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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was shocked by how you missed the boat regarding "Ex-Mistress in Chicago's" purported plea for forgiveness for her adultery. "Ex-Mistress" went to great lengths to point out how she was lied to and strung along, and how she didn't get what she wanted out of the affair, before she finally offered a clearly insincere apology to the wife of her ex-lover for the pain caused by the wife finding out about the affair.

Infidelity is wrong, Abby. It's not wrong because it didn't give the cheater what she wanted, or because a wronged spouse found out about it. It's the act itself that's wrong. The pain caused to the innocent parties involved, or the perpetrator's disappointment with the results, is merely a foreseeable byproduct of this wrong.

You had an opportunity to point this out to "Ex-Mistress" and the many morally challenged dimwits like her, and you missed it. -- DAVE IN EUGENE, ORE.

DEAR DAVE: Everybody knows that infidelity is wrong. If it hadn't been occurring since before Moses climbed Mount Sinai, it wouldn't have been mentioned in the Ten Commandments. That it's still going on today should be a clue that many people consider themselves "exceptions" to the rule. Condemning infidelity as "wrong" will turn fewer people from infidelity than illustrating for them that it does not work. "Ex-Mistress in Chicago's" letter was a clear example. Read on for another:

DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from the woman who fell into the trap of a married man. It happened to me, too. I was 21 and recovering from a very difficult divorce, trying to adjust to the fact I'd be raising a child alone. I felt I'd never be happy again, when I was introduced to "John."

John was brilliant, outgoing, handsome and very wealthy. He wined and dined me like I never dreamed possible. A couple of weeks after meeting me, he flew his private jet to Florida where I was visiting my parents and took me to a fabulous restaurant. I fell head over heels. He surprised me with a beautiful diamond bracelet for my birthday and made countless promises over the months. He kept the fact he was married a secret. By the time I found out, I was too much in love to break it off. We lived in different states, so it was easy for him to keep things hidden.

One night, I invited "Cynthia," one of my girlfriends, to join us for dinner. We had a great time, and enjoyed many other outings together with her and her boyfriend. This lasted a year and a half, until things with John began to fall apart. Last weekend I found out that Cynthia had gone away skiing with John. My heart is crushed. I've never been so hurt in my life. I love John more than life itself, but apparently he doesn't feel the same. I'm in tears as I type this, Abby.

Please print this so maybe they'll read it and see the damage they have caused. Please help me. -- DROWNING IN TEARS

DEAR DROWNING: The damage they have caused you? If you think you're hurting, imagine how John's wife must feel as the wife of a serial philanderer. You're learning a tough lesson, my dear. Your affair with John reminds me of the frog who was asked by a scorpion to ferry it across the river on its back. "No," the frog replied. "If I take you, you'll sting me and I'll die." The scorpion swore a solemn oath that he would not sting, so the frog started to take him across the river. When they reached the middle, the scorpion stung the frog viciously. "Why did you sting me?" cried the dying frog. "Now we'll both die." The scorpion replied, "It's my nature!"

The next time you find out a man is married, do the intelligent thing: Disengage your heart and run in the opposite direction.

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.)

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