DEAR ABBY: When I was in grammar school 50 years ago, I was molested by two boys. I recently learned that they are now both dead.

I wrote to the sister of one of them and told her what her brother had done to me and how I felt about it. I'm glad that he is dead, and I told her so.

She responded, calling my letter sad and bitter for bringing up the matter after so much time has transpired. In the '60s the norm was not to tell anyone for fear of being spanked or beaten or called a liar and living in kid hell. I am a female, and the standard was so different in those days. Please print my letter. -- CONFUSED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CONFUSED: If this was something the sister was unaware of, you shouldn't be surprised that she responded as she did to your bombshell.

I agree that we have become more open about discussing sex and sexual assaults than we were in the '60s. And I hope that somewhere along the way you received counseling to help you deal with the molestation, because talking with a qualified mental health professional about it can be therapeutic. However, if you haven't, please contact RAINN, the Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network. Its toll-free number is 800-656-4673. You can find assistance there, and nothing will shock them.

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DEAR ABBY: I have been dating the most wonderful man, "Art," for almost four years. He's strong, caring and he treats me like a princess. We have discussed marriage several times, and I suspect he will propose soon. I'm sure that Art is "the one," and I would marry him in a heartbeat. My only worry is that we'll end up like my parents someday.

I know this sounds silly, but while I was growing up, I never saw any signs that my parents really loved each other. Dad always seemed like he was trying too hard to make Mom happy, while she either was indifferent to his affections or dismissed his efforts. They would argue about the smallest things, to the point where I wished they would get divorced so I wouldn't have to hear them disagreeing.

I have mentioned my fears to Art and he has told me not to worry, but I can't help but worry. I love him too much to put him through the same emotional abuse, even accidentally, and I'd never want my kids to grow up thinking their parents didn't love each other. How can I keep the past from repeating? -- UNLIKE MY PARENTS

DEAR UNLIKE: Your mother may have been attempting to control your father by withholding affection and approval as he tried harder and harder to please her, and that's very sad. But you don't have to follow in her footsteps.

Children don't always grow up to emulate their parents. You are an individual, and you are well aware of the unhealthy pattern you observed while growing up. If you and Art are able to discuss your differences and reach a consensus when problems arise, you should be fine.

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