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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I am a fairly conservative young woman, and also somewhat shy. I have been dating a young man who comes from a much more casual culture than I do. This has its benefits -- he laughs often and deeply, and easily connects with people. But it also has its downside.

"Mac" has a terrible habit of talking publicly about what we do in the bedroom. He means it in a teasing way, and he's never insulting. He can't understand why it upsets me, although he is always remorseful when he realizes I'm angry. He worries that I'm ashamed of him and what we do, but I'm not. I just don't want it to be a topic of public discussion, especially with people from my church. I find it embarrassing to have my love life made public.

Mac is never mean-spirited, only vulgar, which to him is acceptable. I love him. He's a strong, kind and generous man. But I do not feel respected. The truth is, he just doesn't know how to treat me with respect. What can I do? -- WOMAN OF CHARACTER

DEAR WOMAN OF CHARACTER: Mac is "always" remorseful? You should not have had to tell him more than once that his talking about your sex life made you uncomfortable. He appears to crave attention any way he can get it. His lack of sensitivity for your feelings is a red flag.

Mac may be funny, strong, kind and generous, but because he doesn't understand boundaries, he isn't likely to change. What you must do is ask yourself if this is the way you want the rest of your life to be, because if you continue this relationship, this will be your reality -- and nothing will be kept private.

DEAR ABBY: "Clyde" and I dated as teenagers. After we separated, he married someone else. We met up again and had an affair, which resulted in two children. I ended it because it was going nowhere and raised the children alone.

Clyde and I have now come full circle. After separating from his wife, he sought me out. I have loved only him my entire life. We have been living together for several years now, and I have an engagement ring with no hope of marriage. He keeps telling me his wife is holding up the divorce.

Abby, how long can one person hold up a divorce? I have waited 25 years for this man, and I don't know if I will wait forever. -- TIRED OF WAITING IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR TIRED OF WAITING: Clyde may not have been completely honest with you. I ran your letter by a family law specialist who informed me that here in the U.S.A. no one can be forced to stay married against his or her will. A divorce is a court proceeding. A spouse can stall signing an agreement -- the division of property would be an example -- but not a court process.

As for your being unwilling to wait for Clyde "forever" -- you have already done that. Twenty-five years of waiting for a man who's unavailable is forever.

DEAR ABBY: I work for a dentist. There are two other staff members besides me.

The dentist occasionally receives gifts (goodie baskets, flowers, baked goods, etc.) from specialists thanking him for referring patients to them. These gifts usually have cards that say "To Doctor and Staff," but he never shares any of it with us; he takes it all home. Should I approach him about this? -- NO PERKS IN INDIANA

DEAR NO PERKS: I don't think so. While your feelings are understandable, you would have nothing to gain but poundage. And besides, it's almost impossible to shame the shameless.

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