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by Abigail Van Buren

Longtime Friends Pause Before Becoming Lovers

DEAR ABBY: For the past five years, I have been friends with a man I'll call Harry. We met while we were working for the same company. I was dating someone else at the time, but the chemistry between Harry and me was apparent.

He eventually became my boss, so dating was out of the question. Both of us ended up leaving the company and getting involved with other people, but we always remained friends. Nothing romantic ever occurred between us -- even though people always assumed we were a couple and would ask us how long we had been married!

Recently we both became unattached again. My question: Can two people who have been good friends for such a long time become lovers and make it work? Or was "When Harry Met Sally" merely a movie? -- A "SALLY" IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR SALLY: Friendship can be a terrific basis for a romantic relationship. Lack of a solid basis of friendship is often the reason that infatuations fizzle. Count your blessings and proceed full speed ahead.

DEAR ABBY: "Missing My Friend in Indiana" wrote that her young friend had been killed, and wondered if she should write to her friend's parents to tell them what a lovely daughter they had. Your advice was correct: Such a letter would be a great comfort to the parents.

On April 2, 2001, we lost our dear son, Jeff, in a commercial fishing accident. He was on a boat called the Arctic Rose that went down in the Bering Sea. All 15 hands were tragically lost.

We waited four agonizing days before the Coast Guard finally called off the search. During that time, we received a letter from a young woman who knew Jeff in high school. She told us the story of how she met him in class and asked him to a dance. Then she described how special Jeff was and what a good friend he had been to her.

Abby, I read that letter again and again. It gives me great comfort, and I can never thank that young woman enough. I hope "Missing My Friend" will write those parents today. Letters like that are all we have left of our Jeff. Shared memories of him have helped us to cope with our loss. -- KATHY AND DAVID MEINCKE

DEAR KATHY AND DAVID: Please accept my sympathy for the tragic loss of your son. Your experience validates the fact that a letter of condolence can be a treasured keepsake and a lasting source of comfort for the recipient.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been married for six months. I love him, but have a problem: I feel as if I was rushed into my marriage by his aunt.

Not only that, but I also find myself looking forward to seeing another man, "Ross." He is an inmate in a correctional facility and will be released around Christmas.

I dream about being with Ross. If my husband knew, he would be terribly hurt. What do you think I should do? -- PRISONER OF LOVE

DEAR PRISONER OF LOVE: The inmate is "safe." You can project your fantasies on him and he cannot disappoint you. (He can't fulfill them, either -- but that's beside the point.)

I urge you to seek professional counseling ASAP -- before you destroy a promising marriage.

Abby shares more than 100 of her favorite recipes in two booklets: "Abby's Favorite Recipes" and "More Favorite Recipes by Dear Abby." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $10 (U.S. funds)

to: Dear Abby -- Cookbooklet Set, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in price.)

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