Dear Abby

DEAR ABBY: What's wrong with me? I met "Mike" when I was 40. We dated exclusively for two years. When his mother had a stroke, Mike moved an hour away to care for her, and I made the round-trip drive seven days a week to help. I emptied bedpans, redressed bedsores, cooked, cleaned and maintained a perky attitude to cheer up an otherwise dismal household. I did all this while holding down a job 40 hours a week. I did it because she was Mike's mother, and I loved him.

Mike promised eternal fidelity and said we'd have a wonderful life together when his mother passed on. After a year of this grueling schedule, I received a short note from Mike that said, "Mom and I thank you for all you have done for us. I've decided to start dating Marianne, a cashier where I work. I've never loved anybody, although I've used the word often. Goodbye and good luck." I called, thinking I deserved an explanation, but Mike didn't return my call.

I wouldn't take him back in a million years. So why, Abby, do I still miss him, and why do I cry daily over losing him? Wouldn't any sane woman realize she'd been used and never shed a tear? -- STILL CRYING IN FAIRMONT

DEAR STILL CRYING: You cry because it's a normal reaction after having been hurt and rejected. Tears are a natural part of the cleansing and healing process. Mike used you, but he was an important part of your life and it's not surprising that you will miss him -- for a time. Face it, he was a user. One day, you'll look back and thank your lucky stars that he is out of your life.

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DEAR ABBY: I am the youngest of three girls who are all married. Our mom is now widowed.

Our problem is that our oldest sister is in a very unhappy marriage with three almost grown girls. We love our sister very much, but tolerating her husband has become unbearable for all of us. We have tried for many years to ignore his painful and disrespectful behavior, but it is becoming increasingly difficult. Our sister knows how we feel about him and that we have tried different approaches with him, but she still wants us to be together for family holidays and anniversaries. We feel bad about her situation and want to see her and the kids, but it is now getting so bad that we find ourselves dreading the holidays because it is so unpleasant and uncomfortable being around him.

I'm afraid that our family traditions are going to fall apart, because we all want to avoid being with him. Is there anything we can do? -- STUMPED IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR STUMPED: As long as your sister is married to this man, there is no way you can exclude her husband without excluding her. However, you do not have to tolerate his being disrespectful to your sister in your presence. If he starts up, present a united front and ask him to please knock it off for the evening, in the name of family harmony.

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DEAR ABBY: Recent columns where students were not allowed to discuss "Dear Abby" in school got my attention. As a family and consumer sciences instructor (formerly known as "home ec"), I incorporate your columns into the curriculum for classroom discussion. You bring to light many social situations that students are faced with on a daily basis. Your columns enhance as well as enlighten us on the topic of discussion.

Thank you, Abby, for your years of columns that have taught us so much. -- CATHERINE WILKINSON, OKLAHOMA CITY

DEAR CATHERINE: Thank you for your supportive letter. It made my day!

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Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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