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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My cousin "Tina" and I are in our early 20s. We have baby-sat the same three children since we were in our mid-teens, and have grown to love them as our own. The parents, "Danny" and "Lynn," have become our friends. The problem is, Danny says he is in love with Tina. Danny and Lynn have been married for 10 years, and I always assumed they were happy.

Danny told Tina he feels trapped and alone in his marriage and has convinced her that he is her soulmate. Danny says he wants to leave Lynn and move in with Tina.

The children love their father -- and they love Tina, too. They've known her most of their lives. Somehow I have ended up in the middle of this. My biggest concern is Lynn and the kids. I know Lynn is 100 percent head-over-heels in love with her husband. She confided to me recently that she knows he doesn't love her the way she loves him. Abby, she broke down in tears.

What happens if Danny leaves Lynn and moves in with my cousin? I know Lynn will ask if I knew, and I don't want to lie to her. But how can I tell her the truth? It will tear her heart out knowing I kept the secret. -- ALWAYS IN THE MIDDLE

DEAR ALWAYS: If Lynn asks, tell her the truth -- that you didn't know how to tell her because you were afraid it would break her heart, and you were hoping the romance would burn itself out.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for seven years. Our only conflict has been his ex-wife. Their 9-year-old daughter lives with us, and her mother constantly lets me know in no uncertain terms that this child's welfare is none of my business.

On several ocasions the ex has had the nerve to tell me I'm just "playing house," and that when she's ready to come back to my husband, she will.

My husband keeps telling me not to let her get to me, but it's hard. We have two other children, and his ex-wife's behavior is beginning to influence their daughter in the way she acts toward me and the kids. What in the world should I do about this? -- UPSET SECOND WIFE IN FLORIDA

DEAR UPSET: It's not a matter of what YOU should do. This should be handled by your husband. If his daughter behaves disrespectfully to you, your husband should make it clear to her that just as the two of you treat her with respect and consideration, he expects HER to do the same with you. Period.

P.S. I know it's hard, but don't let his bitter, unhappy ex get to you. Keep your conversations brief, and when she gets nasty, tune her out or get off the phone.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I are newlyweds living in an apartment complex. We have dear friends living nearby who are older and widowed. Our problem is that these friends don't give us any time to be alone. They interrupt us at the most inopportune moments.

Abby, how can we let these lovely people know that we need our privacy without hurting their feelings? -- STILL ON OUR HONEYMOON IN TENNESSEE

DEAR HONEYMOONERS: Anyone with a sense of romance will understand that sometimes couples want to be left alone. Just because someone calls, drops by or invites you out does not mean you have to be available.

Just say no -- but say it with a smile.

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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