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Dear Abby: History of betrayal undermines woman's current relationship

DEAR ABBY: I'm 41 and a single mom. My first marriage lasted 19 years, during which my husband cheated on me three times that I know of.

DEAR ABBY: I'm 41 and a single mom. My first marriage lasted 19 years, during which my husband cheated on me three times that I know of.

I have dated a few men since the divorce. I caught each of them lying to me, cheating on me - or both.

I am now seeing a man who seems to be an honest family man. However, I can't bring myself to trust him.

We have been seeing each other for a year, and I care about him deeply. But I do not trust him, and the truth is I don't trust anyone - not even my own mother.

I'm not sure I know how to trust, Abby, and I am destroying my relationship with this man because of it. He has evening meetings and occasionally needs to travel on business, and I am making us both miserable.

I do feel he's an honest, God-fearing family man, but when it comes to our relationship, I'm unable to trust.

Please tell me what to do.

- Desperate in Arizona

DEAR DESPERATE: Your reasons for not trusting men seemed understandable when I read that your husband had cheated multiple times, and that you had the same rotten luck with men after your divorce.

Then I got to the line about your mother.

If you don't trust her, then how far back do your trust issues go? And is it possible that you have turned your insecurity into a self-fulfilling prophecy?

If you want to salvage this relationship, recognize that you have a problem that won't go away without counseling to help you understand where your trust problems originated.

Wouldn't it be interesting if they had less to do with the men in your life than with your mother? You'll never know until you look further - so before you chase this man away, explain that you realize you have been unfair to him and ask him to give you patience and some time to fix the problem. He must care for you very much to have stuck it out this long.

DEAR ABBY: When I was 18, I met a girl, "Ava," who was 17. We became good friends but we lived an hour apart and only dated for four months. Ava called it off because she said she was in school and wanted to date other guys. I found out that the next year she got married.

Six years later, Ava called out of the blue and invited me to dinner. She was divorced, but I was in a relationship at the time, so I never called her back. I got married the following year and have been married for 31 years.

A couple of months ago I found out Ava's married name and phone number and called her. I apologized for not having returned her call way back when, and we talked about her family and mine. Abby, I care for her and would like to be friends. I'd like to keep in touch, but I don't want to invade her life or cause problems. Any advice would be appreciated.

- Remembering in Richmond

DEAR REMEMBERING: I'm not sure what it is you're looking for, but if you and Ava were meant to be friends, I think it would have happened before this. My advice is to let sleeping dogs lie.

DEAR READERS: I'm sure all of us are glad to bid a "fond farewell" to 2009. What a year this has been!

If you're planning to celebrate the New Year with alcohol tonight, please appoint a designated driver. And on this night of all nights, everyone - including the designated driver - should remember to drive defensively.

To one and all, I wish a happy, healthy 2010.

- Love, Abby