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Tragedy of Broken Bargains, Empty Lives

February 26, 1995

I was deeply moved by the story of Diane Painter and her children whose lives suffered such profound consequences as a result of her identity being too closely intertwined with that of her ex-husband ("Love, Marriage and the Bargains Unkept," Feb. 12).

It is sad that she made the choice to end her life rather than seek assistance for her obvious mental anguish. It is painfully clear that Diane Painter allowed herself to be treated as less than a full partner in her marriage and was unable to forge her own path after it ended.

I agree that any woman needs her own outlets for expression, but I do not think Robin Abcarian should worry unduly about her non-working married friends. I hope they are independent, vibrant women whether they are employed or not. The key is this: How are they viewed in the marriage by their husbands and themselves? It makes a world of difference.

LESLIE SELDER, Huntington Beach

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What a tragic story about Diane Painter. I wonder if Robin Abcarian quite got the point. Are we to understand that if Diane's husband wasn't famous or her life had been more fulfilling, she would have been less angry?

Betrayal at any point hurts, and the 30-year marriage bond would only deepen that pain.

If there is any lesson to be learned here it is the limitations of the human heart. Given time, Diane Painter may have been able to build a better life. But such a public rejection and betrayal made all the more humiliating because of her husband's fame, was more than the limits of her psyche at that moment.

No matter how fulfilling our lives are, in the face of betrayal, who could promise to handle it any better?

CLARE TAYLOR, Hacienda Heights

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Thank you for so succinctly putting into words what many women of my and Diane Painter's era have experienced. I wonder how much of what we see in that mirror is not only our individual shrunken reflections, but a reflection of our era as well.

While I can recall speeding down the freeway a couple of years ago, visualizing the instant release of the excruciating pain of my divorce (after a 29-year marriage), I know today it wasn't pain from the loss of a great love or even companionship.

It was pain from the death of a dream--that 1950s dream many of us bought into when we opted for husband, hearth and children. Admittedly a sizable portion of my identity came from that fantasy.

Although I chose to continue my education, then embarked on a profession, I also reflected to my small world and my children the figure of a man at least twice what he ever would or could be--and he reveled in it. It only seemed natural to assume half his importance as well.

Bargains are unkept. Many of us had no clue what we'd bargained for or what little bargaining power we'd end up having. Hopefully, Diane Painter's tragic story will awaken today's young women.

K. VICTORIA H. BARKLEY, Phelan, Calif.

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