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

by Abigail Van Buren

Happy Marriages Embrace Friendship as Well as Love

DEAR ABBY: Years ago you printed a list of tips for a happy marriage. I thought they were wonderful and had them framed. My husband and I recently retired to Florida, and somehow the list was lost during the move. Could you please run it again? -- NANCY IN ST. PETERSBURG, FLA.

DEAR NANCY: I'm pleased they meant so much to you. They certainly bear repeating, particularly on Valentine's Day, the day that celebrates love. Read on:

1. Look not for perfection in your mate. You will not find it, and it's just as well. Living with a saint could be very tiresome.

2. Let your love be stronger than your hate or anger.

3. Learn the wisdom of compromise, for it is better to bend a little than to break.

4. Believe the best rather than the worst. People have a way of living up or down to your opinion of them.

5. Remember that true friendship is the basis of any lasting relationship. The person you choose to marry is deserving of the courtesies and kindnesses you bestow upon your friends.

6. Practice forgiveness, for who among us hasn't needed to be forgiven?

DEAR ABBY: I am writing to you in order to reach grandparents of divorce who have been victimized by tangled state laws that make it difficult and expensive for them to visit their grandchildren if the custodial parent has moved out of state.

On Nov. 12, 1998, President Clinton signed into law a bill authored by Rep. Rob Andrews, D-N.J., that guarantees grandparents the right to visit their grandchildren anywhere in the United States, so long as a state court has provided for grandparent visitation. The law, known as the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act, requires states to recognize one another's visitation findings.

I was one of the thousands of grandparents who have experienced devastating difficulties trying to exercise my court-ordered visitation to my grandchildren. When my ex-daughter-in-law moved from New Jersey to North Carolina, I had to repeat the legal process all over again in North Carolina. I was granted visitation, but only after incurring three years of exorbitant legal fees, travel expenses and bureaucratic delay.

The Visitation Rights Enforcement Act mandates the reciprocal recognition of grandparents' rights once a state has ruled that those rights ought to exist, but please point out what this new law will not do: It will not impose a federal decision about grandparents' visitation rights on any state. The new law also does not preclude a new finding that changed circumstances or newly discovered inappropriate behavior might warrant the reversal of an earlier visitation order.

I urge grandparents to use this new law cautiously, but DO use it. -- JOSEPHINE M. D'ANTONIO, PRESIDENT OF GRANDPARENTS COUNT, CHERRY HILL, N.J.

DEAR JOSEPHINE: More than 75 percent of older Americans are grandparents. Congressman Rob Andrews advised me he sponsored the legislation because he had heard from many grandparents who had lost their relationship with their grandchildren when the state to which the custodial parent had moved would not grant visitation rights. I'm pleased to spread the news about the Visitation Rights Enforcement Act, which was designed to help frustrated grandparents keep in touch with their beloved grandchildren.

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