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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: "Burned in Victoria, Texas" wrote that she had been badly hurt after her three-year relationship with a man she had known since childhood fell apart. She asked for encouragement in entering the dating scene again -- something she has been afraid to do since the romance ended a year and a half ago.

You advised that although the experience had been a painful one, it had been a valuable learning experience -- and said (among other things) that it's worth kissing a few frogs once you finally meet Prince Charming.

I thought she could use some encouragement from someone who has been in the same boat. I, too, was convinced I would never become attached to anyone again.

Then I landed a job as a teaching assistant at the university I attend, and met "George." He asked me out several times; each time I gave him the excuse that I was "too busy." One evening he prepared a dinner of my three favorite foods (all by himself), packed it in a picnic basket, and brought it to me at the research office. We talked and laughed for hours, and I finally told him the real reason I wasn't seeing anyone.

He explained that there are nice men out there who understand and don't mind taking things slow -- and he was one of them. We have been inseparable ever since. And he has kept his word.

My message to "Burned": There are kind men who will understand your feelings and cherish you for the wonderful person that you are. You and I are very much alike, and I assure you that all of your waiting will pay off in the end. You are not alone. You have support from another Texan. -- NO LONGER LONELY IN DALLAS

DEAR NO LONGER LONELY: Bless you for your words of encouragement. Dating can be arduous. It can take stamina, a strong sense of self-worth, and a sense of humor to make it to the end of the process unscathed. You are not the only Texas gal who reached out to "Burned." Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I can identify with that 23-year-old girl because I had a similar experience. My pride and self-confidence were also crushed. I felt worthless. After five years, I took matters into my own hands.

On my 30th birthday, I got the best gift God could have given me. A friend and I began dating. I asked HIM out for our first date (something I'd sworn I'd never do). I haven't looked back since. We were married last June.

You were right, Abby, when you told "Burned" that her bad relationship was a learning experience. I hope she takes your advice to heart and doesn't let it keep her down. She needs to take that first step forward. You never know what you can accomplish until you try. -- VERY HAPPY IN COMMERCE, TEXAS

DEAR VERY HAPPY: Well said. I would like to extend that message: No one ever accomplished anything by sitting passively and waiting for success to come to them. The greatest rewards come to those who have the courage to stand up, step forward and take their swings at bat.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, 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.)

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