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by Abigail Van Buren

Letters From Old Flame Give Woman Glow of Confidence

DEAR ABBY: "Irritated in Ojai, Calif." was bothered by the fact that her husband has kept love letters from a previous girlfriend for more than 12 years and through three moves.

I've kept a previous boyfriend's love letters for 23 years and through seven moves. My husband has never asked me to dispose of them, and I wouldn't toss them even if he asked me to. These letters, along with other assorted keepsakes, help me define who I am now, based in part on who I've been in the past. The letters are nothing more than a record of a girl who was able to love and be loved -- an important concept to someone who felt unloved by her family.

In my mind, they affirm my ability to have a loving relationship with my husband. Please encourage "Irritated" not to stop at simply telling her husband how she feels about the letters (and then waiting for him to "toss them out"). Tell her to take the time to explore with him the reason he has kept those letters. It may be an eye-opening, soul-searching experience for them both! -- DARLENE IN REDONDO BEACH, CALIF.

DEAR DARLENE: While it may be a "soul-searching experience" for some, it could be something else for others.

People keep love letters for a variety of reasons, but it's a pretty good bet that there is an underlying sentimental reason. This is the private business of the keeper -- why must it be "explained"?