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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been engaged for 18 months, and we still have not set a wedding date. Every time I talk to my fiance about it, he suggests we elope to Australia or something. At first, it was because of his job. When I finally pinned him down about what was bothering him, he confessed that he absolutely does not want a wedding reception. He wants to marry me, but he wants it to be just the two of us. No guests.

Abby, the irony of it is that I am a professional wedding planner. My dream is to have the wedding I have always pictured. I want about 100 friends around me at this important time. However, my fiance cannot stand to be the focus of attention, and he says he would be miserable if I make him go through with it.

I tried to draw an analogy by asking him how he would feel if I told him he could not be a policeman anymore because I would be miserable. He says it's not the same because that is his job. Well, I am a professional wedding planner and coordinator. This would be MY ultimate dream job. Please don't tell me to scale down the wedding -- it is not possible to invite one cousin and explain you cannot invite the other, etc. I'm at a loss about what to do. -- FRUSTRATED IN TEXAS

DEAR FRUSTRATED: I have good news and bad news. The good news is I'm not going to tell you to scale down the wedding. The bad news is I think you should rethink marrying your fiance at all. A man would have to have his head encased in concrete not to know that a woman's wedding day is one of the most important events of her life. As a professional event coordinator, your life revolves around social events.

Please think beyond the wedding to birthdays, anniversaries, events around babies -- all the occasions you will want to mark with a celebration. He won't want to participate, and if he does, he won't enjoy it. You two can try counseling and perhaps compromise. But will you be happy with someone who is so introverted and self-centered? Only you can answer that one.

DEAR ABBY: My husband rejects my romantic overtures, my attempts at conversation or a social life with him, and any efforts to discuss our few disagreements. (We almost never argue because he often refuses to talk or even reply to my greetings.) He also refuses counseling of any kind and rejects literature on relationships or depression.

Abby, please tell your readers to run, don't walk, away from a man who's been divorced more than once. There's a reason why he's single. I trusted his version of how his past marriages fell apart. I trusted that his courting behavior was the real him. Wrong. It was just dating behavior. The happy part of our marriage lasted only a few months. His ex-wives must be laughing at me because I've discovered what they knew years ago. I am intelligent, capable and educated -- and still I made a profoundly stupid mistake when it came to love. -- DISILLUSIONED IN MILWAUKEE

DEAR DISILLUSIONED: Please don't be so hard on yourself. Intelligence, education and competence do not guarantee that a person of either sex will automatically choose the right spouse. And why do you think your husband's former wives are laughing at you? If anyone can empathize with your unhappiness, they can.

Since your husband refuses counseling and is unwilling to work on your marriage, go without him -- if only to understand why you have tolerated this hostile living arrangement for as long as you have. After that, you'll know what to do.

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