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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: After reading your column on first cousins marrying, I thought I'd better let you know the downside: when it doesn't work out.

I was also involved with a "kissing cousin" many years ago, and there are consequences one doesn't think of until it's too late.

To start with, you fight to get the other family members to accept that you're involved with each other. Then, when it goes sour and you can't stand to be around each other, who do you turn to?

From experience I can tell you: No one! You suffer in silence because everyone told you it would not work out and you wouldn't listen. I can tell you, it's easier to break off a relationship with an outsider than with a relative. It's 100 times harder when it's family. You cause divisions and pain when you get together, and it's worse when you split. There's more pain than you could ever imagine for both those involved and the families.

You are expected to attend family functions and pretend it never happened, to be polite and try to be civil to each other even though you're dying inside and, wish as you may, you can never go back to "before."

Please advise anyone contemplating a relationship with a relative. Think long and hard before you leap. Your paths will cross again and again, and your life will never be the same! Been there, done that and regretting it ... SOMEWHERE IN THE U.S.A.

DEAR SOMEWHERE: That's sage advice. Most of the questions I receive regarding marriage among cousins reflect concerns about the genetic aspects of such a union -- not the emotional price that's paid in the event of a failure.

DEAR ABBY: My wife is past menopause and she could go the rest of her life without sex. I like to kiss good morning, good night, goodbye, hello and other times just because it's nice. She doesn't.

Neither does she like to be touched -- during the day or at night. I have tried everything I can think of. I finally got her to talk to her doctor. He recommended hormones.

She refused to take them because they might give her cancer and restart her periods. I talked to her doctor about the risk of cancer. He said it was so remote he didn't consider it.

She maintains this is normal for women past 60. I can't believe she is right, but have no data to refute it. I have tried to get her to go to counseling, but she refuses because she thinks it would be embarrassing.

Is this normal? What do you suggest for a solution? Please don't use my name. -- LOOKING FOR LOVE IN DALLAS

DEAR LOOKING: No, it is not normal. Your wife's problem seems to be her attitude. She has stated what she won't do; ask her what she is willing to do, and plan your life accordingly.

DEAR ABBY: Whenever I get into a discussion with someone who has never raised kids, I summarize what it's like being a parent in one sentence:

"You spend the first 12 years of their lives worried to death that someone may harm them; you spend the next six wanting to kill them yourself." -- TURNING GRAY IN CHANDLER, ARIZ.

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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