation......spend some time getting to know yourself and enjoying your independence. Have Sunday dinner with your family, or better yet have them come to your new home. Drop by from time to time to visit them or have your mom make a small list of ways you can help her while not living under the same roof.
You will be fine and so will they. Best of luck to you.
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Omasgirl,
If those two women are truly that strong, then they would understand and even want you to be on your own. To idolize is to become dependent. It is time for you to become independent.
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Oh honey!!!
Omasgirl, you were raised in a family where guilt was a verb. I don't know but I've only been able to carve down the guilt to 30%. Go ahead and have a life! Don't want one. Feel guilty. It's good for the blood pressure.
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I really think you need to find your own place and then visit when you can; you will enjoy being with them more if your happy within yourself. Don't feel guilty at your age because you deserve to live your life just as they did at your age. I am 54 and my motto always was, "my parents took care of me and now it is my turn to take care of them." Well, my mom passed away 7 years ago and my dad was a handful until he had to be put in a nursing facility a year ago. I have just stopped feeling guilty but in the interim of taking care of everyone, I lost who I was and now that it is time to take care of me I am encountering several health issues that if I considered making myself a priority while I was taking care of my dad, I would not be encountering these medical issues at the moment. Please don't let this happen to you. You are young and need to live your life. Take time to enjoy your boyfriend and your life together because it goes by so fast and you should be able to have good memories of your past. Isn't that what you would want if you have kids of your own?
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I agree with most of the above. I would like to add to the above. Find a good solid Bible-believing church, find three young ladies who want to rent an apartment, be involved with wholesome activities, work hard at your job and enjoy these years. Take some time to do fun things with the girls. (Bowling, ice skating, Scandia, a bookclub, etc) Three years does seem to be a long time to have the same boyfriend. I would find a few Dr. Laura Schlessinger books and spend some time reading them. If this young man is interested in a serious committed relationship and is a good man with noble character who loves the Lord and His word more than life itself, and treats you like a lady with respect and dignity--perhaps you will be married in the not too distant future. I have a married daughter who is 28 who just had a baby. They in our church, and God has blessed them in amazing ways over the years. This is my hope that our remaining daughters and son who are about your age will have the same wonderful life as they have. I hope you will continue to visit your family on a regular basis, but I agree with the above--you need to have a busy and healthy life as well. I hope you will keep us updated in a few months and let us know how you are doing. God Bless you!
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igloo,

I idolize these two strong women for their strength, but I want my own life. And my mom has a brother, be he is no son, or uncle. So its really my immediate family. Thank you everyone for your amazing support, and listening to my venting.
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You seem like a very caring person and I so admire how you value your family and care for them. However, please try to remember that at age 23, you too have a "life" and every right to enjoy life. Believe me, it is so true for all of us once we get "older" that if "only we knew then what we know now!" I can tell you, now that I am age 60, that the years go much too fast and before you know it, you are in your thirties, forties, fifties, etc and wonder where did your life go. So, my advice, for what it is worth, it to see a therapist to get help with having some "balance" in your life and making time for YOU. There is no reason to feel guilty when you have a fun day with your boyfriend or do whatever young folks do. You still live at home and preferably, if you could relocate to your own place that would be so good for you. One thing I have learned in life is you kinda set up your life a certain way and then folks "expect" you to always be a certain way. In your case, you are allowing your family to somewhat "depend" on you. So although I am sure they appreciate your help, it can become an "expectation." You need to make time to have fun and do what makes you happy and not feel guilty. If you weren't around, then what? You sound like such a wonderful young person. I hope I have been of some help. I don't know all of the answers for sure, but I can suggest that while loving your family and meeting their needs, it is equally important to focus on YOUR needs. You deserve a life too!
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You say your mom runs the household, and? Many of us are fulltime caregivers, work outside the house fulltime and run the house. I use caregivers for when I am at work. Sounds like someone might be taken advantage of you. I also have a 25 year old at home and I make sure it is not my child's responsibility, its my parent and I would never want to do that to a child. It is a feeling of being trapped, but we hang in there because its our loved one ,but at your age, way too young to have such a responsibility in my eyes. I agree you need to move on and let it be your moms responsibility, good luck! Your day may come down the road also, live your life now.
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If your Mom is at home, dad is working, and I assume grandma has some income, you can afford to have a housekeeper, errand person, or personal care assistant come in once a week or so to help out. Strangely enough, when someone is paying for care they are more respectful of that person's time. You have made yourself too available, with a good helping of guilt heaped on top, so you are "it." If the guilt is self-inflicted, redirect your thoughts to creative things you can do with your time and/or boyfriend. The idea of "family coming first" does not mean that you have to sacrifice your life and future. It means making sure that family is cared for properly. You can't possibly make that happen alone even if you were their full-time caregivers.
I agree, moving out is a good plan...I was living on my own and supporting myself at 21. It will empower you. In the meantime, carve out that one day off from both your job and your home job.
Trust me on this one: the years go by so fast and if you are not planning your future it will be planned for you. Please do one thing today that will help you get out on your own.
good luck and let us know how you are doing.
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I know this is going to be hard, but you need to find some "me "time and separate your self from the situation. If your family was a "full time job" and you spent your nights and week ends thinking about it you'd be considered to be a workaholic! Learn to set some boundaries!!! Your day "off" is just that-if you feel guilty then spend time during the week nights after work doing all the errands and watching TV with Grannie. Designate ONE DAY as YOUR DAY- and make it guilt free. Start a new family tradition. If family comes first have you considered quitting your day job?
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Unless you choose to have your life lead by others, you need to move out and move on with your life.

Your post is really interesting & so descriptive in that the reader (well at least this one) can feel your frustration and sense of entrapment.

Perchance does your grandmother have other children? Are any of them independent women with careers & community activity outside of the home? If so maybe you can talk with that aunt about your feelings. They've been there and know the bigger family dynamics and it's history and baggage.

You write...."the two women who taught me how to be a woman, and raised me to be the woman I am." Do you want the same life your mom and grandma have or do you want something different?
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It helped me to learn this way of thinking about the negative voices in my head: namely, they're on my side, and they're speaking out of fear on my behalf. Kind of the way not-so-skillful parents say "Don't run, you'll fall" when what they mean is "I'm scared that if you run you will hurt yourself." So instead of trying to shush the guilt, get curious about it, and speak to that voice as if it were a friend: "Hey, thanks, what are you trying to protect me from?" If you seriously listen to it, respectfully, you may hear something back like, for example, "I'm worried that if you don't do enough good-deed type of things, then that will prove you're not a good person and dont' really deserve to be treated kindly, or even to live... and since [it says] I don't know how much good-deed types of things is enough, it just seems safer for you to do EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME." Then instead of going, "oh shut up shut up shut up" -- which doesn't work on anybody so why should it work on yourself? -- you can go, "oh, I see, you're really worried and thank you for being concerned. The issue is, how good is good enough? Let me think about that, and promise to take care of acting out of the best in myself. At a certain point good-deed-y sort of stuff stops being the best in me and starts being martyr/doormat behavior which is NOT the best in me, so let me think about that difference." Then go think about that difference!!!!!
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When you are living with family (or anyone really) part of your life is in fact obligated to whatever duties are necessary for that household to function. In order to experience your own life which at 23-24, you are right to be desiring such freedoms, you should make other living arrangements and ideally on your own so that you have some time in your life to experience that level of self-introspection and freedom before perhaps committing and moving in with your boy friend. These tasks that are put upon you are really only put upon you because you are there, the household will have to continue on and figure out how they are to function without you. This is all a very normal process, it is not bad to feel guilt as long as you contribute and help in meaningful ways out of love, not guilt, and yet still achieve your own life's experience.
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Thanks Cmagnum! For listening.. it helped to vent.
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Why are you still living at home when you already have a job? One's family does not come first when it comes to having one's own separate identity. I'm not a therapist, but it sounds like you need one in order to get out of a very enmeshed relationship with your family that in the long run is going to hurt not only having your own life, but also having a healthy relationship with your boyfriend and possibly having your own family. Three years! Why aren't you two married yet? I wish you well.
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