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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 52-year-old man married to "Sarah," the most wonderful woman I have ever met. She is intelligent, ethical, witty, pretty, healthy -- a great mother and grandmother. She means the world to me.

About 10 years ago, Sarah "rededicated herself to God" and lost all interest in sharing an emotional, romantic and physical connection with me. She immersed herself in her church, Bible studies, our children, cats and pottery-making.

She seems happy with this life. I am not. I want more than a brother/sister relationship with my wife. I want to travel, go dancing, hold her hand at the movies -- and to make love together.

Our marriage counselor says we may never meet each other's needs and should consider going our separate ways. However, I do not believe a man should leave his wife and family, and Sarah feels the same. Everyone would hate me if I left her -- the community, our children and Sarah herself.

I cannot imagine living 30 more years without the love I need in my life, yet I don't like the choices of divorce or loneliness. Abby, is there a third choice I'm not seeing? (An affair is out of the question.) -- HUSBAND AT A CROSSROADS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR HUSBAND: You have my sympathy. However, you paid good money to a qualified marriage counselor who assessed your situation correctly. You say your wife is happy with her choice. Now you must decide how you want to spend your life. And no one has the right to criticize you for whatever choice you make.

DEAR ABBY: In response to the letter about teen-agers not wearing seatbelts, I would like to share how I finally started wearing one.

I had all the excuses in the world why I didn't need one. Twenty years ago, I was a rookie cop in San Diego. I was in and out of my squad car constantly. I was convinced I needed to be ready to jump out and run at a moment's notice. Like most cops, I felt I was invincible.

My boyfriend worried that I would be in an accident. One day he walked up to my squad car and said, "Just think of the seatbelt as my arms wrapped around you, holding you until you're safely back in my arms again." From that day on, I have always buckled up. I used the same strategy with my daughter -- and now my grandson. It works. -- LESLIE HUTCHISON, FALLS CHURCH, VA.

DEAR LESLIE: I'm not surprised. That's a dose of medicine anyone would be pleased to take -- me included.

DEAR ABBY: For the past two years, I have been stepmother to two boys, ages 10 and 12. I care about them and make sure they get the attention they deserve at home and in school.

My problem: I feel guilty because I do not love them. They are nice kids, Abby, but I don't have the deep love and affection for them that I have for my nieces and nephews. Have you any suggestions? -- FEELING LIKE A WICKED STEPMOM

DEAR STEPMOM: You bet I do -- and the first is to stop feeling guilty about it. Be patient with yourself. Love takes time to grow and it comes in many forms. You are acting in a loving and caring way, and your letter reflects your deep concern and sensitivity.

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