DEAR ABBY: I am a woman in my late 20s. I declared bankruptcy last year. What led to this decision wasn’t so much irresponsibility as it was circumstances beyond my control.

A few months ago, I met a wonderful man I’ll call Andrew. We’ve grown attracted to each other. Andrew has begun talking about seeing me on an exclusive basis. I am extremely nervous about the prospect, primarily because Andrew is a financial adviser. Up until now, I saw no reason to divulge my bankruptcy. However, if we are beginning a long-term relationship, what’s the best way to go about it?

I don’t want him to feel I’ve been hiding something all this time, and I don’t want him to think I’m using him for his financial expertise. I’m quite independent, have a stable job that I love and am now managing on my own. Any ideas? – “INVESTING 101” IN WASHINGTON, D.C.

Say it this way: “Andrew, there is something I need to tell you. It’s something I’m not proud of, so I have been hesitant to disclose it to anyone. Last year I had to file bankruptcy, and this is why.” Then explain the situation.

Tell him how special you think he is and that you are getting back on your feet without any outside assistance. His response will give you an indication of the depth of his feelings for you.

DEAR ABBY: I am confused. I have been through four bad marriages and wound up in domestic abuse shelters because all my husbands verbally and physically attacked me.

Six months ago, I met “Mike,” and we moved in together. He is very kind, gentle and loving most of the time, but sometimes Mike gets into these moods and makes me feel awful. He’ll compare me to his former girlfriends and say I can’t do anything right. He also makes fun of the fact that I am seeing a psychiatrist, a therapist and taking medication. He says it proves that I am crazy!

Mike won’t get help for himself even though I know he needs it, so I have started sneaking antidepressants in with his daily vitamins. It has made some difference in his mood. I know I shouldn’t do it, but I am desperate. Any advice? – LOOKING FOR TRUE LOVE IN ALABAMA

DEAR LOOKING: Yes. Admit you have drawn five losing cards in a row, and drop out of the romance game for a while. Discuss with your therapist why you are repeatedly attracted to men who are not good for you. And get out now before the abuse escalates again.

Depression is not the problem with abusive people. Abusers use abuse as a method to control their partners.

P.S. It is dangerous to give medications – particularly mood-altering drugs – to people for whom they have not been prescribed. Please call a halt to it now.

DEAR ABBY: Last Sunday, my husband and I attended church in a city where we had lived before our retirement. As we left the chapel, I had a physically painful experience that has happened many times before – and I hope you’ll spread the message.

When anyone shakes hands with an elderly person, PLEASE DO SO GENTLY. Many of us have arthritic hands, and a powerful handshake can be excruciating. I appreciated a strong handshake when I was young, but now it can be torture. Thanks, Abby. – SENIOR IN SOUTH PASADENA, CALIF.

A handshake should be firm without being a bone-crusher. Younger people can also have arthritic hands. I’m pleased you wrote to air your complaint. It’s a valid one. A word to the wise …

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

Good advice for everyone – teens to seniors – is in “The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It.” To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447.

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