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by Abigail Van Buren

Cousin's Wedding Invitation Brings Back Painful Past

DEAR ABBY: A male cousin sent me an invitation to his wedding. I have met his fiancee a few times at family reunions and weddings, and she seems very sweet. The problem is my cousin sexually abused me for many years when I was younger. I have no desire to attend his wedding.

Am I obligated to send a card or a gift? I don't want his fiancee to think I don't like her, but it makes me sick to think of celebrating his marriage after what he did. What do I say when other family members ask why I'm not going? Am I obligated to tell her what he did? -- NEEDS TO KNOW IN TEXAS

DEAR NEEDS TO KNOW: A young man who sexually abuses someone "for years" is a predator. And while the news may not be greeted warmly, you should say something to your cousin's fiancee before she marries him.

You could benefit from talking to a counselor who specializes in sexual abuse to make sure the effects of what happened to you don't affect you in the future. The counselor can help you decide what to do from there. If you don't attend the wedding, you are under no obligation to send a gift or a card.

DEAR ABBY: I could never figure out why "Margaret," my wife of 20 years, married me. After our wedding she tried to give me an image makeover. She'd buy me clothes I left hanging in the closet. She'd contradict and correct me in public. In general, she'd find fault with almost everything I did. She put me down often, and if I reacted, she would either claim it wasn't what she meant to say or tell me, "You do it, too." I finally gave up and left her.

Margaret has an excellent reputation, so people try to pry into why I left her. When I tell them I won't bad-mouth her, they tell me she says plenty about me. My response is, "Then you know all there is to know, don't you?"

Two women close to my age, plus one college-age girl, are trying to pursue me. I'm afraid if I don't leave this area, Margaret will allege that I left her for one of them.

Your thoughts, please. -- KEEPING MUM IN CLEVELAND

DEAR KEEPING MUM: You didn't mention how long ago your marriage ended or whether your divorce is final. But regardless, aren't you tired of worrying about what your ex is saying about you? The marriage is over -- kaput! A move isn't necessary. An effective way to ensure that no one spreads a rumor that you left Margaret for one woman would be to spend time being seen dating all of them.

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been together for two years, and he still doesn't know my mother's last name (it's different from my maiden name), nor does he know the names of all of my siblings. He doesn't think it's a big deal. What is your opinion? -- NAME GAME IN KNOXVILLE, TENN.

DEAR NAME GAME: Either your husband is not much of a family man or he's not detail-oriented. Remembering someone's name is a sign of respect, and it appears your husband of two years has little of that for your family.

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.)