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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman in Humdrum Marriage Wonders if Soul Mate Exists

DEAR ABBY: What percentage of people find their soul mates? You once advised a young man who had doubts about his relationship to keep searching. How long does one search? I am married to a man who is decent and has similar values to mine, but he is definitely not my soul mate. If I had kept searching for my soul mate, would I have found him? What if he lived in another state? How would I ever find him? Would I have been too old to have children by the time I found him?

I have pondered these questions all my life. In my experience, love is not equal. I once found a man I thought was my soul mate, but he didn't really love me; and some men in whom I had no interest pursued me. This confuses me. Isn't it supposed to be that two people find each other and fall madly in love?

My husband and I have children, and they are the joy of my life. I suppose I love him, but it is more like loving a brother -- there is no passion. I thought he would open up eventually, but he never did.

I have seen people who have happier marriages, but I think it is basically dumb luck that they found the right person and that person loves back with equal fervor.

Abby, I don't expect you to have all the answers, but I needed to ask someone. Thanks for listening. -- EXAMINING LIFE IN OHIO

DEAR EXAMINING: I'm happy to listen, and wish I could answer all your questions. Just as no two people are alike, no two marriages are alike. Some couples are content with "brotherly" companionship, which can include a deep and meaningful love. Others enjoy a fiery passion. Some have both. However, it is important to remember there is a vast difference between real life and fantasy. If the pluses in your marriage outweigh the minuses, you are better off than many.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "Grandma in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.," who wanted to know how to tell a child the truth about Santa Claus, reminded me of my own experience:

Born in 1940, my son, in addition to being an only child, was a "war baby." During his early childhood, toys were almost impossible to find. The things little boys crave -- toy trucks, planes, trains, tricycles, etc. -- were not being manufactured. In 1943, he went to the circus for the first time. When he was asked what he wanted for Christmas, he said he wanted a real elephant or a red wagon. One was as easy to find as the other.

We were eager to keep his belief in Santa alive as long as possible. My mother told me to give up, but I kept saying, "Just one more year." We finally located a wagon late on Christmas Eve.

Finally, when my son was 7, Mom came to me and said I could stop pretending. He had confided to her that he knew there was no Santa Claus, but, "Don't tell Mom because she still believes in him." Needless to say, that solved the problem. -- VIVIENNE LINDSAY, LANCASTER, CALIF.

DEAR VIVIENNE: When I responded to "Grandma in Saratoga Springs," I missed an opportunity to point out that many families use the "moment of truth" when talking to their children about Santa to reinforce their belief in the spirit of Christmas that Santa Claus represents -- that of giving.

Many older children cherish the "grown-up" responsibility of keeping the belief alive in their younger siblings. Thus the spirit of giving passes from one generation to the next.

Abby shares more of her favorite, easy-to-prepare recipes. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, More Favorite Recipes, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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