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DEAR ABBY: My husband and I adopted a beautiful baby girl in an open adoption 14 years ago. "Sara's" birth mother, "Chris," was trapped in an abusive relationship. We promised to exchange letters and pictures when Sara was able to communicate, and have done so since Sara turned 10. Sara and her birth mother talk on the phone four times a year.

Although the "open" agreement is not legally binding, we have kept our word. However, over the past year we have become concerned about the effect this is having on our daughter. Sara is sad and moody after contacts with Chris. Chris also sends poetry about the adoption, which upsets Sara. It's pretty heavy stuff for a 14-year-old.

Chris has rebuilt her life, obtained higher education, married and has two toddlers. Despite this, it seems she's still mourning the loss of her firstborn. We understand this, but feel it's unfair to unload this burden on Sara. Sara cried when she saw photos of Chris' two small sons.

Should we limit or sever the contact? -- NO NAMES PLEASE IN THE NORTHWEST

DEAR NO NAMES: From my perspective, the letters, photographs and the quarterly phone calls are excessive. And for the birth mother to send "heavy" poetry in an effort to offload her guilt and pain at placing her child for adoption is selfish. Because the contact with her birth mother is depressing your daughter instead of being uplifting, it's time to ask Sara what she thinks -- and take your cue from her.

DEAR ABBY: After 20 years of marriage to an abusive man, I finally divorced him.

One night I was feeling depressed, so I contacted "Garrett," an old high school sweetheart. We ended up really clicking. Garrett has been married twice. Both his ex-wives were unfaithful and treated him shamefully, so he's afraid of marrying again.

Garrett says he loves me and we plan on moving in together. The problem is his mother, who is very religious. She will have a hard time accepting our arrangement. I asked him if he wanted me to talk to her, and he said yes. How do I make her understand? I love Garrett very much and know in my heart we were meant to be together. I feel God brought him back into my life.

I am 42 and Garrett is 43, so it's not like we're kids. I respect his mother very much and know her son wants her acceptance. Any advice you could offer would be appreciated. -- DESPERATE TO BE HAPPY IN ILLINOIS

DEAR DESPERATE: Say to Garrett's mother: "I love your son and feel in my heart that we were meant to be together. I want and need to be with him. He has struck out twice at marriage and is afraid to try again -- and at least for now, I'm prepared to accept this. I like and respect you very much. We plan to live together, and if you would like to be part of our lives, we would like that, too." Then shut your mouth and hear what the woman has to say. She may pleasantly surprise you.

DEAR ABBY: Do you think it is inappropriate to leave a family gathering if another family member brings a child -- or himself -- to the gathering with a highly contagious sickness? This is causing a rift between me and my husband's family. -- DEBBIE IN HAMILTON, OHIO

DEAR DEBBIE: Let me answer you in this way: For someone with a contagious illness to put others at risk of catching it is selfish and inconsiderate. You have every right to protect yourself by leaving the gathering. In fact, I recommend it.

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 $6 (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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