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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 32-year-old divorced woman with a 2-year-old daughter. The problem is, an old boyfriend I dated in college -- I'll call him Russell -- heard about my divorce and has asked me to marry him.

Abby, I am not ready for another relationship. After several years of trauma, I have just gotten my life in order.

I told Russell we should start off slowly and keep our 15-year friendship as it was, but he won't take no for an answer.

Please don't get me wrong. I really like Russell. How do I let him down gently without jeopardizing our friendship? -- BEWILDERED IN BOSTON

DEAR BEWILDERED: It's possible that Russell is putting on the full-court press because he lost you once and doesn't want to risk losing you again. However, by pressuring you, he's going about it the wrong way.

It's reasonable and sensible that you want time to regain your balance after a bad marriage. You need time to determine what's best for you and your child. Remember, it is in your power to control what happens. When Russell calls, it's your prerogative whether or not to be available.

DEAR ABBY: I consider myself a happily married woman, and have been since 1988. My husband has always said he's happy, too, but he is too flirtatious to suit me.

An example: Our attorney hired a new secretary whom we've seen several times. This morning, my husband's cell phone rang, and he was suddenly laughing and talking animatedly with this female about her job and everything else under the sun.

Later he told me who it was on the phone, with a long explanation about why she called. Abby, I think it's dangerous for a married man to become personal so quickly. We own several businesses, and it's always the same thing -- he visits female "customers" in the hospital, stops by their work, etc. When I express concern, he says that I'm being jealous -- that they're only "friends."

I'm getting more than a little concerned about my marriage. My question is, should a husband have friends his wife has never met? -- ALONE IN PARADISE, NASSAU, BAHAMAS

DEAR ALONE: Your husband appears to be a people-oriented person -- outgoing, easy to talk to, and a clever businessman. If he hasn't given you any cause to doubt his fidelity since 1988, please give him the benefit of the doubt.

DEAR ABBY: My sister-in-law, "Noel," recently confided to me that she's having an affair with a married man. I know this man and his wife; they have a newborn baby. I also learned Noel has been unfaithful many times during her 11-year marriage to my sweet brother-in-law. Abby, although I find Noel's behavior absolutely disgusting, I have no intention of telling any family members about her adultery.

I need advice on how to handle everything she tells me. Noel and I were once close, but I do not want her to think I support or condone what she is doing. Frankly, I would like to distance myself from her. I think she is bad news. What do you think I should do? -- DISGUSTED IN PENNSYLVANIA

DEAR DISGUSTED: Be honest with her. Tell her that you think people are going to be badly hurt because of what she's doing -- and you want no part of it.

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