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by Abigail Van Buren

Love in the Fast Lane Often Crashes and Burns

DEAR ABBY: I lost my virginity in my mid-teens to a young boy who then informed me that he already had a girlfriend. In the 15 years since, I've had dozens of failed relationships. They were all characterized by the same mistake: becoming intimate too quickly!

To cope with the pain, I either jumped into new relationships in order to forget, or abstained from them for years. Alternating between pain and loneliness is not much of a choice.

I'm well-educated and pretty sharp about a lot of things, but I was slow to slow down. While my own painful experiences cannot be erased, perhaps parents and young people can be made more aware that the music, media and the lack of family involvement carry our relationships along at speeds detrimental to our physical, emotional and mental well-being.

Last month I began dating a delightful man. We have spent many hours talking and laughing without revealing more about ourselves than makes us comfortable. And we have done no more than hold hands. It is by far the sweetest relationship I have ever known. -- WISER NOW

DEAR WISER: It takes courage to examine the reasons we behave the way we do, and you are to be commended for it. That which is truly worthwhile requires time and effort.

DEAR ABBY: My husband has a sweet nature, but he talks too much. The older he gets, the more he talks. He's 56, and I'm afraid he's headed for a very lonely old age. Any suggestions? -- CONCERNED WIFE

DEAR WIFE: I could write a sermon on the subject. Allow me to quote from my booklet "How to Be Popular":

"The person who comes into your company and does all the talking is no less a hog than the person who comes to your table and eats all the food. Do not dominate the conversation.

"Don't feel that every moment must be filled with conversation. Take a little time out to think and reflect. Moments of complete silence can be relaxing. Don't interrupt when someone else is talking. It's rude. And if you have to raise your voice to be heard, the chances are nobody will listen to what you have to say anyway.

"Believe it or not, being a good listener will do more for you than being a good talker. If you want to make a hit with someone, ask him or her questions. People enjoy talking about themselves. Give them a chance, and they'll think you are a great conversationalist!"

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are having a disagreement. We live in a military community and my husband is a retired naval officer. He insists that our 12-year-old daughter address retired and/or active duty military personnel by their rank, e.g., "Lt. Browne."

We have taught her to address adults as Mr., Mrs., Ms. or Dr., but I don't believe it should be extended to ranks in the military. I think it's difficult for her to remember what a person's rank is. What do you think? I told my husband I would write to you and abide by your decision. -- PERPLEXED IN SILVERDALE

DEAR PERPLEXED: I agree with your husband. A 12-year-old (especially the daughter of a naval officer) should have no trouble remembering the rank of her father's fellow officers. And if she is in doubt, she could ask her parents.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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