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I just found out my engagement ring is fake!

A dazzling diamond turns out not to be the real thing. Dr. Gail Saltz has advice for a fraught fiancée dealing with deception.

Q: When I had my engagement ring cleaned, the jeweler told me it was not a real diamond. I feel deceived. Why would my fiancé give me a fake ring, and should I confront him?

A: First things first. There is a slim possibility that it was your fiancé who was deceived. In other words, he could have thought he was buying a real diamond but was slipped a fake. Bear this in mind as you move forward with this matter.

Assuming, though, that this is not the case, you need to get to the bottom of this. With any luck, you will find out that your fiancé is not necessarily a bad person.

The issue, of course, has little to do with the value of the ring and much to do with your fiancé’s possible dishonesty.

An engagement ring is a token of love and delight in your shared future. Its value should not be measured in dollars — chances are you could be as happy with a cigar band as with the Hope diamond.

That said, he should have told you.

There are several reasons he might give you an inexpensive stone while misleading you into thinking it was a pricey diamond.

The obvious one: Maybe he couldn’t afford the real thing. Maybe he feels financial pressure about his impending role as husband, and would rather use the money on a house, car, education or something else he perceives as more valuable.

In fairness to him, ask yourself whether you pressured him — either subtly or not-so subtly — and thus created an atmosphere where it was tough for him to say, “I love you, but it doesn’t make financial sense to put all that money into a ring.”

It’s possible he felt you would be insulted or offended if the ring didn’t symbolize a “sacrifice” on his part.

Or maybe he has his own insecurities and felt his manliness was at stake. It seemed easy to give his bride an extravagant ring to show off, with nobody the wiser.

Then again, maybe he truly has no clue, and his attitude is, “I don’t get it. It’s not important. Just tell everyone it’s a diamond and we’ll save the money for a house.”

Whatever his reasons, trickery is a terrible way to begin a marriage, and your radar should be alert to other deceptions. Some people are pathological liars. They lie to puff themselves up before others or to create an illusion of having a fabulous life.

Again, you must talk to your fiancé about this. Tell him that you found out about the ring — unwittingly — and are disappointed at his dishonesty. If, upon reflection, you feel you helped create a situation where he was reluctant to be honest, apologize and rectify it now.

Give him a chance to explain. He might be relieved you found out, which gives you an opportunity to reassure him your love has nothing to do with his money.

This is also a chance to deal with differing views on spending and priorities. After all, money and sex are the two top things couples argue about, and this is only the beginning of the financial challenges you will face together.

However, if your fiancé is angry he has been discovered, you may want to think twice about continuing down the marital path.

Dr. Gail Saltz is a psychiatrist with New York Presbyterian Hospital and a regular contributor to “Today.” Her first book, “Becoming Real: Overcoming the Stories We Tell Ourselves That Hold Us Back,” was published in 2004 by Riverhead Books. It will be available in a paperback version in June 2005. Her latest book, "Amazing You," helps parents deal with preschoolers' questions about sex and reproduction. It will be published in May 2005.  For more information, you can visit her Web site, .

PLEASE NOTE: The information in this column should not be construed as providing specific medical or psychological advice, but rather to offer readers information to better understand their lives and health. It is not intended to provide an alternative to professional treatment or to replace the services of a physician, psychiatrist or psychotherapist. Copyright ©2005 Dr. Gail Saltz. All rights reserved.