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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am 15. I have been in a relationship with "Adam" for four years, but things just don't seem the same. I met him when I was 11 and we have been together ever since. I waited until my 14th birthday to give him my virginity and we were in love way before that. He is the only guy I have ever loved.

It seems like we fight all the time. He has never hit me or anything, but he has shaken me, and I'm wondering if he would ever hit me in the future. Do you think we should stay together? I want to, but at the same time I don't.

I never thought I'd say that, but I'm sure it means something. What should I do? -- TENNESSEE TEEN

DEAR TEEN: Let me explain something to you. Abusive behavior does not spring from the egg, fully formed like a chicken. It starts out small and grows like a vine until it weighs down and smothers the victim. I'll bet Adam didn't start out by shaking you. It probably started with nasty comments, then yelling -- and now this. Will it continue to escalate? Very likely, unless Adam learns that it is unacceptable behavior and is willing to find acceptable ways of displaying his anger.

The preteen and teen years are supposed to be a time of growth and learning, both intellectually and socially. You have limited yourself to one person for too long, and on some level, I think you already know that. Tell Adam you no longer want an exclusive relationship, that you intend to concentrate on your studies and see other people. Then do it. If he doesn't like it, get your parents involved. I'm sure they will set him straight in a hurry.

DEAR ABBY: I am a college student in a small town. Eight months ago, I met a wonderful young man, and we were planning to be married until I told him about my past.

My stepfather molested me. It was long ago, and I have since forgiven him and my mother. (Mother is still married to him.)

My boyfriend, however, cannot forgive them. He tried to convince my mother to leave my stepfather. She refused, and now my boyfriend and my mother no longer speak.

He says things will never work out because of this rift he has with my family. I am willing to do whatever it takes to make the relationship work, but he says he can't be around my family, and it isn't fair to ask me to give them up.

Was I wrong to expect him to support my decision to forgive them? -- DESPERATE IN TEXAS

DEAR DESPERATE: Your boyfriend's inability to forgive your mother is rooted in his caring for you. When you marry someone, in a sense you also marry that person's family. You family is so dysfunctional that it may have scared this young man off. His fears might be allayed if you're willing to cut your ties to your mother, but it's no guarantee.

That your mother stayed married to the abuser who molested you speaks volumes. That you opted to "forgive" them both was a personal choice you made -- but that doesn't change the fact that your mother's husband is a child molester. What makes you think he wouldn't be a danger to your children in the future? Think about it.

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