Dear Amy: This summer, my boyfriend and I will be celebrating our seventh anniversary as a couple.

We have been living together for a year. He's 32, and I'm turning 26.

I am ready for the next step: engagement. While he says he wants to be engaged, too, he doesn't seem to be taking any steps to get us there.

It seems like everyone around us is getting engaged or married, and taking their next steps, while I feel like we're not progressing further.

Can I get him to propose without nagging him?

Amy says: You were quite young when you and your guy first got together, and you are now at an age where many people feel pressure to tie the knot.

As emotionally loaded as the prospect of marriage is, the ability to discuss marriage openly and with comfort now will predict other important conversations later — about sex, money, children, work and family responsibilities. A therapist once told me, "People 'nag' when they don't feel heard."

Having a conversation is not the same as nagging, as long as both of you talk and listen and feel heard and understood.

If you want to create a timeline for engagement, you should say so. You could say, "I'm feeling a strong pull toward getting engaged. You say you want this, too — how do you feel about setting a basic timeline for taking this step?"

If you and he want to adhere to the concept that the man must ask the woman to get married, and if you agree to a time frame, then he would have time and space to create a special "proposal" moment.

You should then relax and let things happen.

Brother or guest?

Dear Amy: I have an issue with my brother. I feel somewhat used in the relationship, but I don't want to cut him off because he's the only living relative I have.

We are both in our early 60s, married and with grown children.

I never hear from my brother unless he has plans to be in my city and wants a free place to stay for the night. Otherwise, he doesn't seem to have any interest in having a relationship with us.

I'm not sure what to do. Our parents are dead. I'm afraid that if I press the point and tell him that I feel like I'm being treated as free room and board whenever he feels like it, I'll end up never seeing him.

He's one of those personality types that gets angry easily, and cuts off relationships. Do I keep letting him treat us as the Holiday Inn just to see him?

Amy says: You don't provide details about what your experience is like when you see your brother during his visits. Is he asking to stay with you because he wants to see you? When he does stay with you, does he interact with you and your spouse, or does he treat your home like a pit stop? Does he ever reciprocate? Does he express gratitude?

If you changed your perspective even slightly, you might enjoy and appreciate your own generosity and hospitality, and get more pleasure out of this relationship, flawed as it is. You could also be brave enough to try to communicate with your only surviving family member, expressing this idea: "I feel like if we didn't have housing you wanted to use during your visits, we'd never see you. You are the only family I have left, and I'd like things to be better between us."

Send Ask Amy questions to Amy Dickinson at P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068 or to askamy@amydickinson.com. Twitter: @askingamy Facebook: @ADickinsonDaily.