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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Your good advice to "Romantically Rocky," the man who wanted tips on how to be romantic with his wife, reminded me of a definition of love I learned from a woman acquaintance in New York many years ago. A life crisis had driven her to a psychotherapist to whom she complained about being "unloved." The therapist asked her to describe what being loved would be like. After some thought, my friend said that if someone really, really listened to her, THAT would be her idea of being loved.

The therapist concluded that the woman needed additional support, and insisted that her troubled client look into a self-help group. She arrived late at an address in a commercial neighborhood that had seen better days. With some apprehension she climbed a flight of dingy stairs and found her way into a room where a group of shabbily dressed people sat around a beat-up table listening intently as one of the group told his story. She was dumbstruck at observing the very definition of love she had offered her therapist, believing it could not exist. This was the first of many Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in which this woman found the healing power of a love that really, really listened and cared.

For me, this story illustrates that becoming a good listener requires no more than willingness, practice, and the kind of genuine regard for another human being one can find in AA or any Dear Abby reply. And, "Romantically Rocky" may find that one of the most seductive lines in the English language is a heartfelt, "I just love to listen to you talk!" You may use my name. -- GEORGE MARCELLE, LOS ANGELES

DEAR GEORGE: What a thought-provoking letter! I'm sure "Romantically Rocky" and many others will thank you for that astute suggestion. Although many people think romance is what happens between the sheets, I suspect that true romance is mostly what happens between the ears. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I can educate "Romantically Rocky" on how to romance his wife:

A woman loves to have little things done for her, things that say, "I thought about you today." Bring her a CD by her favorite artist for no reason except that you were thinking of her. Tuck a note in her purse saying, "Hi, I love you." Unload the dishwasher and reload it without being asked. Give her a foot massage with lotion while she watches her favorite TV show. Sit behind her on the bed and brush her hair with her favorite hairbrush. Fold the clean laundry and put it away.

Call your beloved at mid-morning and invite her to lunch. Slip a small stuffed animal in her car with a silly note. Bring her the newspaper, coffee and doughnuts when she awakens on a lazy Saturday morning. Give her a big hug when you return from work, and say, "I love you. I'm glad to have you to come home to."

Consider how many relationships would be happier if men would do just one unexpected romantic thing each day.

I'm fortunate to have a very romantic fella as my soulmate. Trust me -- any woman would appreciate these sweet gestures. Sign me ... LOVING EVERY MINUTE OF IT IN CINCINNATI

DEAR LOVING: Great ideas -- and they work both ways. Guys and gals, the road map is well laid out. Go for it!

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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