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Dear Abby: I am 55 now. Between the ages of 18 and 26, I was married four times to three different men. I was stupid. I had no direction in life and thought marriage was the answer. At 27, I went back to college, graduated and became a CPA.

I married again at 34. My husband was abusive, and the marriage was rocky., I hung in with him for 20 years because I was desperate to make a marriage work and avoid further shame.

I finally left him last year. I feel damaged, empty and ashamed, and I don’t know how to start over at this point. I have been fighting a chronic illness for eight years, which contributes to my feelings of hopelessness.

Have you any advice about where I can turn to start a new life? Please don’t suggest counseling. I have already done that and gotten as much healing from it as possible. Now I need to know how to move forward.

Shamed But Not Stupid

Dear Shamed: Your new life began the moment you walked out the door and left your abuser. I’ve often asked, “If marriage is the answer, what is the question?” Now that you know marriage isn’t the answer, you can begin building your new life by first forgiving yourself, and then learning to like yourself again.

There are online support groups for divorced people as well as those recovering from abusive relationships. It may be helpful to sample a few to see if you can find the support you’re looking for. I wish you luck, because you are finally on the right track.

Dear Abby: I have a girlfriend. She has been accepted to an amazingly good school, but it’s in downtown. She is going to high school and I’m a year younger, which puts me in eighth grade. We live close to each other, so we see each other on the weekends. Should we keep our relationship or leave it if we won’t be able to see each other as often?

Teens In Love

Dear Teens: If I TOLD you to break up because in a few months you and this girl won’t be able to see each other as often, would you do it? I don’t think so! What I do suggest is that the two of you let this play out. Enjoy each other for now, and in the fall, if your feelings — or hers — change, discuss it then.

Contact Dear Abby at DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

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