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DEAR ABBY: My husband has lost a significant amount of weight over a very short period of time. He isn't on drugs and eats well. I have begged him to see a doctor. He has come up with a variety of excuses and reasons why he has lost the weight. First it was because he was stressed at work. Then it was because he was stressed at home. Now he says he just needs to eat and exercise more, but he's "SOOO busy," but he'll start eventually.

It has become a problem for several reasons. One, all the church ladies have concluded that I don't cook at home (which I do). Two, he looks so ill and malnourished that people are asking me if he is on drugs (he has been tested at work, and this is not the case). Three, friends and family are deeply concerned but scared to approach him about his health because he swears he feels fine and is actually doing wonderfully.

Abby, I love my husband. He's a good man, although he can sometimes be stubborn and closed-minded. I'm terrified that he's dying of cancer and he's going to leave me a single mom. I can no longer discuss the subject of weight with him because he gets extremely defensive and says I should just give him time to get back to how he was. How long do I give him? It has been 10 months. I'm afraid if this goes on any longer, it will put a strain on our relationship that won't be easily fixed by just talking it out. — ALARMED IN LOUISIANA

DEAR ALARMED: Some people foolishly avoid going to the doctor because they are afraid of what they will hear. You SHOULD be alarmed because your husband's sudden, unexplained, prolonged weight loss can be a symptom of a life-threatening illness.

This is not a question of how or how well you cook (bless those church ladies!), or whether your husband is on drugs. It is a question of you alerting his doctor, explaining what's going on and possibly saving his life. If he won't listen to reason, put it in terms of him being alive long enough to see his child/children into adulthood. But if he still won't listen to reason, then all you can do is make sure his affairs are in order in case the worst happens.

DEAR ABBY: I am about to be shipped off to basic training for the Army, and I have heard many horror stories about military spouses cheating while their significant other is away. Any advice on how to make sure my relationship doesn't end up like that? Do you think she will cheat? — WONDERING IN TENNESSEE

DEAR WONDERING: Having never met your significant other, I have no way of guessing whether she will cheat on you — just as I can't predict if the reverse will be true. But this I do know: Communication is the key to overcoming the physical distance. Writing and Skyping as often as you can to share what's going on will keep you from drifting apart.

Will there be more temptations while you're separated? Probably. That's true for both of you. If you plan on spending the rest of your life with this person — or anyone — you should be confident that she's trustworthy

DEAR ABBY: I'm a 40-year-old mom of two girls who has been single for five years. In that time, I've dated a few men, but haven't found one who fulfills my "wish list."

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The last man I was interested in seemed like he had possibilities. There was a strong mutual attraction. We spent a lot of time together, went on dates and were physically intimate. However, because of his recent divorce and subsequent emotional struggles, it became apparent that we wouldn't work out in the long term. It was disappointing, but we are still good friends and talk daily.

In the meantime, I have begun dating a very nice 48-year-old man with whom I have a lot in common. He's very successful professionally, and we get along well. He is also very attracted to me. If things continue to go well and it develops into a long-term relationship, I have no doubt he would provide a very comfortable life for my children and me.

The problem is, I'm not very attracted to him. He's a nice, normal-looking man, but if I passed him on the street, I wouldn't give him a second glance. I continue to see him because it seems we may be compatible, and I enjoy spending time with him, but is it wrong to be disappointed that I don't feel "fireworks"?

This may seem shallow, but after feeling so much chemistry with a man I was madly attracted to, it's difficult to be in this position. It's next to impossible to find someone who possesses every single quality I want, especially because I live in a small town, and I am likely not going to match everything on his list either. How do I break down these barriers that I'm putting in front of him? — NO SPARKS IN OREGON

DEAR NO SPARKS: I can't guarantee this will work, but a giant step in the right direction might be to stop talking every day with the man you are so attracted to. Although he appears to be over you, you do not appear to have him completely out of your system. Until that happens, no one is going to measure up.

DEAR ABBY: I was born in the mountains of western North Carolina, but I have been obsessed with the beach since I was a toddler. I am an empty nester and retired. Soon my husband and I would like to move to Florida for the warmer climate and to ease our ocean-obsessed souls. The problem is, I am heartbroken to leave my mother. She's getting older, and we are very close.

She has given me her blessing, as she knows the winters here make me miserable physically and mentally. The thing is, I will miss her terribly. We can video chat and visit often, but I can't shake my guilt over leaving her.

My brother lives close by and will take care of her if she needs anything (she lives independently) and keep her company, and she does have a friend she spends time with also. Am I being unreasonable? Or am I being completely selfish? It just feels wrong to leave her. — TORTURED DAUGHTER IN THE SOUTH

DEAR TORTURED: Your mother has given you her blessing to move. Take her up on it with a light heart. And during the winter months, invite her to come and stay with you if she wishes. That way you won't have to feel guilty, and she might enjoy the warmer weather.

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Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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