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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Like so many of those who write to you, I have been involved for quite a while with a married man who keeps making promises about our future together, but those promises are never kept.

The difference is, this one is married -- to a corpse. She's been dead for 2 1/2 years, and he still can't let go and get on with his life.

For almost a year, he promised we'd spend a weekend together; however, by Thursday, he always had a reason to cancel. When we finally did get together for a weekend, he walked out and got another motel room where he and the ghost could spend the night together, while I cried my eyes out alone in the king-size bed in my room. Do you have any idea how much rejection there is in learning that the man you love would rather sleep with his memories than with you?

I finally persuaded him to get counseling, but he's still doing the same things: promising we have a future together, then squelching any plans for physically consummating our relationship. He insists he doesn't need Viagra, that he's capable of doing it, but then he comes up with another hokey excuse why he can't make time for a weekend together.

He's really a nice man, Abby. He treats me well and has a delightful sense of humor. He'd be the perfect companion if he could just accept that his wife is dead, she's not coming back, and he's not cheating on her if he sleeps with another woman. What should I do? -- SEXLESS IN SEATTLE

DEAR SEXLESS: If you love him, give him a little more time. My experts tell me that he could be suffering from pathological grief. In most people, the grieving process lasts about one year -- but if it lasts longer than that it requires professional help.

I don't know how long this man has been in counseling, but if it has been any length of time and he still has not progressed in mourning (mourning is the reparative process associated with grief) -- then he should consult another professional counselor. His inability to be intimate with you sexually may have nothing to do with sexuality, but rather overwhelming mourning and overwhelming guilt.

If he's as terrific as you say he is, he's worth waiting for a little longer.

DEAR ABBY: When I was about 21, I was date-raped, and it took me several years to get myself sorted out. This was my first time, and it is only now that I'm finally at a point where I can trust a man again and want to have sex.

My problem is, I don't know if I should tell my boyfriend about what happened to me years ago, and that he will be the first person I have ever really made love with. What do you think? -- ANONY-MISS

DEAR ANONY-MISS: I think it's very important that you tell him exactly what you have told me -- and the sooner the better.

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