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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I need to get something off my chest. Here is my problem: friends upset about not being asked to be my bridesmaids; family angry about who is giving the bridal shower; being interrogated about why I'm not changing my name; and parents insisting on inviting so many additional guests that we had to reserve a larger reception hall than the one indicated on our invitations.

Abby, rarely do people wish us well. It seems they just want to control some aspect of this event. I am so fed up with this nonsense that I wish we had eloped. We discussed doing that last week -- but some of the guests had already purchased nonrefundable plane tickets, so we could not in good conscience cancel the wedding.

Abby, please tell people who have the uncontrollable urge to meddle and complain about other people's weddings to back off, stay home, bite their tongues, and reserve their negativity for their own lives. Speaking for my fiance and myself, only those who wish to celebrate our joy and love should honor us with their presence on our wedding day. -- WISH WE'D ELOPED IN PENNSYLVANIA

P.S. Thanks for listening. I feel better already.

DEAR WISH WE'D ELOPED: That's what I'm here for, and I'm pleased that venting your feelings provided relief from your pre-wedding stress. The reason that etiquette books are such enduring sellers is because emotions often reach a fever pitch during "milestone events," and they provide guidance as people negotiate their way through the social minefield.

In your case, since the plans have already been made, I would urge tolerance for those who are second-guessing your choices. It's your day and your wishes should prevail; however, the fewer hurt feelings in the wake of this event, the better for you and your husband in the long run.

DEAR ABBY: I am in a heartbreaking predicament. I have been married to "Steve" for three years. I knew shortly after the wedding that I had made a mistake. I am not in love with Steve, even though he is a good man. I don't think he loves me either.

About nine months ago, because I was miserable and had sunk into a deep depression, I tried unsuccessfully to end the marriage. Steve and I were separated for about six months.

The problem is my family thinks he is the greatest thing since sliced bread. During our separation, they were closer to him than they were to me. He and I never attended church when we were married, yet when we separated, Steve joined my parents' church and shows up there every time the doors are open. He has everyone convinced, including my family, that he is perfect. In private, he is far from perfect.

After six months of separation, my family convinced me to go back and try again. We have been together for three months, and I'm more miserable than ever. I desperately want out -- to get on with my life -- but I fear I may lose my family. They are convinced I am completely in the wrong.

I used to be an outgoing person, but I am beginning to feel suicidal. I haven't left my home more than 10 times in the last three months. How can I convince my family that I must get out of this marriage? -- MISERABLY MARRIED

DEAR MISERABLY MARRIED: The only person you must convince is yourself, and you have already done that. While your family may be captivated by Steve, it is probably because they think he can make you happy.

It may take time, but when you family sees you blossom into the outgoing woman they once knew (without Steve), they will understand that no matter how much they liked him, Steve was not right for you.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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