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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I was in a relationship with a woman for more than four years. It ended two years ago. The hardest part was not being able to see her 7-year-old son, "Teddy," anymore. During the time we were together, he thought of me as his father. He called me Daddy, and every day told me he loved me. (His real father has never been a part of his life.)

To be frank, I miss the little guy more than I miss his mother. When we parted, I told Teddy I loved him and always would. I think of him often. Unfortunately, I have had no contact with them since they moved to a different state.

Abby, I recently met another woman. She is very nice, and we get along well. She has three kids, ages 7 to 15. I have feelings for their mom, and I know she has feelings for me. However, I am unsure about going forward with this relationship. I can't endure loving someone's kids as my own, and maybe having history repeat itself should we break up. I still have not recovered from being separated from Teddy.

I am mature enough to know that you must take chances in life. I also know that if I don't move forward with this, I'll probably regret it. Any advice? -- JUST NOT SURE, SPARKS, NEV.

DEAR JUST NOT SURE: If you feel strongly about this woman, make your move. You can't go through life looking over your shoulder.

Write to Teddy and ask how he is doing. Tell him you miss him and think of him often, and assure him that he was not the cause of the breakup with his mother. Sometimes children blame themselves for things that are not their fault.

DEAR ABBY: I am 21 and about to graduate from college. I recently broke off a three-year engagement with my high-school sweetheart. I know it's unbelievable, but I have already met another man who is everything I could ever want in a husband. He has a good job, is caring, sensitive and attractive. Things are going well between us, but I have some reservations: He's divorced and has two children, ages 9 and 5.

I have not yet met his children. They live with his ex-wife. I really like this man, and I love children. My friends and family think I will be holding myself back if I get further involved with a man who has a ready-made family.

Abby, do you think I am setting myself up to be hurt by falling for someone who has an ex-wife and two children? Should I just go with my feeling that this could be the right person for me? Is it wise to get into a relationship at my age with an older man and end up raising his children when I don't yet have my own? Please respond. -- YOUNG AND CONFUSED

DEAR YOUNG: Take your time. You may still be on the rebound from ending that long engagement. This man could be for you, but it is too soon to tell.

Ask him to introduce you to his children and his ex-wife. See for yourself what your relationship with this man would be like with all of them in your life. You need more information before making any decisions that could last a lifetime. Once you've got it, follow your intuition.

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

Abby shares her favorite recipes in a two-booklet set. To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $7.90 per set ($9 per set in Canada) to: Dear Abby Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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