I have only recently realized how unhappy my parents' marriage is.

On the way home from a concert one night, my mom started crying and said how much she wanted to be with a man who could stay awake throughout a performance.

Then she told me I should never get married. She said people "always grow apart." She has been saying it repeatedly over the last few weeks and has even had some of her friends tell me the same thing.

I began asking other people about it, and they all act like they're not happy in their marriages, either.

I am now genuinely afraid to get married.

I am 18 and have just started dating a man you would consider marriage material. But I'm holding back my feelings because I'm afraid one day he might propose.

Is "happily ever after" achievable anymore in a marriage?

- Upset in Grand Rapids

DEAR UPSET: Your parents' marriage appears to have hit a rough patch.

When your mother started crying after the concert, I guarantee she wasn't crying because your father couldn't stay awake until the end. She was crying because she was disappointed in him for something else.

While the intensity of feelings can fluctuate over time in a marriage, couples do not "always" grow apart. The fact that your mother's friends are echoing those sentiments makes me wonder what kind of a crowd she's surrounding herself with, because unhappy people usually attract other negative people.

While I know from experience that a lasting, loving relationship/marriage is possible, allow me to point out that the qualities that attract someone at 18 may not necessarily be the same ones you'll find important when you're older.

That is why it's important that before you start thinking about marriage, you first establish yourself as an independent, self-supporting young woman and take your time before committing yourself to anyone.

DEAR ABBY: A former professor of mine was a good friend and very supportive last year when I was experiencing some personal difficulties.

Recently I have heard that he has not been acting like himself. I was told he has developed a bad attitude, curses in class, and uses his degree to demean his students' opinions on topics.

One of his current students told me he's surprised the professor hasn't been thrown out of class for his behavior.

This is not the same professor who helped me last year. It seems like his evil twin. I suspect he may be having some personal problems.

Because of our previous professor/student relationship, I don't think I can get involved. However, because of the help he gave me when I needed it, I care and would like to offer support.

Is there anything I can do? I want my friend back.

- Student Who Cares

DEAR STUDENT: While it might not be appropriate for you to reach out to your former professor directly, it still may be possible to get him some help.

Tell the student whom spoke to you that he and some of the other members of the class should talk to the head of the department or the dean about what has been going on and the fact that the professor may be in need of help.

If the man is, indeed, having personal problems, his supervisor would be in a better position to see he gets it than you are.

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