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by Abigail Van Buren

Wife Is Trapped in Marriage of Thirty Unfaithful Years

DEAR ABBY: I am married to a man who cheated on me for 30 years. First there was a long-distance romance with my high school girlfriend that lasted 28 years. Then he had another affair with a woman from church. It went on for eight years that I know of.

He always accused me of being "evil" because I expressed concern about his fidelity. Of course, when I found solid evidence of his affairs, it was, "It's over," and "It'll never happen again," etc. But the affairs continued, and I didn't leave. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I'm afraid of what's out there.

Is there something wrong with me? I know I'm "settling." But I am terrified of starting over. Everywhere I look, I don't see prospects that are any better. Are they ALL dogs? -- DEFLATED IN RALEIGH, N.C.

DEAR DEFLATED: Not all men are dogs, nor are they adulterers like the one you married. There are good men out there, but, like gold nuggets, it takes exploration to find them.

What you don't seem to appreciate is that there are worse things than being alone -- and one of them is the pain of having a husband who makes you feel you never measure up. You have paid a price for living with the evil you know rather than risking the unknown. If you do decide to divorce, you will need time to heal and rediscover yourself before you go prospecting for another mate, because the way you feel about yourself will dictate the kind of life partner you'll attract.

DEAR ABBY: I have a son, "Max," who is 1. At Christmas, we were at my sister-in-law "Babette's" home for dinner. Babette has a peek-a-poo dog that occasionally growls at her teenage kids.

Max kept trying to go over and see the dog. I kept telling him that the dog didn't want to play right now, and to leave him alone. (My sister, who frequently baby-sits Max, has three very friendly dogs.) Babette's dog growled at my son, so I asked her if we could put the dog elsewhere. She said, "No. He doesn't have a cage or anything."

I think she was rude because I don't think I was asking too much for her to put her dog in another room for a short period of time. What do you think? I'd like your opinion. -- PROTECTIVE MOTHER IN OHIO

DEAR PROTECTIVE: When a dog growls, that's the dog's way of saying, "Stay away!" Because your son was too young to understand this, and because your sister-in-law was unwilling to separate her dog from your child, you should have separated your child from her dog by cutting the dinner short and leaving.

DEAR ABBY: When I was a young teenager, I suffered sexual abuse at the hands of my brother, "Carl." I am now worried about his daughter.

My niece is now nearly the age I was when he committed this crime against me. Because I want to protect her, I want very badly to ask him if he would ever do that to his daughter. However, every time I start to ask, I stop myself because I don't want to rock the boat.

Would it be wrong or rude of me to ask him if he has ever touched his daughter the way he touched me? -- CONCERNED FOR HER SAFETY IN TEXAS

DEAR CONCERNED: It would be a mistake to ask, because if he is molesting his daughter, he would not be forthcoming about it. What you should do is discuss what happened to you with Carl's wife, so she can be on the lookout for any signs of sexual abuse in their daughter.

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