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by Abigail Van Buren

Paper Trail of Names Could Lead to Husband's Cheating

DEAR ABBY: I have been married for 17 years. I recently found slips of paper with women's names and telephone numbers among receipts my husband asked me to file. When I asked him who these women were, he claims he doesn't know and I should shut up.

He frequently leaves the house two to four hours at a time. Also, money is missing from our joint bank account.

Abby, he swears he is not cheating. Is he? -- WANTING TO KNOW THE TRUTH IN RHODE ISLAND

DEAR WANTING: Only he can answer that. Whether or not the problem is another woman, something is up, and he's certainly not leveling with you. Offer him the option of talking things out with a marriage counselor. If he refuses, talk to a lawyer about protecting yourself before any more assets disappear from your joint account.

DEAR ABBY: The letter from "No Name, No Address, No Phone," the 15-year-old living in an abusive home with her dad and stepmother, hit me hard. I could have written that same letter verbatim 20 years ago when I was 15.

My mother, too, gave my father custody of my younger brother and sister and me. Our dad had also remarried. We lived with him and our stepmother. She was fixated on our behavior with regard to household chores, meals and neatness.

Unfortunately, our father thought we were lying when we described the beatings, severe punishments and emotional abuse that increased over the years -- usually when he was absent. Our stepmother was a "yeller." Dad always took her directions and advice. We kids were too scared out of our wits to talk in detail to our natural mother or other relatives, who suspected what was going on but never took action.

It has taken years of therapy to recover from what happened to us. I had to forgive myself for being unable to protect my brother and sister, but I finally became the "fighter" in the house on a long crusade to get my father to wake up. At last he did -- but not until serious damage had been done.

Please urge "No Name" to start talking and KEEP TALKING until someone listens! Her mother and grandmother also have a responsibility to step in without hesitation. They must be asked to act on behalf of her, her brother and sister. She should be specific about what is going on at home, even if she's scared to "tell." She was very brave to write that letter, and that's exactly the kind of courage it takes to get through stuff like this. -- ONCE A "NO-NAME" TOO

DEAR ONCE A NO-NAME: Well said.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have never attended an opera, but we have always wanted to. We finally made plans to attend one this fall, but have no idea what would be considered proper attire.

We will be going to the Portland Opera Theater in Portland, Ore. Should I wear a long sequined gown, while my husband wears a tuxedo? We are clueless and don't want to look silly or out of place. -- OPERA LOVERS

DEAR OPERA LOVERS: Play it safe. Wear a conservative street-length suit or dress. Your husband should wear a suit rather than a tuxedo. While you're there, observe what other patrons are wearing, so you'll know for next time how formally Portland patrons dress for the opera. Enjoy!

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

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is includedin the price.)

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