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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I recently learned that my husband of 35 years is gay. I never suspected and I am stunned. I have loved him since we met. I still do. I have never been interested in anyone else. We have three children and eight grandchildren who all adore him.

I learned his secret from an email he left on the computer screen. It took a few days, but I confronted him and he told me everything. He has been with men since before our marriage. He assured me he has never done anything that could have caused me to get a disease. I went for an examination and I'm fine.

I'm lost about what my next step should be. I'm in my late 50s. Starting over isn't something I ever considered. I'm seeing a therapist who suggested it might be simpler to consider myself a widow. I have no interest in having sex with my husband again, but being apart from him terrifies me. I feel like I'm in prison. Have you any suggestions? -- HELPLESS IN MIAMI

DEAR HELPLESS: You are not "in prison" and you're not "helpless." You're probably in shock, knowing your husband deceived you from the time you met him. That's understandable. My advice is to do nothing until you regain some sense of balance.

Finding that email was no accident. Consciously or unconsciously, your husband wanted you to see it. That you no longer want to have sex with him isn't surprising. Some things to consider: Does he still want to have sex with you? How do you feel about having sex with anyone? Is your husband involved with more than one person or just one? And does he want to stay married?

Some women (and men) remain married to their bisexual spouse. Others marry people they know are gay. I do not agree with your therapist that you should "consider yourself a widow," unless you want to be married to the living dead.

Before making any decision about your future, you should contact the Straight Spouse Network. It's a confidential support network of current or former heterosexual spouses or partners of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender mates. It helps straight spouses or partners cope constructively with the coming-out crisis and assists mixed-orientation couples and their children to build bridges of understanding. The phone number is (201) 825-7763 and the website is I wish you luck on your journey.

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 19-year-old woman. When I was 4, my mom went to prison for eight years. It turned her life around. At 38, she now has a college degree, a loving husband, a good job and a new home.

My two younger sisters say they don't want to be part of Mom's life, but they never fail to call her at holiday and birthday time to pick up the gifts they know she has bought them. Afterward, they don't contact her or answer her calls and texts until the next holiday. It leaves Mom depressed and feeling used. I have tried telling them they're wrong, but they don't listen. They say I'm wrong for getting in their business. Is it wrong to want my mother to be happy? -- DAUGHTER ON THE OUTSIDE

DEAR DAUGHTER: I don't blame your mother for feeling depressed and used. Your two younger sisters are manipulative, selfish and self-centered. However, your mother is enabling them to behave that way. Talk to her and suggest family counseling. She may be giving and giving out of guilt, they may be taking and taking in order to punish her, and that's not healthy for any of them.

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.)