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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My husband, "Harry," and I had a good marriage for 25 years, but we have grown apart and have agreed to divorce when our child finishes college. We just don't have a lot in common anymore. Harry is on the road a lot, and I have my own business.

My problem is I have fallen in love with Harry's cousin "Cyrus." We met 25 years ago at my sister-in-law's house and were instantly attracted. My mother-in-law reintroduced us five years ago so we could put together a business deal, and we became close. Cyrus is successful, and he's generous to me and my child. I have been secretly in love with him all these years, and now he has fallen in love with me, too.

Because I plan to leave Harry does not mean I want to leave his family. I have a wonderful mother-in-law and great sisters-in-law, and I love being a part of their family. I enjoy the weddings, family reunions and even the memorial services.

When I divorce Harry and marry Cyrus, I plan to remain part of the family, but my sisters-in-law do not approve, and they no longer want to continue our friendship. If it doesn't bother my soon-to-be-ex-husband, why should my continuing to attend family reunions bother them? And will time heal all wounds? -- GOING CRAZY IN ALABAMA

DEAR GOING CRAZY: Allow me to offer a clue. Harry's sisters appear to be traditional in their beliefs and may consider you to be an adulteress who has wronged their brother. If the breach can be healed, Harry will have to explain to them that the divorce is also his idea because your marriage has been over for years. However, if your soon-to-be-ex is unwilling to step forward, then I seriously doubt time will heal this wound, so please don't hold your breath expecting any invitations when their clan gathers.

DEAR ABBY: Ever since my father died 15 years ago, my mother has pursued her children's friends and made them her own. Example: I live in another state and have had a best friend, "Anne," for 20 years. Mom has gotten to know Anne quite well over the years, through me. She now calls Anne long distance, invites her to come and stay with her (without me), and considers the two of them best friends.

Last week when I talked to Anne, I learned that Mother will be joining us on a girls' trip I had planned with my closest friends. Mother has done this with my siblings' friends, too -- taking them on trips with her or inviting them to visit. Since Dad's death, she has severed most of their old friendships. Now, aside from our friends, her only friends are her secretary and some of her employees.

I'm having a hard time with this because I can no longer be open about my mother to Anne. Mom's relationship with Anne has changed my relationship with my friend, and I resent it. Is this normal? -- COMPETING WITH MOM

DEAR COMPETING: No, but has it occurred to you that after your father's death, their friends may have ended their relationship with your mother? According to my mail, it happens quite often because a widow may be perceived as a third wheel or even a threat.

Your mother may be competing with you (and your siblings), or it could be a desperate attempt to be more involved in your lives.

Does Anne know how uncomfortable this three-way has made you feel? If so, how did she respond when you told her? If you have discussed it, then it's time to recognize that the problem isn't entirely your mother, and you may be mad at the wrong person.

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.)