Before my husband married me, he was engaged to \”Vera.\” Vera was financially and emotionally dependent on him after leaving friends, family and her business to be with him. They broke up, and she eventually moved out. My husband didn\’t tell Vera we were engaged until she surprised him at work just before our wedding. She then said she\’d been feeling suicidal and complained of some unspecified physical problem. She now calls about once a month, often asking for favors. I find their contact disturbing, but he insists they are just friends and says he\’ll always love her but is not \”in love\” with her. I know she must be a good person, or he wouldn\’t have been with her. Would it be OK to write Vera, in a very reasonable tone, and ask her to carefully consider the impact that maintaining a relationship with my husband has on her, on him, and on his relationship with me?

— Worried Wife

Oh, do write Vera, and the next time you\’re being attacked by a rabid dog, give him a little lecture on the effect his fangs will have on your leg and on your healthcare co-payments.

Vera has to be pretty torn up about the impact she\’s having on your marriage. She\’s probably just too busy to realize it, what with her plans to off herself with rusty cuticle clippers — if only your husband would be a dear and bring a pair by.

Yes, the lady\’s a cold sore with telephone privileges, but if you\’re going to get worked up about another woman, is Vera really the best you can do? You could\’ve waited for one of those \”world at their feet\” supergirls but, no, you settled for an aging waif who probably has the self-image of a bug about to be squashed under somebody\’s big toe. Like too many women, Vera apparently dropped everything for a man, or rather, the dream that some man would be The Answer — ending up with nothing when The Answer was preempted by The Question, \”Do you think you can be out of here by the 1st?\”

Of course your husband still has feelings for Vera — probably guilt for being the object of her bad gamble, and for his tardiness in informing her he\’d recast her dream wedding with a new lead. As for any dreams you\’re having of surrounding your marriage with high-voltage barbed wire, if your husband is one of those bleeding hearters — perhaps one reason you fell for him — you\’ll have to take the good with the good to everybody else. Yes, be prepared for him not only to put up with Vera\’s demands but to be the first guy his college buddies think to ring when they\’re down and out (need quick cash for a new speedboat).

Meanwhile, you\’ve got the man; Vera\’s got the occasional handyman. Forget the pen pal proposition. The last thing you want to do is send Vera a little reminder to keep up the good work. Here\’s a little secret: You don\’t make a man faithful by sticking his life under a shrink ray, but by making your relationship a place he wants to be. In other words, forget any thoughts of going behind your husband\’s back and wagging a finger at Vera. Instead, try to see her for what she is — an emotional panhandler making a desperate cry for … home improvement. Yes, she\’s determined to throw herself off her terrace — but first she\’ll need your hubby to pop over to repaint her bathroom and fix the latch on her sliding glass door.

The snore of Babylon

After a great Friday night date, I ended up spending all weekend at an older student\’s apartment. He wanted to have sex, but I told him I\’m waiting until marriage. Monday afternoon, I returned for stuff I\’d accidentally left, and he was all weird. What do you think happened?

— Freshman Psychology

College guys are used to pledging to wear protection before having sex. Of course, the protection they have in mind prevents pregnancy and disease, not untimely embarrassment when you\’re both celebrating your 75th wedding anniversary and your bladders aren\’t what they used to be. For future reference, a guy doesn\’t invite you to stay over at his place because he\’s worried you aren\’t getting a good night\’s sleep in your bunk bed at the dorm. You can have your values, but if you find it awkward to whip out your purity pledge card on the first date, you might seek guys who want what you want; or rather, don\’t want what you don\’t want. Then again, since college is a place to refine critical thinking skills, this could be the perfect time for you to figure out whether you really are saving yourself for marriage — or just for next semester.