Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Girl Longing for What Never Was Must Now Look Ahead

DEAR ABBY: I am a girl living in Peshawar, Pakistan. I am engaged to a boy who loves me very much. The problem is I was in love with another guy who seemed to love me, but we didn't admit it to each other. I have been waiting for him to say I love you for almost three years. However, during that time, he had an affair with two girls I knew.

Now I am engaged to someone who loves me very much, but I cannot forget the one I loved and feel that I still love.

Please tell me how to cope because I am in big trouble. -- BROKEN DOLL, PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

DEAR BROKEN DOLL: It is time to face reality.

If the young man who "seemed" to love you did, indeed, love you, he would have told you. Instead, he had an affair with two girls you knew. That is hardly what I would call the behavior of a man who is interested in a long-term relationship with anyone.

We come from different cultures, you and I. But let me share something that transcends culture. We have to build our lives from the materials that are given to us, or the ones we earn for ourselves. You have a nice young man who loves you. Give him a chance to prove himself. Dwelling on something that never happened -- and never will -- is a waste of time.

DEAR ABBY: I have never written to an advice columnist before, but I want to warn "Heartbroken in New Hampshire" that her husband is commitment-phobic. (He's the man who told his wife of one year that he's still in love with his former girlfriend who is serving time in prison.)

"Heartbroken" must get out now, while she still has her sanity. There is no future with that man.

His agenda is to prevent BOTH of those women from loving him. First, he married "Heartbroken" to get back at his ex-girlfriend. Second, he distanced himself by telling "Heartbroken" that he still loves his ex.

He does not think like she thinks. What makes "Heartbroken" feel secure makes him feel suffocated. What feels like love to her, feels like entrapment to him. Her attempts to get along will appear like manipulation to him.

He will provoke with little wars, ambushes and land mines, and/or gradually withdraw until nothing remains. She will turn to him expecting a truce or resolution. He'll react like a fire-breathing dragon. No fair play. No negotiation. When it ends, it will end on his terms.

The reason I see this so clearly is that it happened to me, too. I am now doing what I should have done seven years ago. I'm involved in counseling, state job-search workshops, and working toward eventual financial independence. In other words, I have one foot out the door.

Learned helplessness can be unlearned. Please take what I have said to heart. -- HEALING IN OREGON

DEAR HEALING: I can see your time in counseling has not been wasted. From the disaster of your marriage you have gained important insight. One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is, "Why does he treat me this way?" Your letter explains it very well.

I wish you success in the future when you finally get both feet out the door. You have earned it.

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more sociable person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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