Dear Annie: I am a single mother of two teenage girls. After a series of abusive relationships, I hadn’t dated for two years until recently. A few months ago, I met a man, and we’ve been seeing each other and sharing intimate moments. But the way he acts has me very confused.

He says that marriage is something he’s simply not interested in. I’ve told him that I am interested in building a healthy, long-lasting partnership with someone who will become my husband — even though to me, after such bad prior relationships, the very possibility of such a thing seems far-fetched. I think on some level I believe that I deserve to be mistreated.

Now, even though I know our relationship can’t go anywhere, I continue to date this man. I feel guilty after every date. What do you think I should do? I’m not sure whether I really like him or I’m just lonely. I don’t have any friends. — Lost and Lonely

Dear Lost: Finding a loving, caring relationship begins with loving and caring for yourself. End things with this noncommittal man, and turn your focus inward. You’ve yet to process the abuse you suffered in your previous relationships. For help in doing so and referrals to local resources, I urge you to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233. I’d also encourage you to try making some new friends or reconnecting with old ones. (https://www.meetup.com/ can be a good tool for people looking to make friends.) Having a healthy social life will help you stay grounded and feel less dependent on a romantic partner. Once you believe with all your heart that you are worthy of love and respect, you’ll be ready to date. Until then, be patient with yourself.

"Ask Me Anything: A Year of Advice From Dear Annie" is out now! Annie Lane's debut book — featuring favorite columns on love, friendship, family and etiquette — is available as a paperback and e-book. Visit http://www.creatorspublishing.com for more information. Send your questions for Annie Lane to dearannie@creators.com.

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