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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have read your column since I was young, and I know you have addressed this topic before, but I'm hoping you'll go over it again.

My husband was married once before. We lived together for a few years and were married a year ago. His 20-year-old son (I'll call him "Sonny") recently bought a new home. In the foyer, Sonny hung a family picture that was taken years ago. It includes his mother, father (my husband), him and his sister.

When I first saw it, my feelings were very hurt. I told my husband I thought it was inappropriate, since the marriage is history and he is now married to me. I wouldn't have a problem with the picture being kept in a photo album -- but in the main entrance to Sonny's house?

Sonny's mother gave him the picture because she no longer wanted it. She has a boyfriend now and has moved on with her life.

The picture doesn't seem to bother my husband. He thinks I'm being ridiculous and petty. He said if it bothers me that much, I should refrain from going over to Sonny's house.

Abby, please give my husband, his son and me some advice about this. I think it's time for all of us to live in the present. I'd like to see a picture of Sonny and his fiancee hanging on the wall instead. Don't you agree? -- PUT OUT IN PENDLETON, IND.

DEAR PUT OUT: You are reading far more into this than is merited. Your stepson may be sentimental about the time when his original family was intact, and no one can fault him for that. Besides, the house belongs to Sonny, and what he chooses to hang on the walls is his business, not yours.

Now that the family has expanded, why not give him a lovely housewarming present -- a beautifully framed picture of you and his father to hang on the wall next to the family portrait? And if you feel particularly generous, offer to treat him to a professional portrait of him and his fiancee to hang on the other side to balance the grouping.

DEAR ABBY: I just finished reading your response to "Confused About Control." You may have overlooked a few key phrases in "Confused's" letter. This man has described warning signs of spousal abuse. His wife is definitely attempting to control him -- and the issue must be addressed quickly before the problem becomes intolerable.

Key to this conclusion: His wife, "Anne," must approve his clothing purchases. Abby, who is purchasing the clothing, and who will be wearing it? Anne is not making suggestions; she throws hissy fits if he doesn't go along with her. This is clearly intimidation, a major characteristic of spouse abuse, which is quite different from simply expressing dislike for some articles of clothing.

She has already begun to complain about his eating habits, his cologne, his job and his bald spot. Anne wants exclusive choice in what he wears, and more, and "Confused" gives in to avoid his wife's tantrums. Next she will be dictating whom he can see, where and when he can go out, when he can use the telephone and whom he can call. This will include his family. And she'll demand he tell her everything he says and does when they are not together.

Abby, please rethink your answer to this man and strongly suggest that he get some help before he becomes a prisoner in his own home. -- KATHRYN L. MARTIN, COUNSELOR, BREMERTON, WASH.

DEAR KATHRYN: Thank you for caring enough to share your professional expertise. I am printing your letter so that "Confused About Control," and other men who find themselves similarly dominated, will recognize the danger and seek help.

Everybody has a problem. What's yours? Get it off your chest by writing to Dear Abby, P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, Calif. 90069. For a personal reply, please enclose a stamped, self-addressed envelope.

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