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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have a true story to share. It's the story of a man who married his high school sweetheart. She supported him through college, encouraged him to pursue a degree, and gave him two beautiful children. She became a wonderful mother. She never missed a ballgame. She took the children to church. She worked full time and went without in order to give us more, and he, on the other hand, never helped around the house and became obsessed with his job.

A female co-worker with a questionable reputation began to flirt, flatter and confide in him about her inattentive husband. He allowed himself to be convinced an affair was justified, since his wife was so busy raising his children. Soon the affair became common knowledge. He had to leave his home and family, which suddenly seemed invaluable beyond belief.

Abby, I traded everything important in life for a woman who's not fit to wipe my wife's shoes. Although I never strayed before, my reputation is ruined. My children will never again respect me. I'll be known for the rest of my life as someone who committed adultery and lied to everyone I know and love.

If there is a man reading this who's considering following in my footsteps, I hope my letter makes him think twice. He should go home, help his wife, be part of his children's lives, and stop believing he should be the center of everyone's attention.

If a married man is tempted by another woman, I guarantee she's selfish and looking out for only her own needs. And if he marries her, what he'll have is an adulteress who lies and cheats. I wish I could change everything I have done. -– SADDER BUT WISER

DEAR SADDER: I'm printing your warning. Anyone who reads it and fluffs it off thinking your story is unusual, please read on:

DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, I met "Liz," the woman of my dreams. My marriage of 1 1/2 years was rocky. Liz was ambitious, hard-working, exciting and fun -– everything I thought my wife wasn't. Liz was an airline pilot. Over dinner we told each other our tales of woe. I walked her to her car; she kissed me. Two hours later I was an adulterer.

Because we're both pilots, we could meet without suspicion during overnight layovers in other cities. We discussed marriage and children. I felt some guilt about what this would do to my 1-year-old son, but the thought of divorcing my wife was surprisingly easy.

After three months, Liz suddenly became cold and distant. She said she needed time to think things through. Several months later, I learned she was marrying a wealthy man she had met while we were involved. I was devastated.

I'm now divorced. My ex and I are trying to reconcile, but it doesn't look good. If things don't work out, my desire to become involved with another woman is completely gone.

The expensive lesson I learned is don't take the easy way out. If your marriage is unhappy, get professional help. Identify what's wrong before venturing down a destructive path. I have lost everything important to me -– my son, the respect of my ex-wife, family and friends -– and my own self-respect. I'm reminded every time I look in the mirror. -– SO SORRY IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR SO SORRY AND OTHER MARRIED MEN WITH THE URGE TO WANDER: There you have it -– not one object lesson but two. Let me add a thought for the day: If you don't value what you have, you're sure to lose it.

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

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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