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

by Abigail Van Buren

Mom Prays That Runaway Son Will Call Home Soon

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I separated last summer. My daughter was living with me, and my son went to live with his father. For months I tried to work things out with my husband in hopes of saving our 22-year marriage. It was impossible.

At Christmas, my son and his father vacationed together, and my daughter and I spent the holiday at home. Two months later, just after my birthday, my 17-year-old son ran away from his father's apartment. It happened the same day he received his report card. I'm not sure if he left because of our divorce, his poor grades, problems with his father or a combination of things.

I pray my son is reading your column today and sees this letter. I want him to know that the divorce is final and I was granted custody of him. To my son and all other runaways: Please call home. Let your parents know you are OK. Whatever problems there are can be worked out. Life is too short to stay away from those who love you. Please make that phone call today.

Thank you, Abby, for printing this letter. I hope all parents in my shoes hear from their children today. -- MOM MISSING HER SON

DEAR MOM: I'm printing your letter in the hope that some of them will.

If you are a runaway, promise yourself that this is the day you will pick up the phone and let your family know that you are OK. If phoning home is too difficult, call the toll-free National Runaway Switchboard at (800) 621-4000. Your call will be kept confidential, and it could save your life.

DEAR ABBY: I recently visited my sister, "Betty," who wanted to take me shopping to buy me a birthday present. I explained it would be better to give me the money so my wife of four months, "Anne," could approve of the clothes I purchased. I told Betty that Anne had pitched a fit about some of the clothes the family had sent me at Christmas. I liked the clothes, but Anne wants exclusive choice in what I wear. To avoid scenes, I give in. She says I'm not accommodating her feelings when I mix up the matched outfits she picks out for me.

When Betty heard this, she became upset. She said that men can be in controlling relationships just as well as women. Betty's first marriage left her reeling from emotional battering, and she said it took years of counseling to regain her confidence. She said the same thing could happen to me -- men are not immune. Betty warned that soon Anne will try to change my eating habits, my cologne, my job, and finally want me to do something about my bald spot. I didn't tell her, but Anne already has.

I never saw our relationship as controlling, but now I am wondering if my sister's advice to "run as fast as you can" is wise. How do you see this? -- CONFUSED ABOUT CONTROL

DEAR CONFUSED: It's not unusual for a woman to want to make a few changes to improve her husband's (or boyfriend's) appearance. However, the way I see it is not as important as the way you see it. Are you comfortable with the changes Anne is demanding? If you don't mind making these concessions, no harm is being done.

However, if you do mind, stop making changes just to please her. You will soon know if there is a problem. And yes, men can be victims of a controlling relationship, just as women can.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600