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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This is the first time I've ever written to you, but I have been reading "Dear Abby" since I was a teen-ager and I trust your advice.

I was married to "Harold" for 15 years. We had three children together and divorced four years ago for several reasons. The main reason was that he was unfaithful to me. I was hurt, bitter and angry because I had always been faithful to him. I never dreamed I would end up divorced, having to raise three children alone.

Now, after four years, he has had a relationship fall apart, and so have I. We have both reached the same conclusion. It is very hard to find a partner who is completely accepting of someone else's children. It makes life extremely complicated to be with someone who does not accept the full "package."

We are presently considering the possibility of dating and possibly reuniting our family. It makes a lot of sense for many reasons.

Abby, what are the chances of making a marriage work the second time around? The only one that comes to mind is Elizabeth Taylor, who married Richard Burton twice, and we all know how that ended. -- PUZZLED IN PORTLAND

DEAR PUZZLED: If there are reliable statistics on the success or failure rate of remarriages, I am not aware of them. In my opinion, the most important ingredient for a successful marriage -- in addition to love -- is for the couple to really need each other.

A word to the wise, however: Before committing yourself to another marriage to a partner who has been unfaithful in the past, make sure that whatever caused it is resolved. I recommend "couples counseling."

DEAR ABBY: I am a 71-year-old widow who has read your column for years. You've had letters about older men who are reluctant to become romantically involved because prostate problems have left them impotent. Yes, there are women, as you say, who prefer a sexless relationship. I am one of them. When I meet a gentleman, early on in our acquaintance I let him know that I do not want to become sexually involved.

My reason: I have an ugly body from my waist down. My thighs are heavy and I have developed what is called "drop stomach" or an "apron."

I joined a gym class and exercise regularly, but there is nothing I can do about this apron of flesh that just hangs down. This is very discouraging because I would like to have a gentleman in my life, but when I let a man know I want a sexless relationship, he loses interest in me.

Surgery (a "tummy tuck") is not an option for me. Ten years ago I had face-lift, and I've already had my eyelids lifted, and that's enough surgery for me.

My husband left me fairly well-off, so I don't have to marry a man for his money. What advice do you have for me? -- ABBY FAN IN ARIZONA

DEAR FAN: Most older men who marry older women do not care if the woman has an "apron" of flesh that hangs down. If you can overlook a man's potbelly, he can overlook your "apron."

The organ of the body that is most important in romance is -- believe it or not -- the EAR. What lovers hear when they make love can work wonders in achieving satisfaction. Trust me.

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