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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My close friend has had a turbulent 12-year marriage to a man who has had several long-term affairs. She has left him on several occasions, but always ends up returning.

Currently, she is separated. She told me that this time she is determined to go on without him and regain her self-esteem. I have just heard that she is in the planning stages of returning to him.

Abby, for 12 years I have listened to her cry, watched him break her heart over and over, and I can't take it anymore. She is asking me for words of encouragement and I can no longer offer them. I can't be supportive when I know she is going to be hurt again. I want to scream at her, "Wake up! You have rocks for brains and he's never going to change." How can I get through to her? -- TIRED OF WATCHING

DEAR TIRED: Have you told her what you've just told me? It wouldn't hurt to try. However, if you do try and your efforts fail, accept the fact that your friend must live her own life. For your own sanity, perhaps you should distance yourself from her. Losing your support might be the wake-up call she needs.

DEAR ABBY: I'm engaged to a woman I'll call Mary. She has a 4-year-old granddaughter I'll call Ashley. In Mary's eyes, Ashley can do no wrong. I have actually heard Ashley say, "Shut up, Grandma," or "Come here right now!" -- and Grandma does.

Mary admits that Ashley's behavior isn't good, but she allows her to get away with it. Mary lives with her son (Ashley's father) and his wife, and if Daddy says no to Ashley, Mary quietly tells her to "wait until Daddy goes to work."

Abby, this child is so spoiled she's a brat. If I had behaved that way when I was growing up, I would have been paddled. I have tried talking to Mary about her granddaughter, but I get nowhere. What should I do? -- RECONSIDERING MARRIAGE

DEAR RECONSIDERING: Mary is living with Ashley's parents, and it's almost impossible for a grandmother not to spoil a cute little granddaughter while in such close proximity. However, if you and Mary get married, she'll be living with you, and you won't have to witness the spoiled child daily treating her grandmother disrespectfully.

Ashley is going through a phase that she will probably outgrow, but if she doesn't, keep in mind that your contact with her will be limited. Because you love Mary, you should be able to tolerate Ashley in small doses. Reconsider with this in mind, and let me know what you decide.

DEAR ABBY: My wife's 46-year-old son will soon be marrying for the third time. She is a nice, pretty lady who is his age. This will be her first marriage. She is from a large and wealthy family.

My wife informed me I will be buying dinner for all those attending the wedding rehearsal. Is this my responsibility? Do I pay for the drinks, too?

Shouldn't he, at his ripe old age, pay for this event himself? What about asking his five-times-married biological father to help share expenses? The father has provided very little to this "boy," who moved in with his mother and me when his first two marriages failed. -- FEELING BADLY USED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR FEELING BADLY USED: I see no compelling reason to open your checkbook. After the first marriage, your stepson should be footing the bill himself.

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