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Dear Abby: At what point is a relationship with a member of the opposite sex considered “cheating”? I have recently discovered that my husband was having a more-than-friendly relationship with a co-worker. He set up a post office box for her so she could write to him while she was away for an extended period. I found her letters and read them. They described how she missed my husband and “couldn’t wait to feel” his arms around her and his lips on hers again. She said he had shown her what real true love can be. She is 12 years younger than he is.

My husband says they never had sex, but did kiss on several occasions, and he enjoyed their deep, open conversations. Because my husband is not a big conversationalist, that has been very hard for me. The idea that he had meaningful conversations with this woman hurts me more than the physical things they admit to.

He says it’s not actually cheating if they never slept together. I say, with everything he has admitted to and the fact he has opened up to her in ways I have begged him to with me, he has DEFINITELY cheated!

This is the second time in our 16-year marriage this kind of thing has happened. Obviously, his definition of cheating is not the same as mine. I say an emotional affair is almost worse than a physical one. He sees cheating as sex only.

– Hurt and Lonely in New England

Dear Hurt and Lonely: When someone gets a post office box so that he or she can carry on a furtive romantic correspondence, it is cheating. When he kisses and embraces someone in a romantic fashion, that’s cheating, too. When he confides his deepest feelings to a woman other than his wife, what he does is widen the gulf between them.

On the deepest levels, your husband has been unfaithful to you. It appears he has perfected the “art” of lying to himself in order to justify his behavior. My heart goes out to you.

Still afraid of the dark

Dear Abby: I’m an almost 18-year-old girl. I hoped that by now I would be over my fear of the dark, but I’m not. I can’t sleep without the TV, go outside after dark or walk through my house at night without being terrified. I always feel as if there is “something” there, no matter how many times I shine a light to check. I’m pretty sure this is irrational, but I don’t know what to do.

– Scaredy-Cat in Florida

Dear Scaredy-Cat: When someone has an irrational fear, the thing to do is to consult a licensed psychotherapist and discuss it. There are counselors who specialize in phobias, and your physician may be able to refer you to one.

Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 60069.