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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been dating a wonderful man for a year and a half. We're very much in love and agree on almost everything, but there is one issue upon which we disagree. It's the telephone. He says who he talks to and what they discuss is none of my business. I say he's wrong.

I was brought up to believe that if you are in a close relationship, you don't tell your partner that anything is "none of your business." Abby, I let him know who calls me without his asking. If he's the man I'm going to spend the rest of my life with and he keeps things from me, the marriage won't last.

He says if the conversation doesn't pertain to me -- or to our relationship -- he doesn't have to tell me who he's talking to. (There have been times when he's said that a "friend" called, or that he's talking to "one of his family members." But he doesn't use names.)

I feel this is sending out mixed signals.

Who is right and who is wrong? -- NEEDS TO KNOW IN TENNESSEE

DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: There is wisdom in the very old ditty: "Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies." If he is talking on the telephone to a friend or relative and the content of his conversation doesn't have anything to do with you or your relationship with him, it is none of your business. However, when you question him and he refuses to give you a straight answer, it is bound to raise questions and create suspicions.

DEAR ABBY: Your advice to "Recent Divorcee, Nauvoo, Ala.," the woman who experienced the painful loss of her family and friends after her divorce, was excellent.

She had learned in a divorce support group that this "abandonment" is a common experience among divorced women. I thought it might help "Recent Divorcee" to know that abandonment is not associated exclusively with divorce. It's also a common occurrence when a person suffers a terminal illness.

Those of us who have received this treatment refer to it as "ghost syndrome." It's as if we have already died! We disappear from the guest lists of friends planning parties, and it seems as though our names have been erased from their phonebooks.

I realize this may be a defense mechanism for many people, a way of easing the grief that awaits them. For others, confronting serious illness makes them too mindful of their own mortality.

Fortunately for me, my family was open enough to realize they had been inadvertently inching me out of their lives. I have been less blessed with my "friends." Only one close friend has stuck by me. But I have resolved to initiate new friendships. People who are uncomfortable with my limited future are not the kind I need to be spending my time with anyway.

I am one of the lucky ones. I have a wonderful husband and terrific children. My heart goes out to those who are more alone than I.

As you wisely advised "Recent Divorcee," when something catastrophic changes your life -- like divorce, the death of a loved one, or having to face your own mortality -- it's time to adjust and rebuild. With effort, we can find ways to turn a bad situation into something better. I wish her the best in doing so. -- SHIRLEY GRANDAHL, WINDSOR LOCKS, CONN.

DEAR SHIRLEY: Your attitude in the light of such challenging circumstances is impressive. Perhaps your letter will help "Divorcee" and others to view the unexpected changes in their lives more positively. God bless you and your family.

CONFIDENTIAL TO MY CHINESE READERS: Gung Hay Fat Choy! (Happy New Year!)

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