DEAR ABBY: Please answer this quickly. There is no one else I can talk to. I am a devout Christian woman, prominent in my church and have an impeccable reputation. My late husband's family treats me with respect and generosity.
I was unhappy when "Henry" and I were married and I wanted to divorce him, but the man I was having an affair with at the time would not leave his wife for me. In spite of being devastated, I was also blessed because Henry died a short time later. I have been free now for 10 years.
I love my freedom and the relationship I have with Henry's family. But recently I have begun to wonder if I should confide in my brother-in-law, "Rick" (who is getting a divorce), that I was unhappy enough with his brother to have had affairs much of the time we were married. It might make Rick feel better about his own "mess" and possibly bring him closer to me.
Should I open my heart to him? He thinks of me as a sister. -- UNSURE IN CHARLESTON, S.C.
DEAR UNSURE: Your brother-in-law thinks of you as a sister because he is under the impression that you were a faithful and loving wife to Henry. If you shatter that illusion, you will spoil the relationship you have enjoyed so long with your former in-laws.
Since you feel a compulsion to confess, confess to your spiritual adviser. Confession is good for the soul, but in your case it should be completely confidential.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 34-year-old married woman with an adorable 8-year-old stepson, "Cody," who lives with his father and me. Cody's mother, "Heather," left five years ago. Shortly after that, I met and immediately fell in love with my ready-made family.
I cannot have children of my own. Heather's mistake of leaving her husband and child became my "miracle." I was willing to do anything to make my family work. There was so much hostility between my husband and Heather that they could barely converse without it becoming a yelling match.
Now, four years later, my husband, stepson and I have a civil relationship with Heather. Although Cody lives with us, his mother has him every other weekend. (We live in the same town.) Heather and I are both active in Cody's school activities, and we share the responsibility of taking him to doctor and dentist appointments (sometimes together). We have been applauded by Cody's teachers for being so supportive of our little boy.
Recently Heather has begun confiding in me about her personal problems. She has a good job, pays no child support, so I'm not sure why she's as broke as she claims. Listening to her money woes makes me extremely uncomfortable, but I'm afraid if I say so, it could cause conflict all over again. That's the last thing I want after trying so hard to get us all to be a family unit for Cody's sake.
My friends and family say that I'm letting my husband's ex-wife manipulate me, and I'm beginning to wonder if it's true. How should I handle it, Abby? -- STEPMOM WHO WANTS WHAT'S BEST FOR HER FAMILY
DEAR STEPMOM: For the sake of your stepson, continue to allow his mother to vent. She's not asking you for money -- and if she does, suggest to her as kindly as possible that a second job and credit counseling can help.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600