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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a 45-year-old woman with two daughters, ages 20 and 23. I married my high school sweetheart, "Cooper." I had heard rumors that Cooper had strayed from time to time, but had no evidence to back it up, and, of course, he denied it.

I went by my husband's office one day to surprise him, and his new secretary informed me that Cooper had just taken his wife to lunch at a local bistro! I went right over there and found them whispering, kissing and feeding each other. I did not make a scene. When Cooper arrived home that evening, I confronted him. He tried to deny it. I called him a liar and he slapped me! (A first.) He moved out that night, and I filed for divorce.

I pawned my wedding band and engagement ring. The clerk asked if I was going to buy a divorce ring. I had never heard of one. I searched online, found a nice one, ordered it and wear it proudly.

Cooper and his parents are livid! They say I am poking fun at him and accuse me of "promoting divorce." My friends and oldest daughter think it's cool. Some of my divorced friends have ordered rings, too. The ring is different in design, beautiful, makes me feel good and shows my independence. Should I feel guilty for wearing an identity ring like this? -- DIVORCING AND LOVING IT IN NORTH CAROLINA

DEAR DIVORCING AND LOVING IT: No, you should not. The next time Cooper and his parents accuse you of "promoting divorce," remind them that it was Cooper who promoted divorce by openly cheating on you. If the ring brings you pleasure -- and comfort -- then enjoy it.

However, please be aware that many people will not understand its significance -- and if you wear it on the third finger of your left hand, they may think you are still married and unavailable.

DEAR ABBY: I need your help. I am happily married to a wonderful man but recently became attracted to a co-worker. The man is completely not my type and I would never act on these feelings, but it's starting to distract me at work. I think he feels the same way, but would never approach me because he knows I am married and ethical.

I have thought about leaving my job, but I am very successful here. Walking away would be a bad career move for me and put a financial damper on my family. As long as I don't act on my feelings -- or even discuss them -- is it morally wrong to continue working here? I know it's normal to be attracted to other people, but I have never felt THIS attracted to anyone other than my husband before. This is making me feel extremely guilty, but I can't help my feelings. What should I do? -- UNSURE IN SYRACUSE

DEAR UNSURE: The time has come to have a truth session -- with yourself. If you are attracted to your co-worker to the point that it is "distracting," could you be sending him signals that you are available?

If that's the case, it might be better for your marriage -- and your career -- to explore openings elsewhere. If it's not, then please understand that marriage is not a prophylactic against becoming attracted to others. However, responsible adults don't take the bait, and that should include you. Nothing in life is free, and this could cost you your future.

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-sized, 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 in the price.)

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