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So I'm not 'in love'. But is this as good as it gets?

The question

I'm 48 years old and I've been married and divorced twice. Prior to the last breakup, I had a very supportive platonic female friend. After the breakup, we developed into being more than friends. Then, a few months later, she moved in with me. We have lived together for about three years now.

My dilemma: She says I'm the "love of her life." She has never had kids or a serious relationship before me. I waffle because I'm cynical and soured on marriage and love. Recently, she said she would marry me if I asked. I care for her, but I don't feel "in love" with her. And, well, at 48, just how in love can one be? I keep waffling on the issue of love. Maybe this is as good as it gets. I'm wanting stilettos when I have fuzzy slippers. Should I suck it up and accept what I have?

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The answer

Maybe it's because it's around brunch time as I write this and I haven't had anything to eat yet, but your question has given me a serious craving for waffles. Mmm, with butter and a big dollop of sour cream, all doused in maple syrup…

Where was I? Oh, yeah, before I get to your question, I have a couple of bones to pick. I don't mean to be presumptuous, but I'm just going to let you have it the way I would a friend if he laid the above soliloquy on me, okay?

First of all, 48 is not old! You, it strikes me, are the one slipping into the "fuzzy slippers" way too soon.

You're in your prime, lad! You've probably got your 10,000 hours - the amount of time Malcolm Gladwell says you need to spend practising before you master something - under your belt by now, yet you're still young enough to be vibrant, virile and vigorous.

I was just reading an interview with fuzzy-domed home-reno guy Mike Holmes, where he was saying he's 47 and men in his family have a way of barely making it to 60, so "I've got to accomplish everything I want to accomplish by that age. I've got 13 years left."

You should be like that - attacking these years with Holmesian vigour, veins popping on your neck and forehead! Not sitting around in your fuzzy slippers going, "Wah, wah, wah, I'm sort of in love with this girl, but I'm not really sure what to do, I'm waffling, wah, wah, wah.' " (Mmm, maybe with some strawberries on them.)

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Second, I hate people who say they're "cynical" about love and marriage. Maybe it hasn't worked out for you (yet), but that is not the fault of those glorious, venerable institutions. I've been married for 18 years, and I'd take a bullet for my wife any day of the week. And (here Dave's face takes on a poetical cast) "as I slid down the wall, leaving a bloody track, I'd smile quietly to myself, knowing I'd done the right thing."

But what you need to focus on is this: If you're in a relationship where you're not passionate, where you're waffling (mmm, maybe blueberries) and dragging your slippered heels, you're wasting not only your own time, but the other person's as well - and that's not fair.

I never understand people who remain in relationships out of "guilt." I'm not a therapist, but you should examine that guilt and see it for what it really is: cowardice and fear of loneliness, with a soupçon of narcissism thrown in.

And maybe you secretly like how "comfortable" it all is, even if it tortures you (and her).

But it's the wrong thing to do. If your girlfriend is in her child-bearing years and feeling her ovarian clock ticking, then it's downright scurrilous.

Even when I was 29 and living with a 28-year-old woman I wasn't properly into, I had the following thought: "Hmm, I shouldn't waste too much of her time because if I do, then later she'll be able to point to me and say, with some righteousness, 'There goes the cad who ruined my life.' "

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Maybe I was being a tad melodramatic. But if your girlfriend is, say, 38, and wants kids, you are committing a sin by wasting her time.

Use that counter-guilt as motivation to get you out of this relationship, prontissimo. Like you're tearing off a Band-aid, homey: suddenly, and without hesitation, so the wound is clean and can get some air and heal.

And I don't know how your relationships got screwed up in the past. But I will say this: In future, no more sliding in and out of hazy grey areas with female "friends," slipping and sliding from "hanging out" to "hooking up."

Pardon my mixture of metaphors here, but henceforward, when you see a woman you want, I want you to get her in your crosshairs, have a shot of tequila, paw the ground - and cha-a-a-arge, with steam coming out your collar.

Like a man. Like Mike Holmes. I want you to strap on your studded, steel-toed love boots and renovate your whole approach to women. Be a virile, vigorous, macho man in the prime of his life. Not a wiffling waffler in fuzzy slippers.

You got that, son? Now I gotta go. I gotta see if we got any Bisquick. I'm starving!

David Eddie is the author of Chump Change and Housebroken: Confessions of a Stay-at-Home Dad. Damage Control, the book, was released in March.

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