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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Chuck," and I have been married going on five years. He's a long-haul truck driver.

Three weeks ago, he asked me for a divorce because he's been cheating on me with a long-haul lady driver I'll call Annabelle. The next weekend, he came home and we were together like nothing happened.

The weekend after that, Chuck said he's decided to hold off on the divorce until he can straighten out his head. He says he's depressed and unhappy, that he still loves me, but he doesn't know what he wants. Before he left on his new job -- driving with Annabelle -- he put his wedding ring back on. Then Chuck made a comment I still don't understand. He said that she was happy he did it.

Chuck says I have to lose my stomach and firm up my breasts, but that is easier said than done at 40. Before we got married, I was a size 24. Now I'm a size 16, so where does he get off saying I'm too fat?

Some of my friends say Chuck is going through a midlife crisis because he'll be 45 in a couple of months. I don't know what to do anymore. My head says to file for divorce and get on with my life. My heart says to wait a couple of months. I love him deeply even though he ripped my heart to pieces and destroyed what little self-esteem I had left. Please help. -- HURT AND CONFUSED IN CONNECTICUT

DEAR HURT AND CONFUSED: Hold off on that divorce. It appears your husband's spirits are sagging more than your stomach and breasts. His problem could be a midlife crisis or depression -- but whatever it is, he needs to speak to his doctor and stop projecting his problems onto you.

P.S. He should also change driving partners. If I were you, I'd demand it.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Nancy," is 14 going on 21. She wants to start dating, but I don't think she's ready. So she goes out anyway and doesn't ask my permission. After she's out, she doesn't bother to call to say where she is or if she's OK.

Nancy also refuses to do her chores. Not long ago, she failed to come home after school; she takes the bus. I looked for her for two hours, then I called the police and filed a report. She didn't show up until after 11 p.m. Her excuse was that she was working on an English project with a friend. I wanted to believe her. I told her she should have at least called. The next night, she did the same thing.

This time, I called her friends and found out she was with a boy named "Steve" and she wasn't doing homework.

What can I do, Abby? My daughter will not listen to me. She plans to continue seeing Steve, even though I forbid it -- and plans to spend the night with him. I think she's too young to be dating this seriously. What's the best way to tell when your teenager is ready to date? -- WORRIED IN NEW YORK

DEAR WORRIED: Girls who are "ready to date" are young women who have proven they are responsible, make intelligent decisions and can be trusted.

Your daughter has not done this, and she is on the verge of getting herself into serious trouble.

As her parent, you must quickly learn to assert yourself -- something it appears you have not done. There is a support group for parents of hard-to-handle children. It is called BILY (Because I Love You). For information and locations, log on to the Web site at www.BILY.org.

P.S. You did not mention how old Steve is. If he is 18, he is presumed to be an adult. At 14, your daughter is legally too young to consent to sex, which would make Steve a sex offender and vulnerable to prosecution.

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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