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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Isn't Inclined to Share Man Who Spreads His Love

DEAR ABBY: I am a 61-year-old widow in love with a 64-year-old man who is twice divorced. I'll call him Earl. I have always had a crush on Earl. We grew up in the same little town, but I thought -- and so did he -- that we were cousins. We're now retired and have returned to the small town where we were born.

We went out for the first time to do some research into our roots and were thrilled to discover that we weren't related after all. Earl made it clear at the time that he wanted to date me, but didn't want to get married. He said he was seeing a woman named "Lucy" from the state he'd lived in before he retired. They had dated for 15 years and he enjoyed her visits from time to time.

I was getting over a 15-year relationship and wanted some attention. I didn't want to get married either, so I thought I could handle the arrangement.

Well, Abby, four years have gone by. I love Earl very much. We spend at least five out of seven nights at his house and dine out together nearly every night. We have great fun. We socialize as a couple and go to the market, the beach and the flea market together. But when it's time for a visit from Lucy, Earl says, "I'm having company for the weekend. I'll call you when she leaves."

I can't handle it anymore. I almost lose my mind. I'm lost for things to do. I stay home and cry and obsess about whether he's making love to her the way he makes love to me.

Well, one weekend I lost it. I went to his house, rang the bell, and when he opened the door I walked in. Did I ever get a shock. I have met Lucy, and the woman sitting at the breakfast table wasn't Lucy. She introduced herself as Sybil. I turned around and left in tears. As I passed Earl at the door, he asked what that was all about. I told him to go to hell.

Three weeks went by. Earl never called so, of course, I called him and we got back together. Lucy still comes to visit -- and so does Sybil. In fact, Lucy is here for the weekend. That's why I'm writing to you.

Earl told me he's not in love with me. He says I'm the best sex partner he has ever had. He's also the best sex partner I have ever had. Is there any help for me? I love him. I have tried dating others. The entire time I'm out with them, I'm miserable and thinking of Earl. Right now, I can't wait for Lucy to leave so I can see him. -- CRAZY OLD LADY IN LOVE

DEAR IN LOVE: Come back to reality. What you are describing is not "love"; it's an exercise in masochism. Love is supposed to make you feel terrific, not jealous and miserable. Earl has been nothing but honest with you from the beginning. Variety is his spice of life. He's not going to change. Now you must decide whether or not the pleasure is worth the pain.

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "John," was married before. His former wife, "Jane," still wears her wedding rings on her left hand. She also signs her name "Mrs." when she writes letters to the editor of our local newspaper. Even though he has asked her not to, she kept John's last name -- out of spite. This has caused a lot of problems because we live in the same town and go to the same church.

Abby, can you still use "Mrs." after you are divorced? -- THE REAL MRS. JOHN SMITH

DEAR MRS. SMITH: It all depends on how you use it. Your husband's former wife can call herself Mrs. Jane Smith if she wishes. But for her to call herself Mrs. JOHN Smith is improper and misleading because it implies she's still married to her former husband. Legally, you are the only Mrs. John Smith.

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

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