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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: A few years back I got my husband, "Al," involved in coaching our son's hockey team. The sport is something our family enjoys, so I thought it would bring us together. Was I ever wrong! Al's obsession is driving us further apart.

Our son (for unrelated reasons) has been forced to stop playing, but Al is deeper into it than ever. He coaches three teams on a volunteer basis and is away from the house and our four children frequently. It's as if he had a part-time job.

Before you say it, I know there are worse things my husband could be doing. However, that doesn't make it easier to play second fiddle. Al says this is his "thing," so I have no right to intrude. I used to be involved, too, when our son was playing, but I can't justify it now. So Al has told me to butt out of his life and stay away from the whole thing.

Obviously there are other things troubling our marriage, but the fact that he's putting "his responsibility to his teams" before his responsibility to his family is more than I can handle.

I resent the way my husband has put other people's kids ahead of his own. Don't get me wrong; most of the boys and girls he coaches are great. Al may not believe it, but I'm proud of all he's taught them to accomplish. But enough is enough! I don't want it to cost this coach his marriage. -- MRS. COACH IN FLORIDA

DEAR MRS. COACH: Marriage is a team sport that requires effort from both players in order to be successful. Coaching is the way your husband has managed to avoid confronting the "other things" troubling your marriage. The situation won't improve unless you and Al reach a compromise about the number of hours he devotes to coaching so the two of you can resolve your differences and revive your relationship.

DEAR ABBY: I never dreamed I'd be writing to anyone for advice, but I have a problem. I have been seeing this man since last February. I like him a lot, and he seems to feel the same about me. I am 76 and he is 64.

Our problem is his ex-wife. She comes to his house every Friday evening and stays until Sunday evening. He sees me Monday through Friday afternoons, and sometimes in the evenings. She acts like they are still married and still wears her wedding rings, but they are divorced. She drinks and needs help, or so he tells me. I told him if she needs help, there are other places she can go to get it. (They have four children.)

He doesn't want me to call him on the weekends, as it upsets her. Frankly, this hurts me. I have feelings too.

I have been waiting patiently for him to get rid of her. He says he doesn't want her at his home, but he doesn't do anything about it. Should I forget him and move on? I'm sure I could find someone else because I don't look or act my age. -- LONESOME IN CINCINNATI

DEAR LONESOME: Unless your friend finds the courage to tell his ex-wife that he has other plans for the weekends, your situation isn't going to change. And why should it? He's enjoying the best of both of you.

Since you think you could find someone else, you have nothing to lose by telling him he must make a choice. His reaction will tell you what you need to know.

DEAR ABBY: Your advice for people to see that senior citizens get safely to and from places, especially after dark, reminded me of the joke about the 90-year-old man who married the 19-year-old girl.

"Was she beautiful?"

"No," he replied.

"Sexy?" "No."

"Rich?" "No."

"Well, why in the world did you marry her?"

"Well," said the old man. "She could drive after dark." -- MAXINE TOWNSEND, CINCINNATI

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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