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DEAR ABBY: My girlfriend, "Tina," and I have been dating for six months. For the most part, things are pretty good. However, she has been more promiscuous in the past than I would like in a partner.

I understand people can change and that we should live in the present rather than dwell on the past. However, I can't forget Tina's past sex life, and at times I find myself consumed by it. I don't want this to affect our relationship, but it does. Can you offer some advice? -- RUMINATING IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA

DEAR RUMINATING: Only this: If your girlfriend's past is always going to be an issue for you, it's only fair that you go your separate ways before you waste any more time with each other. No one can change the past, and Tina has the right to be with a man who does not dwell on hers.

DEAR ABBY: I would like to address the concerns of "Soldier's Wife in Colorado." She's the woman who said her husband refused to accept a stateside job and "can't wait" to go into combat and leave behind her and their three young children.

Abby, I am a colonel in the U.S. Army with 25 years of service. I don't think her husband wishes to go into combat. I expect that he recognizes that it's his duty to go when called. He, like all others, has fears about going, but works to overcome them. He signed the contract and took the Oath of Enlistment, swearing to defend our nation. Our nation depends on us to go when ordered.

Most military families are suffering the same stresses that she is. She must be strong for her family's sake. They could benefit from some marriage counseling, too. I wish them well. -- COLONEL IN THE U.S. ARMY

DEAR COLONEL: I, too, wish them well. My heart grows heavy when I listen to the nightly news reports of military casualties. I can only imagine how the loved ones of deployed military members must feel. One effective coping mechanism is to band together for mutual support. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: Thank you for making your readers aware of the fears and heartaches that soldiers and family members experience. Most soldiers want to make the country safe for their families and strive for peace.

Rapid mobilization, deployment, or even simple temporary duty doesn't have to create unnecessary hardship. There is strength in numbers. Please inform families of U.S. Army members about the Army Family Team Building (AFTB) at their local military installation or online at www.armyfamilyteambuilding.org.

There are many members to share with, and help for spouses and members of the military in dealing with the emotions they are experiencing. AFTB was created to help answer questions about the Army and military service, and to give support to families and other interested parties. -- CARING HEART IN MONMOUTH, N.J.

DEAR CARING HEART: Bless you for reaching out to help families facing the stress of separation. I hope my readers will avail themselves of the resource you have recommended.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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