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DEAR ABBY: My niece is stationed with the Air Force and she never writes to me. My mom hears from her at least once a week, and when I ask about "Nicole," she says, "Oh, she doesn't say much."

Well, the other day, I happened to talk to my niece's stepdad, and he told me that Nicole got married two months ago to some guy who's a jerk, and that he has been deployed to Iraq. My mother knew all about it and never told me! That really ticks me off.

Mom has always been that way -- sometimes out and out lying about things. She's also the stingiest person I know. I think this is the last straw. Do you think I should stop speaking to her?

We were never close. She has always preferred my sister and brother over me and made it quite clear that she did. I'm a middle-aged woman, but I still smart when I think of the way she has treated me. Don't suggest therapy, because I am in therapy. -- FURIOUS IN KANSAS CITY, MO.

DEAR FURIOUS: Try to calm down. If you were not notified about the wedding, it may not have been an occasion that your niece and her parents were "celebrating." It may also not last -- which is why your mother may have wanted to keep it quiet.

You are in therapy; your anger at your mother is something that you should be discussing with your therapist. And because your mother has always treated you as someone "less than" your siblings, perhaps it would be better for you both if you took a break from her for a while -- at least until you and your therapist figure out what it is you really need to say to her.

DEAR ABBY: I'm 33, have a great job, a good head on my shoulders, and I am in love. My boyfriend of a year and a half, "Steve," just told me he loves me and wants me in his life –- but he does not want children.

Abby, two weeks after we met, I told Steve that within the next five years I wanted marriage and a child. He said if things went well, he saw no problem with it. Steve was unemployed for a year, but he recently found a new job and his prospects look good. He still suffers a bit from depression related to the unemployment, but he's always treated me like gold.

My birthday was two weeks ago, and I was somewhat depressed about it. A week later, he hit me with this. I realized we'd reached an impasse, and because I thought I was being rejected, I said goodbye to Steve the next day. He was dumbfounded that I left, and it's killing us both. I appreciate his honesty, but I really want a child before I am 40. Not having a child would tear me apart when I'm older.

Steve is still calling, wanting to work it out, but he isn't relenting on his stance. I refuse to see him until he changes his mind. He did offer, "Let's try it for six months and see if I change my mind," but that's just postponing the inevitable. I love Steve with all my heart. What should I do? -- LET DOWN IN SAN FRANCISCO

DEAR LET DOWN: Talk to Steve and see if he can explain the reason for his hard-line stance regarding children. It may have something to do with his long period of unemployment, which can shake the confidence of anyone, regardless of gender.

If he is afraid he can't live up to the financial responsibility of parenthood, it's possible the two of you could reach some agreement because you are not financially dependent on him. If it's something else, counseling might resolve the problem. However, if it doesn't, you and he will know you did everything you could to try to work things out, and you can go your separate ways with fewer regrets.

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