DEAR ABBY:

I have been dating "Felix" for six years. He moved in with me a year ago. We decided to do it because it made sense economically, and also to find out if our lifestyles meshed.

We now know that we are compatible, and I feel that I am living with the man I would like to marry soon.

My problem is, although I have a stable, high-paying job and am ready for marriage and children, Felix is not.

He has given me the distinct impression that he has no plans to marry me for at least two years - until he finds a higher-paying job and can support himself instead of depending on me.

I feel awkward not knowing when - or if - Felix will propose.

I now realize that I acted too soon in encouraging us to live together. I don't know if I should just accept our living situation or ask him to move out until he's ready for marriage.

How should I approach this without making him think I no longer love him?

- Too Quick in San Jose

DEAR TOO QUICK: You and Felix need to have a loving - but frank - conversation.

I respect the fact that he doesn't want to be married until he is in a stronger financial position.

And I also respect the fact that you don't want to just live together indefinitely.

A lot can happen in two years. People's goals can change, they can meet others and their careers can separate them.

It appears that you and Felix may suffer from a case of bad timing. It is important that both of you be free to grow in your own ways.

While this might seem sad, it does not mean that you do not care for each other, or that you won't wind up together.

But for now, some separation would be the healthiest thing for both of you.

If your relationship is meant to be, his moving out won't kill it.

DEAR ABBY: Our neighbors are taking advantage of us. They go on five vacations a year and expect us to watch their cat and house - for no pay.

This includes shoveling snow, watering plants and flowers, mowing their lawn, getting their mail and feeding their cat, along with litter box duty.

They insist that "Princess" be checked on twice a day.

My husband and I work full-time and have three small children. We have told our neighbors how busy we are, but they still expect it of us.

They don't even ask nicely. They'll say, "We're going to be gone for a week and will need you to take care of our place."

They're an older couple and generally good neighbors, but we feel that if they can afford to take all these trips, they can also afford to pay us.

They do bring us trinkets from their travels, but we could really use the money.

They have no children or other close neighbors.

What should we do?

Please hurry because they have another trip coming up.

- Pooped-Out Pet Sitters

DEAR POOPED OUT: Start checking around to see what professional house and pet sitters are charging for their services in your area.

Then have a frank chat with these neighbors and inform them what the going rate is, and that rather than trinkets you could use the money.

If they're smart, they'll compensate you because you have already proven that you are honest and reliable as well as close by. *