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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My sister calls me a "party pooper" because I seldom attend our family's social gatherings, of which there are many. If a fly dies, they throw a party.

My family think of themselves as "fun people," but the truth is, they'll use any excuse to drink. This is their choice, but it's not mine.

I don't enjoy Mom and Dad's slurred attempts at conversation during these get-togethers. Nor do I like watching Aunt Millie trip over herself on the dance floor, Uncle Jim telling off-color jokes or his wife laughing like a hyena.

It was bad enough when I had to observe this behavior when I was growing up, but I have drawn the line at having my children witness this disgraceful conduct.

Am I wrong in trying to protect my children from these scenes? -- EMBARRASSED IN OKLAHOMA

DEAR EMBARRASSED: No. Not only are you protecting your children, you are also sparing your relatives from embarrassing themselves in front of the children, with whom they may wish to have a relationship in the future. Should any of them sober up someday, they may thank you.

DEAR ABBY: The letter written by "Been There in Florida," the mother who was concerned that her son might inherit his father's abusiveness, was right on the money. I am a mother who stayed in an abusive marriage "for the sake of the children."

Finally, after 23 years, I left that marriage when I realized that my life was at stake. I left when the children went off to college, and I started over with no financial help from my husband. I was still too emotionally involved to see the damage it had done to the children.

I now realize staying in the abusive marriage did not benefit my children. My son has spent time in prison for his aggressive behavior toward his girlfriend and now must attend anger management counseling for three years. My son and former husband are master manipulators. Both father and son can be charming, and then on a moment's notice and without any provocation turn into angry, aggressive, abusive monsters.

My daughter is afraid she will marry someone like her father. She has no faith in her ability to judge people; she doesn't stand up for herself and tends to minimize abusive behavior. She will do anything to keep the peace. Her low self-esteem is due to the abuse she received from her father and brother while she was growing up.

Living in an abusive marriage is also very lonely. My definition of loneliness is being in the company of someone, yet feeling entirely alone because no intimacy exists.

I have now built a new life, and although it is filled with peace, tranquility, honesty and happiness, I'm sad to say it is without my son and the financial advantages I once had. We make our own quality of life when we leave an abusive situation. Perhaps it's not as comfortable financially, but it's far more gratifying, and definitely more peaceful. -- L.P. IN WRIGHTWOOD, CALIF.

DEAR L.P.: Congratulations on having built a new life. Children benefit from living in an emotionally nourishing environment. It's easy to say that children need a two-parent household in order to become healthy adults; however, evidence has shown that children raised in an environment of tension, conflict and abuse often repeat these behaviors in adulthood, or become withdrawn and depressed and take on the role of victim.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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