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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My oldest daughter (I'll call her "Alexis") is being married this year. She is planning a very large, expensive, fairy-tale wedding. Her father and I recently divorced after 29 years of marriage.

I have told Alexis and my ex-husband that I don't have a lot of money for this occasion because the divorce wiped out most of my savings. My daughter claims she doesn't want to hear it. I have offered to pay for her wedding gown. My ex insists that he expects me to pay for half the wedding, even if I have to take out a loan from him to do it.

I have tried to be upfront, but no one is listening. I'm 50 years old and need to save toward my retirement. I can't possibly afford to risk my entire future. Also, we have two more daughters -- so it's likely there will be more weddings in the future.

Please keep in mind that it won't be possible for me to volunteer to pay for only "my" invited guests. Almost everyone on the bride's side will be mutual friends and family both of my ex and myself.

Give me some desperately needed advice that won't hurt my daughter's feelings. I love Alexis very much and don't want to be responsible for spoiling a very special time in her life.

What are my responsibilities in this matter? -- NEEDS HELP IN NEW YORK

DEAR NEEDS HELP: It is extremely unwise to jeopardize your future for the sake of one day. I have always advised parents not to go into debt for a wedding. A wedding should be a gift from the parents, not an obligation.

Don't allow Alexis' unreasonable demands and those of your ex to intimidate you. Pay for what you can reasonably afford, and let your daughter adjust expenses accordingly.

DEAR ABBY: The letter signed "Examining Life in Ohio," from the woman who was married to a decent man but didn't consider him her "soul mate," prompts this letter.

I met my soul mate, and on our first date we both knew it. I figured it was the greatest love in the history of the world. I would have died for this man.

We were the perfect match! We had our ups and downs, and his family threw barbs at me every chance they got, but I withstood it because I knew I had his love.

So what happened? After 38 years, I finally admitted what I had been denying for decades (and he still denies): My husband is a more or less functioning alcoholic. He absolutely refuses help, and things are getting worse. The clues have been there for a long time.

Now I am envious of older couples enjoying their later years, while I live with a man who is dishonest and lies constantly. I cannot trust him. I dread holidays with our children and grandchildren. I'm embarrassed and ashamed of him. Not only do I no longer love him -- I don't even LIKE him.

A decent man in one's "golden years" must be wonderful. -- MARRIED PRINCE CHARMING

DEAR M.P.C.: You have my sympathy. Please do not allow yourself to remain submerged in your husband's alcohol problem.

If you haven't already done so, consider attending meetings of Al-Anon. The members are nonjudgmental and supportive. They offer first-hand experience to help you put your life back in order -- whether or not your husband chooses to admit his problem and sober up.

Al-Anon is worldwide, and you can locate a chapter by checking your telephone book.

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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