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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Six years ago, I moved in with a man I love very much. (I'll call him Carl.) Four months later, his twin sister came for a visit. It was then that I learned that Carl was married, and had two children from another marriage 12 years before that one. I asked him if there was anything else I needed to know about him, and he said there wasn't.

I worked through my feelings of betrayal, and Carl obtained a divorce. We married a year later.

This New Year's Eve, another sister came to visit. As she reminisced about the family, another child from my husband's past was revealed. Abby, I had given Carl every opportunity to clean the slate years before, so I became angry. I felt betrayed again.

Both his sister and I have explained to Carl the importance of sharing one's past with a spouse. Behavior and attitudes are formed by past events, and it's difficult to understand why people think and behave the way they do without that history. Carl totally disagrees. He insists that love between two people is enough to build a future. He refuses counseling.

Am I wrong to insist that my husband face his past? I am afraid there are more secrets that will shake our foundation, although he assures me there are no more. -- ANXIOUS IN ARIZONA

DEAR ANXIOUS: Since your husband has deceived you and misrepresented himself, I don't blame you for being fearful that there may be other skeletons in his closet.

While I agree with him that love and trust are enough of a basis on which to build a future, he has shown himself to be unworthy of the trust he's expecting you to place in him. Counseling might help him form healthier living patterns -- but if he doesn't want it, it would be time and money wasted.

DEAR ABBY: Four years ago, my husband adopted a son I had by a former marriage. (I'll call the boy Ben.) He is the only father Ben has ever known. We have other children together.

Most of my husband's family refuses to accept Ben as part of their family. They do not consider him to be one of the grandchildren or one of the cousins. My husband's mother tries to treat the children equally, but the aunts and uncles have never given Ben a birthday present and never include him when making references to the cousins.

This past Christmas, the family had the children exchange names. The relatives who drew Ben's name didn't bring him a present. (They did, however, take the present we had bought for their child.) They brought a gift for another child on the list, but when I asked them about a present for Ben, they said they had "forgotten" it and walked away.

My husband doesn't like the way his family treats Ben, but says he can't control them. He says he cannot tell his relatives they must give presents to our son. I want to tell his family that if they don't treat all our children equally, we would prefer to stop exchanging gifts. My husband says if I speak up, it will only start a family feud and hurt our other children.

Abby, this situation really hurts. Ben has mentioned that he knows his father's family doesn't accept him. My husband and I have had many arguments over this. I read your column often and have never seen this issue addressed. I would think this is a common problem among blended families these days. What is your advice? -- ALICE IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR ALICE: Your husband's family is being deliberately cruel, which is inexcusable. If your husband won't assume the responsibility, you have every right to tell them: "We are a family. Give equally to all the children, or we won't exchange gifts at all."

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