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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been married to "Yuri" for almost 14 years. We have three children. It hasn't always been easy. We have had our differences. Recently, Yuri told me that he loved me less than he used to. Abby, I don't know what to make of this.

Does this mean the love is permanently gone, or do we have a chance of bringing back the flame? -- CONFUSED IN WENDOVER, ONTARIO, CANADA

DEAR CONFUSED: Your husband may have meant that the "spark" has dimmed in your marriage -- but I wouldn't call that hopeless. I suspect he was either angry when he said it, or he misses the "excitement" of first love.

Several things can be done to rekindle the passion you once felt for each other. Start thinking about what attracted you and Yuri to each other in the first place, and use that to recapture the magic of your early years together. Consult a marriage counselor to explore what issues might be dividing you. Explore a marriage encounter program designed to make a good marriage even better. If you opt to try this avenue, check with your church about the availability of such programs.

DEAR ABBY: A reader asked you why some people are offended when you ask them their age.

My Eastern European grandmother was a Polish Jew. She died in 1954, when she was in her 90s. She would not divulge her age, or even discuss age in general. Gray hair was not in her makeup either.

Her generation with the same ethnic background believed that the angel of death was constantly looking and seeking candidates. If the angel heard her discussing or revealing her age, he would realize that he had overlooked my grandmother. -- THE VIRGINIA AGE MAVEN

DEAR VIRGINIA AGE MAVEN: (For those who might not know, "maven" means expert or authority in Yiddish.) Thank you for a fascinating letter. It reminded me of another interesting Jewish superstition. The reason Ashkenazy Jewish people do not name their sons "junior" is the fear that the angel of death might confuse the generations and take the child instead of the father.

For a clever response to the age question for those who prefer not to reveal that information, read on:

DEAR ABBY: In response to the letter about people who become offended when asked their age, a simple reply will do. Say, "Age is only a number and mine is unlisted." That should stop the curious in their tracks. -- C.G. IN SPRING HILL, FLA.

DEAR C.G.: You are a wit! Another reader wrote that her mother stopped such personal questions with this response: "Can you keep a secret? I can!" With a little humor, even the rudest questions can be answered without divulging personal information.

Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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