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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: For years I was married to a very abusive man. I have a female cousin who stood by me through it all and helped me to finally free myself from him.

Since childhood this cousin and I have confided in each other about everything in our lives.

Now I find out she's dating my ex-husband! Abby, I feel betrayed. I also feel I can no longer confide in her. What should I do? -- CONFUSED BEYOND BELIEF, BEVERLY, MASS.

DEAR CONFUSED: Start praying for her. Because you've been in her shoes, you know firsthand what the future holds for her.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter and some friends tell me I "need a life." Their comments hurt and upset me, Abby, because I am living the life I want.

I have lived with my healthy 87-year-old father since my mom died a few years ago. I run the household as well as manage our cabin resort by the lake. I am truly happy most of the time.

Do you have any suggestions on what I can say to my daughter and friends when they go on about this? -- LIFE IS GREAT ON LAKE SUPERIOR

DEAR LIFE IS GREAT: Thank them for their concern, then tell them you're happy with your life just as it is. This is the life you have chosen, and you find it fulfilling. And, "Since it ain't broke, there's nothing to fix," tell them they should please stop finding fault with your life and get on with theirs.

DEAR ABBY: I have a question about second weddings. At age 20 I was married briefly. It was a big mistake. My boyfriend and I had lived together during college in our small Midwest town, and we gave in to the pressure to tie the knot rather than continue "shacking up."

My wedding quickly became "my mother's wedding." She completely took over and ran the show. I wanted fresh flowers -- I got silk. I wanted ivory china -- I got white. I wanted a small, private wedding -- I was stuck with 562 people I barely knew. She even selected my Dior wedding gown and veil, and considering Mom was footing the entire bill, I felt obligated to yield. I later threw the dress away -- I hated it that much.

On top of all that, I didn't want to get married in the first place, and told my mother as much. By then, however, the invitations were out and I felt stuck. Please keep in mind I was only 20, Abby. That was nine years ago; I would never be steamrolled like that today!

Now I am engaged to a wonderful man. This is his first marriage. We are planning (and paying for) a small but formal event, and I want this wedding to be mine. If I don't get to plan it my way, the opportunity will have passed me by.

Above all, I want the experience of shopping for and choosing my dream bridal dress. I'd like to wear an ivory gown with no train and a simple, long veil that would drag as a kind of train. Certain people have told me I should not do this. What do you think, Abby? Is it OK for a second-time bride to wear a formal bridal gown? -- TWICE A BRIDE

DEAR BRIDE: Those who are advising you to be more low-key are going by the book. If you do not choose to go by the book -- and since you're paying for the wedding -- write your own chapter and do what makes you happy. True friends won't criticize.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600