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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am responding to the letter from "A Reader in St. Louis," who was indifferent to sex until she rediscovered a loving relationship with her husband and learned the true meaning of intimacy.

Her letter made me wonder how many women whose sex drive has diminished or disappeared have husbands like mine, who regards the romantic side of lovemaking as "sissy stuff," saying "real men" don't act that way.

My husband's image of a real man is any actor in a porno flick. Unfortunately, I am partly to blame for his attitude. I admit that we were both hooked on porn films as a turn-on. When we had sex, my husband expected me to writhe in ecstasy, moan and utter expletives for several minutes -- just like the porn actresses did. Never was the word "love" mentioned. It was as if it didn't belong in this scenario.

Because my husband has no other bad habits, doesn't cheat, and demonstrates his love in everyday acts of kindness, I went along with this play-acting for many years. However, the arousal I once felt from this contrived sex wore off for me a long time ago. It hasn't for him, though. He can't understand why I've gone from being a hot tamale to a cold fish.

When "Reader in St. Louis" wrote that "sex isn't entertainment," that line really hit home. The truth is, I have come to this same realization, while my husband has not. And, after 30 years of marriage, he probably never will.

In spite of all the advice we hear about experimenting with sex in different ways to keep the excitement in a relationship, take it from one who's tried it all: Cheap thrills don't last forever and can even have a damaging effect if there is no communication or intimacy between lovers. -- BEEN THERE, DONE IT ALL

DEAR BEEN THERE: It's time you and your husband attempted a new kind of sex thrill -- a frank and honest conversation about what is and is not going on in your bedroom. If you haven't verbalized your feelings to your spouse, you cannot blame him for continuing to do what he still thinks is "thrilling" to both of you. I agree with you that communication is vital. Marriage counseling can help you to achieve it. Please don't wait.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 67-year-old widow of two years. I live alone in the country, about a mile from a small two-stoplight town. My problem is that a nice gentleman who lives about seven hours away has been coming to see me from time to time, and he calls me every day, sometimes twice a day. He would like to come to see me and stay at my house, since he lives so far away. I am reluctant to let him because I don't know if it would be proper. I trust him, but I don't want to do anything that would embarrass my children and grandchildren.

What do you think? Should I let him stay at my house? -- LONELY IN SOUTH CAROLINA

DEAR LONELY: By all means allow him to come and visit -- it's the only way the two of you will be able to decide whether the relationship has a future. However, because there are no secrets in a community as small as yours, invite one of your grandchildren to "chaperone" during his visits. If the relationship becomes romantic, the two of you should arrange to take some trips together. The tongues may still wag, but at least you'll have a degree of privacy.

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

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