Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My 21-year-old daughter, "Cammie," has been seeing a 24-year-old married man for three years. They met at work, and after only a few months became lovers. He was still in college and had been married only a year.

He told Cammie he was going to treat his wife indifferently so she'd leave him. He just couldn't be the bad guy. He's an only child and depends on his parents for support. He's afraid of their reaction to a divorce, financially and emotionally.

He promised Cammie he'd move out after his wife graduated from college. Then he said he'd leave after he graduated. Then he said after he gets out of debt and after he gets a job. Well, he moved all right -- into a bigger apartment with his wife after she got pregnant.

Cammie found out about the pregnancy after I saw his wife's name in a newspaper ad for the gift registry of a local baby store. I called and confirmed the information and was told her due date is just two weeks away. This man had kept the pregnancy a secret the entire time. Cammie was going to end the affair, but relented when he cried on her shoulder about not wanting children yet, and what a nightmare this is.

Abby, his disregard for my daughter's feelings and future are astounding. It's tearing my heart out. I want Cammie to find a soul mate and build a life, not live like a prisoner, waiting to see a married man a couple of hours a week. If this affair was revealed to the wife or his parents, he'd be forced to be honest. Should I tell? -- OUTRAGED MOTHER IN OREGON

DEAR MOTHER: It's tempting to meddle, but your daughter is an adult, so I'd advise against it. Although you and I know she's wasting her time buying what this super-salesman is selling, some people have to learn the hard way, as the next letter reveals. It arrived in the same batch as yours. Perhaps reading it will help her see the light. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Maybe my experience will keep other hearts from being broken as mine was. I was involved with a married man. He swore he and his wife were breaking up; it was taking so long only because of the children. How could I have been so stupid?

It happened two years ago, but only now am I seeing clearly. Now I'm finally able to talk about it. I'm shocked how similar my experience has been to that of other women.

These men all say practically the same thing: "You make me feel alive again." (I now realize that how you feel about yourself comes from within.) "I can talk to you and you really listen." (I didn't have three small children underfoot demanding my attention.) "My wife and I have a lousy sex life." (Some even claim it's nonexistent, but their wives seem to get pregnant anyway. Immaculate conception, perhaps?)

Take it from me, ladies, what your married lover is telling you is what they all say -- and what he'll no doubt tell the next gullible woman who comes along. I was a fool. I feel guilt and sadness for the pain my actions caused my ex-lover's wife when she found out about our affair. I can only offer my heartfelt apology.

To those of you who are having affairs -- please learn from my mistakes. The pleasure is dwarfed in comparison to the pain that's inflicted on so many people. It's just not worth it. -- EX-MISTRESS IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR EX-MISTRESS: Affairs with unavailable people fail far more often than they succeed, and the damage they cause will far outlive the romance. Your letter is a wake-up call. I hope others will heed it.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600