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by Abigail Van Buren

Flurry of Family Birthdays Makes Fiance Feel Left Out

DEAR ABBY: I am a 30-year-old male. Three years ago I met a wonderful woman two years my junior. We dated, fell in love and became engaged.

During the last year, we've been arguing about personality differences (disrespectful behavior, selfishness, insecurities -- the usual stuff). We love each other very much; however, we have both behaved inappropriately when we were angry.

She broke off the engagement. I desperately want to work this out, but she's acting very cold and says she's not sure she wants to marry me. I've told her I'm sorry, that the issues we fought about are trivial and we can work them out, but she is hurt and afraid.

Abby, what do I do now? -- STRICKEN IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR STRICKEN: Back off for a while, but try to maintain contact until she calms down. She may change her mind after a cooling-off period.

Meanwhile, the library has many books on relationships. Among them are some that teach couples how to fight "constructively." It's a skill that isn't always taught in public schools or even in many homes, because the majority of people have never learned how to disagree without alienating the other person. Learning this important lesson can help you detour from bumpy roads ahead.