Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

DEAR ABBY: I am a 61-year-old widow who is financially able to take care of myself. I have had a man in my life for the past three years. We tried living together (at my place), but it didn't work out.

Right now he is broke and unemployed, so I have been paying for all of our activities -- dinners out, trips, etc. He was just served with an eviction notice for non-payment of rent, and he wants to move in with me again. I do get lonely at times, but with him here, it would spoil my chances of finding someone else.

I feel bad for him, but he has caused his own problems. I find it difficult to say no. Abby, please give me some words of wisdom before I make a big mistake. -- FLORIDA WIDOW

DEAR WIDOW: I see nothing wrong with a woman picking up the tab if she's better able to handle it than the man. But since he has caused his own problems, that changes the betting.

Tell him, "No -- we tried living together and it didn't work." Then end the discussion before he tries to persuade you to change your mind. There is something worse than occasional loneliness, dear lady, and if you let him get his foot in the door, you'll find out what it is.

DEAR ABBY: I was both disgusted and saddened by a recent letter in your column from a woman whose husband was in jail for his third drunk driving offense, and she didn't know how to tell their 6 1/2-year-old son.

She said her husband didn't steal anything, or commit a violent crime, and implied that he didn't belong in jail because he really didn't do anything wrong. She whined about what a humiliating experience it was for her and her family. Well, I have a message for her:

Lady, listen up, and listen good! The truth hurts, but you and your son will be better off if you face up to it. Three drunk driving convictions point very strongly to alcoholism. By sheer luck, your husband is not in jail for manslaughter. The next time he drives drunk, he may kill someone. It is miraculous that he hasn't already.

You may not consider drunk driving a serious crime, but it is. Your husband needs HELP as well as jail time. And YOU should start attending Al-Anon meetings as soon as you can, because from the tone of your letter, you need help, too. You appear to be an "enabler." If you won't do it for yourself, then do it for your son.

My life was almost ruined by an alcoholic stepparent. I saved myself through sheer determination and help from Al-Anon and my church. You have a choice. -- BROKE THE CYCLE IN DALLAS

DEAR BROKE: Your suggestion that the wife start attending Al-Anon meetings is an excellent one. (Al-Anon is listed in the white pages of most telephone books.) While her husband is serving his time, it could give her a much-needed head start in learning how to break her own cycle of aiding, abetting and enabling. Bravo!

4900 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64112; (816) 932-6600

More like Dear Abby