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Steve and Mia | E-mail + inattention = troubled wife

A South African questions her husband's devotion

Steve is a 50-something married man who's been around the block. Mia is a 20-something single immersed in the Center City dating scene. They may not agree, but they have plenty of answers. If you'd like an answer to your romantic troubles, e-mail them at S& or write: S&M c/o Daily News, Box 7788, Philadelphia, PA 19101.

Q: I am a 30-year-old living in South Africa. My husband still has a soft spot in his heart for his ex-wife that compromises our relationship at times. Sometimes he brings his two kids from his first marriage to our house so his ex can go gallivanting with her boyfriends. Last year, I became pregnant with our second son. My husband was never there for me. Sometimes I feel like he stays in the relationship only because of the kids. I once saw suggestive messages from ladies on his cell phone and deleted them. He never mentioned it. Do you think he might be having an affair?

Mia: He might be. On some level, a woman knows if a guy is interested in someone else. The bigger issue, though, really is about trust. Good marriages are based on that. If you don't have peace of mind in your marriage and confidence in your guy, you're just torturing yourself.

Steve: We are always happy to help our many international readers. Affair or no, your husband's selfish behavior shows he's not an equal partner in this marriage. You and your husband should meet with a marriage counselor for a frank discussion.

Q: I've been dating the same woman for nearly a year, and she says it's time for us to decide if we want to spend our lives together. I do love her, but I cannot fully commit unless I'm sure this will work out. I have heard so many stories about people changing after they marry, the romance fading, the stress of having kids or one partner's rising professional status ruining the marriage. I need to be sure none of this will happen. What do you suggest?

Steve: I suggest Madame Marie, who got busted by the cops for telling fortunes better than they do. Here's the problem: You can have the perfect, scientific soulmate match and the marriage could still go to hell. You play the odds as best you can and then you cross your fingers and hope.

Mia: I agree completely. Marriage is about taking a leap of faith. You hope and pray that it will work out, but there are never any guarantees. What you've got to do is find the woman with whom you are willing to take a chance. I get the feeling that there's something about your girlfriend that's holding you back. Instead of knocking marriage, explore what that's about.

Q: My alcoholic brother died two years ago, and I have been feeling guilty ever since that I didn't do more to intervene. I've tried to help his widow and children, and over time have found myself growing closer to her. I'm thinking of making a move. What I can't sort out is whether these are my true feelings, or if I'm doing this out of my sense of guilt. I've been divorced twice before, and the last thing I want is another bad marriage.

Mia: If it were the real thing, you wouldn't be confused. But it's not. You sense that already. My advice would be to slow things down. Let at least another year, possibly more, pass as both of you continue to grieve. Get counseling to help you come to terms about your brother's disease, as well as about what went wrong with your two failed marriages. Before you can even think about moving on to your next romance, you've got to understand your role in the dissolution of the previous two relationships. Keep your pants on for the sake of your brother's family. That would be an honorable way to respect his legacy.

Steve: Romance is difficult enough without piling on all the psychological and family baggage that would be part of this relationship. You need to work through your guilt feelings first. Once you're clear of them, I suspect you'll view your sister-in-law in a more proper light. *