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DEAR ABBY: I need your advice on how to break an engagement with my fiance, whose tour of duty in Iraq has been extended four more months. He has been there eight months, and during his absence, I met someone else I would like to start dating.

I didn't want to stress out my fiance, and I wanted to wait until he returned to talk to him, but now I feel too guilty, so I need to address it soon. Please help me. -- FEELING GUILTY, MEMPHIS, TENN.

DEAR FEELING GUILTY: It's time to grow up and think about someone other than yourself. There is something more important right now than assuaging your guilt. It's making sure that nothing distracts your fiance from the job he is doing -- and will be doing until he is safely back home.

Under no circumstances should you write him a "Dear John" letter or tell him anything that could unnerve or depress him. If you feel guilty now, how do you think you would feel if he was injured or killed after you dumped that kind of news on him? I can't stress strongly enough how important it is that you put his feelings first right now. What you have in mind can wait until his tour of duty is behind him.

DEAR ABBY: I have a friend, "Libby," who has a lot of personal problems. She recently confided that I am the only person who keeps her going day to day. She has attached herself to me because of my "step-on-me" personality, and I have allowed it.

I don't mind her telling me her problems, but she's putting too much pressure on me by making me her crutch. (Without me, she would fall permanently.) Please don't think I am selfish, but I have a lot to deal with personally in my own life.

How can I lessen my load without cracking her fragile personality? -- STRETCHED TO THE LIMIT IN WYOMING

DEAR STRETCHED: Lighten your load by no longer allowing your friend to put off resolving her problems by confiding them in someone who isn't equipped to help her. Libby needs a licensed psychotherapist. If she can't afford one, please tell her (kindly) that help is available on a sliding-fee scale through your county department of mental health services or social services. Take her to her first appointment if necessary, and then start backpedaling from there.

DEAR ABBY: I have been widowed for more than two years, and a nice man has asked me out. We hit it off great, but I have one problem.

A friend of mine dated him years ago, and it didn't work out. She is now happily seeing a man she has been involved with for almost two years. She says you don't date a friend's past date. I think she's being childish.

I believe this man and I will have a good relationship, and I don't want to lose him because of this. She will find out eventually, and I can't decide if I should take the chance of her not knowing for a while and see how it goes. In any case, I may lose her.

Am I wrong? I have been out of the dating loop for 21 years and this is all new to me. I'd appreciate your opinion. -- UNDECIDED IN BROCKTON, MASS.

DEAR UNDECIDED: I see no reason to make any announcements to anyone right now. Keep dating the man and see where it leads.

Because your "friend" has been in a satisfying relationship for nearly two years, she should be happy that you have met someone and "clicked." If she isn't, then she is not your friend, and your question is moot.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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