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by Abigail Van Buren

Man's Virtual Cheating Does Real Damage to His Marriage

DEAR ABBY: I recently tried to retrieve my e-mail when my husband's e-mail account popped up. I noticed a few messages from one particular woman, and curiosity got the better of me. I opened them and discovered she and my husband have been chatting online. (His e-mail to her indicates they have "hot" conversations.)

When I confronted my husband, he said it only happened a few times. I told him it's a form of cheating. He insists it has nothing to do with his love for me -- that it is a fantasy thing. I don't care for his explanation, and I'm taking it personally.

I can't forget the things I read and I'm considering ending our marriage. Because he is not carrying on a physical relationship with someone doesn't mean his online relationship isn't as damaging. Do you agree? -- BETRAYED IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR BETRAYED: Yes, I do. If your spouse is getting more off the Internet than information, you have every right to be upset. Your husband should be confiding his sexual fantasies to you -- not to some stranger on the Internet. Before ending your marriage, first try marriage counseling to see if it can be saved.

DEAR ABBY: My boyfriend, "Hank," and I are thinking about being married next year. I am currently 20 pounds overweight. Last night, Hank said he wants me to gain more weight after we are married. He said if I weigh 300 pounds, it will turn him on sexually.

Abby, I have never weighed that much in my life and I don't intend to start now. I think it would be very uncomfortable to be that heavy. Do you think I should end it with Hank before I get talked into something I don't want to do? -- SCALING BACK IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR SCALING BACK: Recent medical studies have shown that a weight gain of even a few pounds can negatively affect one's health. Bearing that in mind, I think you should accept the fact that Hank does not have your best interests at heart -- and move on.

DEAR ABBY: My family never had much money, so when I turned 16 I started working -- giving up my holidays and summers. After graduating from high school, I decided to continue working full-time so I could live on my own and buy a car, rather than go to college.

I am now 22 and recently got laid off from my job of five years. The time feels right to finally complete my education.

My parents have been divorced since I was a baby, and my mother lives four hours away by plane. We talk on the phone once a week and are very close. Mom just got a job that pays well, and she's about to marry an extremely wealthy man who is also loving and kind.

When Mom and her fiance heard about my job layoff, he said he was more than willing to put me through college -- and the two of them offered to support me financially while I attend school full-time. I feel deep gratitude for their generosity.

Abby, what is the proper way to thank someone who is being so generous? Sign me ... THANKFUL IN SAN DIEGO

DEAR THANKFUL: Study hard and make them proud. And if they don't need to be repaid, extend that kindness and generosity to someone else in the future when you're well-established. Best of luck to you!

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