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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I didn't know I had a problem until the day my wife/lover/best friend walked out on me two weeks before our 13th anniversary.

All our married life I worked a seven-day-a-week factory job on second shift, and in the mornings managed my own retail business.

I thought everything at home was great. Our house and cars were paid for. We even owned a boat. It turns out that all my wife wanted was for me to hold her, love her and "be there" for her. Now she lives 600 miles away.

I learned my lesson the hard way. I closed my business, but it's too late. Abby, please warn your readers about the danger of becoming a workaholic. Material things are not worth the price of losing the one person who shares your life. I hope my story will save someone else's marriage. -- HIT WITH REALITY IN MICHIGAN

DEAR HIT: So do I. In order for couples to grow together, they must communicate, spend time with each other and share mutual interests. Good marriages don't just happen. Like anything else worth having, they require work and nurturing.

DEAR ABBY: I am a female college student. I am having a problem with a former classmate from last semester. I'll call her Theresa. We started a friendship, but the conversation was always awkward, and we had few common interests, so it was a chore to spend time with her. Not a good formula for friendship.

Theresa calls my apartment and my cell phone, and she e-mails me on a weekly basis. I screen all of my calls and never respond to her e-mails, but she hasn't taken the hint.

How does one "nicely" end a friendship without burning bridges? Our paths may cross again one day in the corporate world. None of my family or friends have an answer. -- BESIEGED IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR BESIEGED: Since you never see her and do not respond to her e-mails, it shouldn't be difficult to tell your former classmate that you are very busy and do not have the time she has to devote to a friendship. Say it kindly, and wish her all the best in the future.

DEAR ABBY: What do you think of my husband's behavior? We've been married almost 50 years, and if I didn't speak all day long we would live in a silent world. My husband says nothing, not even "good morning." He will stalk right by me on his way out the door and never say a word.

This is nothing new. It has been like this nearly all of our married life. We are both college-educated, with responsible professions, and were raised in well-educated, professional families. No one else I know gets treated this way.

I have tried talking to him about this, but it does no good. Thanks for any insight you can give me. -- SUFFERING IN SILENCE IN MASSACHUSETTS

DEAR SUFFERING IN SILENCE: Your husband's behavior could be a sign of long-standing depression or it could be passive-aggressive abuse. How you have tolerated it for 50 years is beyond me. Ask him why he married you. His reply may provide you with some insight. Then ask yourself -- is this how you want to spend your remaining years? Your signature says it all. I couldn't live in an atmosphere like that.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby -- Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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